Trans-Pecos Pipeline ready; Protest camp to close

Presidio County deputies had to cut through wire mesh, rebar, concrete and plastic piping to remove a homemade cast attaching Anna Kruger, 21, to a Trans-Pecos Pipeline excavator on March 14, 2017. Courtesy of the Presidio County Sheriff’s Office

West Texas pipeline protests have faded over the past month, and now, with the Trans-Pecos Pipeline complete, organizers say they’re closing down the largest of the camps.

“Yeah, we’re in transition mode,” said Frankie Orona, executive director of the San Antonio-based Society of Native Nations and a camp leader. “The pipeline is pretty much in the ground.”

Activists completed 13 “direct actions” — civil disobedience aimed at slowing the progress of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline’s main builder. Many involved protesters chaining or locking themselves to heavy machinery in the early morning, forcing the company to wait for police before starting work.

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But the most recent arrest was almost three weeks ago, the Presidio County Sheriff’s Office said. Deputies found 21-year-old Greeley, Colo., resident Anna Joy Kruger, her arms wrapped around an excavator and then affixed together with a homemade cast of PVC pipe, chicken wire, concrete, tar and duct tape — far harder and more time-consuming to remove than the chains protesters used earlier in the year. Deputies had to get a grinder to cut through the concrete and metal. They arrested her on suspicion of trespassing, a misdemeanor, and criminal mischief, a felony.

The Trans-Pecos pipeline received federal approval Thursday to run gas across the border. The pipeline, a spokeswoman said, is “operationally ready for service.”

Less than 10 are now left at the camp, called Two Rivers, a mix of tents, teepees and at least one yurt on private land near Big Bend Ranch State Park, 40 miles south of Marfa and 25 miles north of the Mexican border. Orona said he’ll close it in the next few weeks and begin looking for a new target.

Other activists have gathered near West Texas’s Balmorhea State Park, home to the famous spring-fed swimming pool, to protest fracking operations conducted by Houston-based Apache Corp. Orona said camp leaders are equally interested in targeting Calgary-based Enbridge’s Valley Crossing Pipeline, set to run from near Corpus Christi to the southern tip of Texas.

That pipeline is still setting its course, and activists would have a much better ability to affect the outcome.

But Orona worries he won’t get much traction. Activists blocked the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline, and now the Trump Administration has greenlighted both.

“I think the movement’s dying down a lot throughout the country,” he said. “I think people are discouraged.”

In the meantime, however, campers at Two Rivers could use a hand. They need gas money to cover their coming move.

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