The Battle Against the Keystone Pipeline

Environmentalists and landowners battle to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and its load of crude from flowing across Texas rivers and aquifers.

Seventy-five-year-old Jeanette Singleton of Nacogdoches has lived there since 1956. "They've been really thuggish," she said of TransCanada. "I'm not anti-energy. But we have wells. If it pollutes the aquifer, there goes our country water."

Before long, an 18-wheeler bearing a cherry picker to pluck protesters out of trees slowed as it approached a shouting, sign-wielding crowd. Several young men leaped in its path. One fell beneath the truck. The others screamed and pounded the hood with their fists. A deputy rounded the front of the truck and drove the protesters back, loosing clouds of pepper spray. Singleton, standing off to the side of the road, caught a gust of the burning mist. She clutched at her face and sank to her knees. Several young women rushed to her and gently poured bottled water over her eyes and cheeks.

Others shouted at the deputies pacing the road, crying, "Shame!"

Members of the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department drag away a protester who chained himself to construction equipment.
Photos by Brandon Thibodeaux
Members of the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department drag away a protester who chained himself to construction equipment.
A deputy uses pepper spray to drive away others gathered around a cherry picker used to extract protesters on platforms in 40-foot-high pine trees outside Alto, Texas, in November.
Photos by Brandon Thibodeaux
A deputy uses pepper spray to drive away others gathered around a cherry picker used to extract protesters on platforms in 40-foot-high pine trees outside Alto, Texas, in November.

It looked as though every law enforcement officer within a two- to three-county radius had deployed to the pipeline's right of way. The young protesters must have seemed like outsiders parachuting in, radical environmentalists, remnants of the Occupy movement. "Despite their claims that they're standing up for Texas, these aren't Texans," says TransCanada spokesman Dodson. "Look at the people arrested in Nacogdoches. One of them was from Texas, and he wasn't even from that area."

Of course, neither is Dodson's company.

Nevertheless, many of the protesters weren't Texans. That's one way to look at them. Another is to see them as a generation bequeathed a warming planet. NASA says the North Pole has lost sea ice roughly equivalent to the size of the United States. Arctic permafrost, which contains vast stores of carbon dioxide and methane — potent greenhouse gases — is beginning to thaw. The United Nations Environment Programme warns the window in which to prevent global temperatures from reaching a crisis point is quickly closing. It is simply unlucky that Canada is unlocking one of the largest stores of carbon in the world as the climate is balanced on a knife edge.

Yet the protesters can't stop development of the Canadian oil sands any more than they can stop a pipeline through a state that owes its relative prosperity to minerals. Enbridge, the Canadian pipeline corporation responsible for the Kalamazoo River spill, is reversing the flow of a 36-year-old pipeline that will carry crude and diluted bitumen from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Gulf Coast. Even without the Keystone XL, it will find its way through Texas.

Asian investors have funneled tens of billions of dollars into oil sands development. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently approved China National Offshore Oil Corporation's $15 billion bid to purchase Calgary-based oil sands producer Nexen. Harper says it was necessary to increase the pace of oil sands development and to diversify Canada's exports away from the slower-growing U.S. market. With or without us, Canada's oil sands will flow.

As law enforcement brought young people down from the trees, I spotted a local man whom I'd noticed at the last protest site. He was Chris Myers, 36, from nearby Wells. He works for a phone company. He wasn't a part of the protest, but he was curious. "I've heard different things about what's going on here," he said. He'd heard the Keystone XL would reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. He heard it would bring jobs, which this area badly needs. But that's just what he's been told, he added. Myers turned toward the Angelina River, a few hundred feet away from the pipeline right of way. "I should research it more," he said. "I didn't see that. It's a big strip of land close to the river. That is concerning."

If Myers ended up doing any research, he might have learned that in October the National Energy Board, the Canadian government's regulatory watchdog, sent the company a strongly worded letter. A whistle-blower had come forward, complaining that the company was putting budgetary and scheduling considerations above quality. An initial investigation by the NEB bore this out. The agency announced a sweeping audit of TransCanada's pipelines, including the Canadian portion of Keystone I.

