Texans Fight to Protect Their Land from the Keystone XL Pipeline

Down in Texas there’s an old saying; “You can put your boots in the oven but it don’t make them biscuits.”

That’s an expression Washington politicians and their Keystone XL tar sands pipeline allies should take to heart. Texas landowners say they are fed up with the exaggerated claims and false arguments that Big Oil boosters are making about pipeline plans to ship a river of toxic Canadian tar sands crude through America’s midsection to Gulf refineries. Instead, they say the $7 billion project will threaten the country’s largest drinking water aquifers and its most fertile farmlands, while producing oil products for export.

Last week, Keystone pipeline builder TransCanada announced it would push ahead with plans to build the southern leg of its proposed 1,700-mile pipeline from Cushing, OK, to the Gulf, putting Texas landowners squarely in the bulls-eye of this massive tar sands battle. Many are vehemently opposed to a plan that will provide huge profits for a foreign corporation while forcing Americans to cede pipeline right-a-ways to their land—putting landowners at risk of accidents involving the nastiest oil on the planet.

Watch this video of three Texas landowners' fight against the Keystone XL pipeline: 


As NRDC’s Susan Casey-Lefkowitz has blogged, TransCanada’s plan to split the giant pipeline project in two and start building the southern leg will put Texas landowners at greater risk, likely leading to even higher gas prices in the Midwest:

Raw tar sands oil going from the Midwest to the Gulf for refining means serious pipeline safety issues for landowners and environmental justice impacts of tar sands refining. Concerns of Texas landowners over TransCanada's high-handed attempts to take their land through eminent domain will all remain the same in the case of an Oklahoma to Texas tar sands pipeline.

And the southern route pipeline will still provide the main service to oil companies that Keystone XL would provide: it will divert tar sands from the Midwest to the Gulf, raising American oil prices and likely also gasoline prices. An Oklahoma to Texas tar sands pipeline will mean more tar sands converted to diesel and available for export overseas. It will mean less tar sands remaining in the US, even while Americans bear the risks of the pipeline.

But Texans are continuing to put up a fight. Last month, residents of the Lone Star state turned out in droves to support Paris, TX, farm-manager Julia Trigg Crawford's eminent domain court fight to keep TransCanada's pipeline off her property that is studded with Caddo Indian artifacts. Last week, a Texas appeals court reinstated a temporary restraining order that prohibits TransCanada from conducting pipeline construction activities on her farm.  

Texas of course is not the only place where there is growing dissatisfaction on the part of local landowners and residents who say their land is being sacrificed for the profits of a private Canadian company and not the greater good of the country.

Mike Hathorn, Wells, TX                            Photo: Rocky Kistner/NRDC

Earlier this week, a group of protesters in South Dakota at the Oglala Sioux Tribe's Pine Ridge Reservation formed a blockade to stop trucks they say were carrying heavy equipment destined for the massive Canadian tar sands mining operations in Alberta. A number of the protesters were arrested, including Lakota activist Debra White Plume, a leading native American opponent of the tar sands pipeline. Here’s how she was quoted in the Native Sun News:

“Our Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council and the Oglala Sioux Tribe have both passed legislation against the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and have adopted the Mother Earth Accord which calls for a moratorium on the tar sands oil mine as destructive to water, Mother Earth, all animals and human beings.” Stated White Plume, “Whatever these vessels are, where ever they were going, they are too huge and too heavy, too hazardous, to be on our roads.”

From the Dakotas to Texas, the tar sands pipeline struggle is still in full swing. These battles are a long ways from the political wars in the halls of Congress, an epic election-year fight that has captured the nation’s attention. But they are much more real to those who will have to live next to a heated, pressurized steel pipeline that will gush a steady stream of chemically-treated tar sands crude across their land, flowing to the Gulf for export.  

As Wells, TX, landowner and welding expert Mike Hathorn says of the Keystone XL project; “Nobody wins in the end…and the American people aren’t going to win over this.”

That's some useful down home advice from the Texas frontlines that folks in Congress need to start listening to.