Toxic Transport: Community Groups Unite to Stop Tarsands Pipeline

Community groups from all over Texas are gathering to unite in opposition over the planned Keystone XL pipeline Sunday, September 18, 2011.  The Canadian project reportedly cost more to construct than the value of the expensive tar sands oil it will carry from Alberta, Canada to Port Arthur and Houston, Texas.

But the human cost is much more. The First Nations people in Canada will have their land, air, and water contaminated by the highly toxic chemicals used to retrieve oil from the tar sands.  Then, the same toxic effects we are already seeing here in Houston, Port Arthur, and other petrochemical refinery locations will be made even worse.

The Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services coalition (t.e.j.a.s.) will be helping to put on two gatherings to help inform workers, families, and other members of the community about the hazards of the Keystone XL pipeline. 

The first event will be Sunday September 18th, 2011 at Hartmann Park (neighboring the Valero Refinery) 9311 East Avenue P, Houston, TX at 1:00 PM.

Photo: Houston Ship Channel, by Juan Parras, t.e.j.a.s. 

"This event is for the families to have a platform to testify their opposition of the pipeline.  The public hearing in Port Arthur is virtually impossible for members of the community to attend due to being scheduled during the hours when most people have to work," explains Scarlett Russell, community organizer with Sierra Club and t.e.j.a.s.  Organizers plan to videotape the families to serve as public comments and to also be included in a documentary.

Speakers and visuals will highlight the hazardous air pollutants already located in Houston's East End communities, the inaccurate and over inflated jobs estimates claimed by industry and the disinformation campaign by industry for what they call "ethical oil."

The second event is scheduled for Monday, September 26th, also at Hartmann Park Community Center, 9311 East Avenue, Houston, TX beginning at 12:00 PM.  This will be a press conference that kicks off a caravan that will travel down to the public hearing in Port Arthur, TX.  The public hearing will take place in Port Arthur at the Bob Bowers Civic Center located at 3401 Cultural Center Drive from 4:30 pm - 10:00 pm.

BRYAN PARRAS is the Media/Youth Empowerment Coordinator for TEJAS (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services) in Houston Texas, a co-producer of “Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say” (KPFT / Pacifica FM 90.1), and an advisor to the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health. He uses still photography and video production to document environmental racism and empower communities engaged in struggle for environmental justice. Formerly he served as director of photography/videography and chief editor for the Maria Luisa Ortiz Cooperative project in Mulukuku, Nicaragua.