Although the permit for the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline is still under consideration by the State Department, the southern leg of the pipeline has won the support of President Obama, obtained permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and turned back challenges in Texas courts.
Landowners and activists such as Hannah are trying to physically stand in the way of the equipment that is laying down the pipeline. One day, people chained themselves to a truck. Another day, they stood in front of bulldozers. Several people have been arrested, including, briefly, a New York Times reporter.
The blockade group said 10 people were arrested Monday after locking themselves to pieces of heavy equipment. Earlier in the month, Hannah joined east Texas landowner Eleanor Fairchild to protest TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. On Oct. 4, they were arrested on charges of criminal trespassing for standing in front of excavation equipment on Fairchild’s property.
The Tar Sands Blockade says civil disobedience is justified and that Obama’s March endorsement of the southern leg of the pipeline was a “last straw.” It accuses local police of excessively rough treatment of protesters.
“The evidence was clear . . . that people had done everything to use institutions to expose the fraud and malpractice of this corporation and that they had been ignored, even by Barack Obama,” said Ron Seifert, spokesman for the Tar Sands Blockade. “The logical thing to do was to rise up and protect your homes.”
But TransCanada, which obtained a temporary restraining order from a Texas district court, says protesters are trespassing.
“The right-of-way is an active construction site and only authorized personnel are able to go on this area,” TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said in an e-mail. “It is important to us that all of our work sites are safe and our workers go home safe each and every day.” Howard added that “while construction is underway, the agreement we sign with the landowner does permit us to restrict access to that area.” He said that journalists had refused to show credentials and that some “professional activists” had been posing as journalists.
The small Tar Sands Blockade group has drawn support from other critics of the pipeline, which would carry heavy crude oil from Canada’s oil, or tar, sands across the Great Plains to the Texas Gulf of Mexico coast.