The protesters were loading up and heading out at the end of a long day spent battling with a $7 billion pipeline, bound for skirmish points farther on down the line. I walked over to the pipeline right of way. Four hundred yards distant, a backhoe was starting up. The construction company had a schedule to keep. Before long, the backhoe was an indistinct shape moving in a dust cloud.

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16 comments
Miles Yao
Miles Yao

Can we pull a Castle Law here? Get yer shotgun out!

Mary Urech Stallings
Mary Urech Stallings

State Law? Didn't the Supreme Court uphold anybody taking your land for whatever they want to pay for whatever reason? Now, that's effed up.

Na Li
Na Li

it's always been that way - they want they get - landowner gets too but screwed isn't that much financially

Craig Wilkins
Craig Wilkins

Where are all the "Don't Tread On Me" people now? Or is it socialism to stand up to businesses? Jesus. I hate everything sometimes.

captainmike81
captainmike81

Might as well refine Canadian bitumen is Texas as Texas is the largest polluter in North America. Most people don't know that the US exports crude oil. Next is natural gas in LNG to foreign countries. Most people are taken being taken for suckers by everyone from government to energy companies. 

Jake Rawls
Jake Rawls

Affects the Texans? Does this mean Arian Foster won't do well tomorrow?

Hugh Bishop
Hugh Bishop

It's just a couple of miles from my house. I have several friends in the area that have it running right behind their property line.

keystonelonestar
keystonelonestar

Conservative protecting private property rights by seizing private property?  Reminds me of how they make government smaller by passing laws that expand government power; how they spend less money by spending more money; how they discredit science by making shit up; and how they stop frivolous lawsuits by filing frivolous lawsuits against the NCAA.

Mudrake2
Mudrake2

Oh, please not again. When will you liberal scientific illiterate "journalists" stop tauting the discredited (by actual scientists without an agenda) man-made global warming. If you had half a brain, you would realize the contradictions in your story. First, the sands "crude" is so thick it poses little or no risk to anything. If it is being pumped at 150F to keep it "liquefied" what do you think will happen in event of a spill? I will immediately cool and turn into something akin to asphalt. Then bring out the front end loaders and shovel it up. I guess we are ringing our hands over all those asphalt roads criss crossing the state too? As an environmental consultant for 8 years and a geoscientist of some 33 years’ experience, I have seen enough enviro-hysteria to make me want to vomit. This is not about the environment, its about politics. These ass clown kids are nothing more than pawns and useless pawns at that. They have no lives and are seeking to bring some kind of meaning to their worthless existence. They undoubtedly moved to the unsuccessful occupy movement to this. They are a few missed meals or picket lines from being homeless. One man's protest is another man's criminal trespass. Barry's gambit to halt the pipeline is just another step in his attempt to cripple the US and its oil industry. Its okay to drill offshore Brazil but not here, why? It’s not the environment, its transfer of wealth.

WRUPPELT
WRUPPELT

@Hugh Bishop Hu is giving them the Permit, to Du what ever they ( Keystone ) want?

                          The property rights in Texas has been taking away by our so called

                           Law makers and Mr. not so smart Governor Perry! Or shall we say

                           the Tea Party of Texas!!!    

Mudrake2
Mudrake2

Turn Brazil into an oil exporting nation and we'll have to send more of our dollars their increasing their standard of living while slowly lowering ours. Biofuels gives him a hard on, not because it is green but because it puts money in his friends pockets. Biofuel production actually uses more fuel than it saves. If you knew how heat and fuel extensive distillation of alcohol is, you'd know that. The only way its economic is with government subsidies that would make you cry. So ethanol probably costs way more per gallon to produce than the gasoline it is purported to save. Americans are such scientific illiterates that this kind of nonsense is pushed right under their noses by their elected officials and they don't have a clue. It is really and truly pathetic. If the first oil discoveries made in Texas were done so today, they would undoubtedly would have been no Spindletop, East Texas Field, or Permian Basin. They would all have been protested into oblivion on environmental grounds. Do you see any lingering effects of those efforts back when oil ran on the ground like water when it was being produced?

poeducker
poeducker

@Mudrake2 You are stupid.  Global warming is gonna kill your grand kids dead.  The US & other industrialized countries have screwed off over global warming for so long it looks like it will  kill humanity dead.  Then the planet can hum along for several million years & try something new besides humans.  Serves us right.

 
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