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Frosch writes: "Deep within the oak and pine forests that blanket this stretch of East Texas, the chug of machinery drones on late into the day, broken only by the sounds of a band of activists who have vowed to stop it."

Eleanor Fairchild participates in Keystone pipeline blockade. (photo: Tar Sands Blockade)
Eleanor Fairchild participates in Keystone pipeline blockade. (photo: Tar Sands Blockade)

Protesters Challenge Bulldozers at Keystone Pipeline Site

By Dan Frosch, The New York Times

13 October 12


eep within the oak and pine forests that blanket this stretch of East Texas, the chug of machinery drones on late into the day, broken only by the sounds of a band of activists who have vowed to stop it.

Here, among the woods and farmland, what might be one of the last pitched battles over the Keystone XL oil pipeline has been unfolding for weeks now, since construction of the controversial project's southern leg began in August.

As bulldozers and diggers churn up a 50-foot-wide path for the pipeline - this portion will run from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf Coast - a small group of environmental activists have taken to the towering trees in its way.

And with the blessing of some landowners who live here, and whose property the pipeline will cross, the protesters have fashioned a web of tree houses, structures and pulleys in a last-ditch effort to keep the enormous project from rumbling forward.

"Initially, a lot of the environmental movement on a national scale had kind of written this fight off," said Ron Seifert, a spokesman for the Tar Sands Blockade, a group of environmental activists who have gathered near Winnsboro and contend that the oil sands crude that the pipeline will carry is especially toxic.

"But we have awakened folks from that slumber," he said. "I think now there is an understanding that people are not going to give this up."

TransCanada, the company behind the project, said construction had not been impeded in most cases, proceeding safely around where some activists have remained perched in the oaks for nearly three weeks. The tree sitters, as they are known, have survived on canned food and water and spent much of their time reading.

But at times, the company acknowledged, the situation has become dangerous. "In one case, protesters jumped underneath a truck and tied themselves to the rear axle with plastic," Shawn Howard, a TransCanada spokesman, said by e-mail. "They were fortunate that the driver saw them go under - if he had not, it could have had very serious consequences for everyone."

Mr. Howard said the company was making sure that work sites were safe, "even for those who are breaking the law and trespassing on these locations."

Still, as protesters have staked out positions in tree platforms 70 feet high and along a 100-foot-long wall lashed together with timber, tensions in East Texas have risen along the route of the pipeline - slated for completion next year.

Off-duty police officers, hired by a TransCanada contractor, patrol the perimeter of construction sites day and night. This month, one man chained himself to a concrete capsule buried in the dirt before police managed to disconnect and arrest him, Mr. Seifert said.

And on Oct. 4, the actress Daryl Hannah was arrested alongside a local landowner, Eleanor Fairchild, 78, after they blocked heavy equipment clearing a path through Ms. Fairchild's property.

Both women were taken to the Wood County Jail on criminal trespassing charges and released, according to jail records. Ms. Hannah also faces resisting arrest charges.

Sheriff Bill Wansley of Wood County did not respond to a request for comment. Mr. Seifert said 21 protesters had been arrested since the end of August.

It is not by accident that environmental activists chose Winnsboro, about 100 miles east of Dallas, to make their stand. They have found an unlikely ally in the battle-weary Texas families here who have fought the project for years.

One landowner, Susan Scott, said she had no idea the pipeline would carry oil sands crude, and signed over a right of way to TransCanada only because she feared a lawsuit.

Ms. Scott, 62, has since taken the $22,000 she was compensated and buried it in a fruit jar on her 60-acre property.

"I don't care if it rots. It's tainted money," she said, staring at a thick scar that now skirts her land. "I felt like I was guilty of destroying my farm."

Mr. Howard said TransCanada understood that some landowners were not in favor of the pipeline and that the company was respectful of those people whose land it needed.

"We have always been up front about the materials that are going into the pipeline," he said.

At some level, the standoff also belies a deeper sense of inevitability around Keystone XL.

This year, after saying TransCanada must reroute the project around environmentally delicate areas in Nebraska, President Obama encouraged the company to submit a fresh application to the State Department.

And he embraced the less controversial southern portion of Keystone XL, which received final permits from the Army Corps of Engineers this summer.

A particularly crushing blow for opponents came in August, when a Lamar County judge ruled that TransCanada could use eminent domain to condemn private land to build the pipeline.

In another setback, TransCanada recently sued a leading pipeline opponent, a Texas landowner, David Daniel, for refusing to recognize a 2010 easement agreement he reached with the company, his lawyer said.

Mr. Daniel, 45, a soft-spoken carpenter, has since settled the lawsuit and asked the protesters to leave his property.

"It's actually out of respect for David Daniel that we stay," Mr. Seifert said. "I stand by the fact that protecting his forest is the best thing for him, the best thing for the community, the best thing for the Planet Earth."

On a recent day on Mr. Daniel's land, off-duty police officers warmed themselves by a campfire, as a protester used a rope to shimmy from platform to platform through the oak canopy above them.

