A group of environmentalists standing on tree platforms and branches attempted Monday to head off work in northeast Texas for the southern portion of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Stationed as high as 80 feet above the ground on land near Winnsboro, the eight protesters held a banner reading “You Shall Not Pass” as they waited in the path of contractors for TransCanada, which is building the pipeline.
Protesters did not disrupt any work Monday, but they were in the planned route of crews clearing foliage and trees for the pipeline, TransCanada spokesman David Dodson said.
What TransCanada calls the Gulf Coast Project is the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline proposed to carry crude from Canadian oil sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The federal government has not approved the northern leg from Alberta into the United States, which requires a State Department OK because it would cross an international border. In rejecting a permit earlier this year, the government said the plan needed more study.
Dodson said easements similar to the ones for water and electric lines allow TransCanada to build on private property.
Ron Seifert, a spokesman for the activist group Tar Sands Blockade, said the protesters were in position on TransCanada’s easement.
“Those participating strongly believe that at this point doing nothing is a much greater risk than taking action,” Seifert said. “They believe that stopping this pipeline is a necessary condition for a viable future on planet Earth.”
At 6 p.m., Tar Sands Blockade reported on its website that the tree-clearing work finished for the day before reaching what the group calls “our tree village.”
Demonstrators argue that TransCanada’s pipeline will boost an especially energy-intensive and environmentally damaging form of oil production in Canada, Seifert said. The pipeline also will bring more fossil fuels to the market, increasing greenhouse gas emissions from cars and other users, he said.
“It will unleash the floodgates to the largest carbon bomb in North America,” Seifert said.
Dodson said, however, that TransCanada does not produce oil and that the pipeline will not influence demand for fuel from refineries.
“The usage creates the demand for the refinery and not the other way around,” Dodson said, citing oil consumption as the driver of oil production and pollution from oil.
He added that the pipeline has had to comply with 57 conditions that no other project has had to follow and that it will be “the safest pipeline ever built.”
The land where the protesters gathered Monday is owned by Texas resident David Daniel, who operates a website, stopeminentdomainabuse.net, that protests TransCanada’s use of his land through eminent domain.
He said through a spokesman that he had no knowledge of the blockade effort and had no comment on it.
TransCanada’s pipeline will be buried 4 feet in most places. It will be above ground in Texas only at the pipeline’s six pump stations and dozens of mainline valves, Dodson said.