Two environmental activists were arrested Thursday after locking themselves to oil tanker trucks near the Houston Ship Channel, organizers said.
The protesters were acting in coordination with the Tar Sands Blockade group that has staged a series of demonstrations throughout Texas to inspire opposition to TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, which is currently under construction.
The controversial pipeline would stretch from Canada to the Gulf Coast and bring 700,000 barrels of oil to Gulf Coast refineries.
Protesters Diane Wilson and Bob Lindsey Jr. said in previously recorded online testimonials that they were opposed to both the pipeline and Valero, the nation’s largest refiner, which is likely to benefit from the pipeline’s construction.
They called on Valero to divest from the pipeline.
Valero spokesman Bill Day said the company is not an investor, has no ownership stake and has no current agreements to ship oil through Keystone XL. The oil company had previously agreed to ship oil through the pipeline, but the agreement expired 18 months ago as delays prevented the pipeline’s construction, Day said.
Wilson and Lindsey attached themselves to the oil trucks by placing bicycle U-locks around their necks and locking them to the trucks, Tar Sands Blockade spokesman Ramsey Sprague said.
The protest was meant to disrupt oil supplied to Valero’s Houston refinery, which protesters said would be receiving oil from the Keystone XL pipeline.
But the Houston refinery, which receives most of its oil by pipeline, was not affected by the protest. Day added the refinery also does not have the capacity to process the type of heavy crude that would flow from Canada through Keystone XL. Valero’s Port Arthur refinery could process such heavy crude and currently imports and processes similar oil from South America, Day said.
Sprague said Valero should redirect any money it planned to use for oil through the Keystone XL pipeline to the communities surrounding its refinery near the Houston Ship Channel, where residents claim to have suffered health effects because of plant emissions.
Although only the southern portion of the pipeline — from Cushing, Okla., to the Texas coast — is currently under construction, Keystone XL is expected to bring oil sands crude from Canada and oil produced from American shale plays to coastal refineries.
Environmentalists have argued that oil from oil sands is not the same as other crude oil and is especially environmentally damaging to produce and clean, when spilled.
Energy companies have acknowledged that oil sands crude does produce more emissions and has more environmental impacts, but the industry is working to reduce the pollution and impacts involved with the process.
Activists oppose the pipeline because they say it will create more demand for the oil production from oil sands, but supporters say the oil sands crude will be produced in Canada regardless of whether Keystone XL is completed.
The pipeline’s construction has faced substantial opposition and generated political debate throughout the presidential campaign after the Obama administration denied a permit to allow a cross-border section of Keystone XL. Obama is expected to approve that portion of the pipeline after route adjustments from TransCanada that will redirect the pipeline around a critical aquifer in Nebraska.
Read more here: The Keystone XL pipeline controversy in Texas