Mr. Daniel was there, too. He gazed up at a tree house he built - now being used by the protesters - turned around and walked quietly back toward his home. your social media marketing partner


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+25 # michellewey 2012-10-13 19:29
I'm glad to see this story in the NY Times. The sense of the xl pipeline as an inevitability is tragic in my view. I would hate to be a politician, so ethically compromised by the demands of my office that I would be compelled to sign off on such blatant environmental degradation at a moment when our planet is so clearly unable to sustain this kind of abuse.
+8 # WolfTotem 2012-10-14 01:25
Quoting michellewey:
The sense of the xl pipeline as an inevitability is tragic in my view.

Cut the words "in my view", michellewey. It is far worse than tragic. It is doom. As you correctly write, our planet is unable to sustain this kind of abuse.

There is no other planet for our children to go to, therefore it is our suicidal business-as-usu al approach to life that must go.

No choice but to face painful reality and come to terms with the physical world to which we belong - but which does not belong to us. No choice but unconditional surrender to a reality harder than the hardest businessman, harder than any tyrant. Then, back to basics. Humility. Deep, deep, deeper self-examinatio n. Scalpel probing to the root of our disease; back, back to where we went wrong.

We can live in this world, but only if we make a new Covenant with Earth.

+12 # jstick 2012-10-14 00:45
How can 1) A foreign company appropriate the property of U.S. citizens 2) for a commercial venture? What law authorizes such a miscarriage of justice?
Eminent domain confiscation can only be enforced by U.S. authorities (county, state) for PUBLIC projects!
+2 # seeuingoa 2012-10-14 02:17
Signed by Obama!
Still somebody who wants to vote for him?

Make this vote an ethical and moral
manifestation and vote Green/Jill Stein.
-1 # indian weaver 2012-10-14 06:57
Just as qualified as Stein is Rocky Anderson of The Justice Party. Even the ex governor of NM is more qualified than obama or romney. Vote your conscience no matter what, as starters, and research these alternative choices as actual leaders. At present, we have no leader, just another sold out liar, coward, assassin and torturer, the worst.
+3 # KittatinyHawk 2012-10-14 10:52
You really think that Diebold is going to register these votes? Foolish people...we must get in a candidate and these two have made no gains. No one knows them so how do you expect anyone to vote for them?
Rocky would be first choice, but I must push the votes to OB State, Local even Congress Senate will be other parties not President. You foolish people will sell us out to Romney...then what
+4 # KittatinyHawk 2012-10-14 10:50
Ob signed a paper ? OB can sign no property papers, He cannot demand confiscation of property or eminent domain.
Get facts straight.
Army Corp signed the paper, These sleazes have gotten very sleazy and because of Loopholes in Your Government...Lo cal, County, have let sleeping dogs lie and now for your laziness it is going to come back to bite you. I know I go to meetings, You all have to attend meetings, and get some knowledge...Con cerned Citizens can do more than any Government Body because we look at the laws together and dissemble them for them. Then we can get Propositions on Ballot to change the Law. Try it some time.

This was in the makings for sometime so I do not buy that anyone didnot know anything...Do not read Papers or listen to media? Bull turds. Everyone saw dollar signs and said oh I can have a lil extra. This woman buried a jar is as dumb as door nails. She should dig it up and use it for the people who are going to help her. But I am a guessing that this burial of funds is not true. I would be feeding, watering, showering these protestors and getting a foundation together to offset fines...Wow wonder why no one discussed that with burial money. I see people do this money grab from fracking....the y do need the extra, I understand cost of living, medical I do not like lies on anyone's lips. Dig that money up and donate it to Occupy Pipeline!
+8 # Shar 2012-10-14 08:30
We are to be held responsible for the major injuries worked on the land.

Could we do with a major setback, to the times when trucks were not allowed on streets and SUVs were considered busses?

Could people take some responsiblilty for the healing of the Worlds land.

Lets stop blaming and lets starts putting some action behind our supposed beliefs to have a better world for the next generations.
+5 # KittatinyHawk 2012-10-14 10:58
Get involved, go to Texas and Protest.
Get reading the Laws, use them against Army Corp, State, County, the locals.
Pipeline has lawyers who did the usual bs, but Concerned Citizens can sometimes find the one law, amendment that could change this.
We had over a hundred people all doing some research or another on Scam Industry in one town up NE We won. We had 16 of these Scams at once and groups all over Pa worked together and got them thrown out. No Money in our Pockets, they had Lawyers, Engineers but People Spoke, and People Won
You must go and fight Where is Stein and Anderson these days? I do not see them here protesting, nor against Fracking. I do not see them at all so no votes for apparitions.
OB a second term, and get the Real People United. OB can learn some facts on who is in charge of the USA as well as Corporate Pigs, Military and GOP But sitting and doing nothing...guess that is why we are in trouble in USA Expected other people to do your work for you. No Happenin....

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