Protesters block loggers from clearing Keystone XL’s East Texas path

Protesters locked themselves on Wednesday to logging equipment being used to clear trees in the northeast Texas path of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The protest in Saltillo came as TransCanada gave Nebraska regulators a new map for routing the pipeline through the state to avoid the Sand Hills region and other areas with similar sandy, erodible soils. The latest map refines an alternative route following public meetings and comments.

TransCanada CEO Russ Girling said in a release that the new route “was developed based on extensive feedback from Nebraskans and reflects our shared desire to minimize the disturbance of land and sensitive resources in the state.”

TransCanada broke ground on Keystone XL’s southern leg last month, beginning work a stretch of pipeline that will connect the oil hub of Cushing, Okla., with the Texas Gulf Coast. The company won final Army Corps of Engineers permits for the southern project in late July.

A northern stretch of pipeline that would connect Alberta, Canada with Steele City, Neb., requires separate federal approval. That would link up with existing pipeline from Steele City to Cushing.

The Obama administration rejected a cross-border permit for that northern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline earlier this year. The State Department said it needed more study, including an environmental analysis of the proposed route through ecologically sensitive areas of Nebraska.

Environmentalists say the pipeline would expand the marketplace for oil sands crude that produces more greenhouse gas emissions from production to combustion than alternatives because of the energy-intensive techniques used to harvest it. Companies typically extract the tar-like hydrocarbon bitumen from Canada’s oil sands by open-pit mining and in-situ techniques involving underground injections of steam that liquefy the otherwise hard fossil fuel.

The protests in Texas this morning are only the latest move by activists who have tethered themselves to bulldozers in recent weeks to halt work on the project.

According to Tar Sands Blockade, work was prevented at the Saltillo site this morning after about 20 contractors found three protesters locked to feller buncher machines used to clear trees.

One of the three, Houstonian Sarah Reid, said she was fighting on behalf of East Texas landowners “who have been taken advantage of by TransCanada.”

Hopkins County sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene mid-morning, and left before noon with a warning to “make sure everyone’s safe,” according to the protesters.
The activists left the site around 1 p.m., but they promised continued protests.