Protesters yesterday mounted joint occupations of TransCanada’s corporate offices in at least three cities as the increasing protests against the Keystone “Tar Sands” Pipeline escalated into more public, direct confrontations.
Various reports confirm 50 to 100 people ‘stormed’ the Houston offices of the giant Canadian oil company, utilizing street-theater tactics such as hanging orange hazard tape and dropping black “tar sands balloons” in the lobby, in order to highlight “the deadly effects of TransCanada’s corporate greed on communities and ecosystems,” according to a press release issued by “TarSandsBlockade.org” — one of the lead organizers of the action.
Smaller but similar actions were reported at the Westborough, Massachusetts offices of TransCanada and in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where protesters gathered at Michels Corporation — one of the largest contractors building the pipeline for the Calgary, Canada-based oil giant.
In Houston and Westborough, the protesters were forced out of the lobby by police. In Houston, two of the protesters were arrested after chaining themselves to each other and the lobby door, according to the Houston Business Journal.
The coordinated actions today suggested an escalation in both tactics and scope of the protests against the huge pipeline — which will transport “tar sands” oil, one of the dirtiest fossil fuel greenhouse gas sources on the planet.
Ramsey Sprague, a Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson, said: “From the Texas backwoods to the corporate boardrooms, the fight to defend our homes from toxic tar sands will not be ignored. We’re here today to directly confront the TransCanada executives who’re continuing on with business as usual while making our communities sacrifice zones.”
One of the blockaders at the Houston office, Alec Johnson, defended the action, saying: “We’ve done everything we can to stop this pipeline: we’ve petitioned, rallied and taken direct action. The historic resistance to this pipeline shows how risky an investment this and other tar sands pipelines have become. Tar sands oil spilling into our waterways and millions of tons of carbon pollution spilling into the atmosphere means that this industry’s days are numbered.”
A spokesman for TransCanada, David Dodson, said: “This is another example of the protestors’ attempt to stop a project that is currently providing thousands of jobs to American workers.” (A study by Cornell University contrasts such claims, predicting hat the pipeline would produce “few” jobs.)
“This project is also a key component of the ‘all of the above’ strategy to enhance American energy security,” Dodson continued, referring to President Obama’s repeated “all of the above” policy, in which the President professes his support for all forms of energy production equally: fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal in equal standing to renewables such as solar and wind.
The coalition behind today’s actions, “TarSandsBlockade.org,” is a coalition of people and groups — consisting of Texas and Oklahoma landowners as well as environmental activists, according to it’s website.
The group’s previous actions — including an ongoing tree sit in lasting over 80 days in the direct path of the pipeline — have been reported on Planetsave previously, and we’ll continue reporting on its actions as they move along.
Don Lieber's writing and research has been published by the United Nations, The Associated Press, The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, E-The Environmental Magazine and others. He contributes regularly to PlanetSave.com.