Keystone Pipeline Blockade Update: 80 Days In Trees, Hunger Strikes, And An Army General Speaking Out
Protests against the Keystone Pipeline — and other new fossil fuel pipelines (i.e., Enbridge) — continue across North America and are increasing in scope. From Canada to the southern United States, people are organizing a variety of protests, locally and on a nationwide basis.
Among the more dramatic of these is the ongoing “Tar Sands Blockade” in eastern Texas: a steady, growing number of activists who have taken residence in a remote forest outside of Winnsboro, Texas — the site of initial construction of the ‘southern leg’ of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. The blockaders have employed various tactics in putting their bodies in the direct path of the proposed pipeline. Construction has proceeded, but has been halted several times by the actions of the blockaders, as well as by a local judge who had placed a temporary restraining order due to allegations that TransCanada defrauded community members about the contents of the pipeline (TransCanada initially claimed the pipeline would be transporting conventional crude oil when, in fact, it is intended primarily for “tar sands” oil).
The blockade is now in it’s third month. As reported on PlanetSave previously, blockaders have been arrested, harassed and abused by police, even as they continue to employ increasingly confrontational tactics; some blockaders recently locked themselves inside portions of pipe segments, halting work at the site (three of whom were subsequently removed from the pipe, arrested, and held in jail on $65,000 bond).
The blockade now includes several elements:
Tree Sit-In: TarSand Blockade Activists have occupied positions in trees, in the direct path of the proposed pipeline construction. This has forced TransCanada to alter or suspend construction route of the pipeline several times. The tree sit-in is now in it’s 85th day; here is a video summary.
Hunger Strike: Two Texans are now engaging in a hunger strike in protest of the pipeline and of Valero, one of the local refinery companies who has substantial interest in the project. One of them, Bob Lindsey, a US Navy veteran, decided to fight against the Keystone pipeline after learning that Calhoun County — the Texas county where his family worked for generations — had the highest cancer rate of any county in Texas. This hit him personally — Bob’s father died at the age of 45 from a blood disorder believed to be caused by working near chemical plants his whole life. His nephew died at age 41 from a liver disorder after working in a chemical plant, and his sister — who also lives near a chemical plant in the region — has been plagued by several cancers throughout her life. Lindsey is protesting the Keystone Pipeline due to his concern for the toxic dangers. The hunger strike is now entering it’s third week. Read more about the hunger strikers here, and watch a video summary here.
Decorated Army General Speaks Out: This week, U.S. Army Brigadier General Steven M. Anderson spoke out forcefully against the building of the Keystone XL pipeline, warning that “all Americans should be outraged” about the “national security implications of the project.” Anderson was Chief of Staff for Logistics for the Multi-National Force in Iraq in 2006 and 2007.
“I want to stop paying big oil and I want to start seeing a green economy in this nation,” he said in an interview with the Huffington Post. “And big oil is pushing Keystone, and Keystone is essentially going to maintain the status quo for another 25 years. And during that time I can only imagine the impact it’s going to have on our environment and, indeed, our national security.” You can see General Anderson’s televised interview here.
The protests in Texas, meanwhile, mirror increased activism against the fossil fuel industry overall, including coal and natural gas, as well as oil, across the US and Canada. A divestment campaign, for example, has begun, organized by the grassroots organization 350.org, targeting colleges and universities with institutional investments in fossil fuel corporations. The campaign is styled after the dynamic anti-apartheid divestment campaign in the 1980’s. At the time of this writing, student groups from over 190 universities and colleges have established divestment campaigns. Several universities in several states have already voted to divest. Read more about the divestment campaign here.
In addition, a national ‘day of action’ is being planned for President’s Day (February 18, 2013) by the Sierra Club and 350.org. The organizers are calling upon citizens from across the nation to gather in Washington, D.C. for “the biggest anti-Keystone Pipeline” protest to date. A similar ‘day of action’ in November 2011 gathered over 10,000 people. Read about the upcoming day of action against the Keystone Pipeline here.