Keystone XL protesters arrested in downtown Houston (video)

Thirteen Keystone XL opponents were arrested Monday during a protest in downtown Houston after they refused to move from the front of pipeline owner TransCanada’s offices.

The 13 activists were among dozens of demonstrators to gather outside of the office building at 717 Texas Ave., chanting slogans like “climate change has gone too far,” as they stood in opposition to the pipeline. Keystone XL will move oil sands crude from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast if President Obama approves a connection that will extend across the international border.

Two former oil company employees, including an auditor for Exxon Mobil Corp. and a geologist for Chevron who quit this year, were among those arrested, said Becky Bond, political director of CREDO, one of the groups behind the demonstration.

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Police advised those arrested that they faced up to a $1,000 fine and 180 days in jail.

“They feel strongly enough that they’re going to take that risk,” said Amanda Starbuck, a spokeswoman for the Rainforest Action Network, which also organized the protest.

Opponents to the pipeline have argued that it will create additional incentive to produce crude from oil sands, which creates more emissions than conventional oil production. They also warned against the risks of an oil spill from a pipeline and the challenges of cleaning it up, pointing to complications following recent spills in Arkansas and Michigan.

Cleanup of a pipeline spill of Canadian oil sands crude into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River has taken more than two years and cost more than $800 million.

“They’ve petitioned, they’ve called, they’ve rallied, and they feel it’s not enough,” Starbuck said of the activists arrested.

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She said a pipeline opposition campaign had gathered commitments from more than 75,000 people who are willing to risk arrest in demonstrations in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline if President Obama and his administration approve a connection to Canada.

They southern leg of Keystone XL is under construction in Texas and is nearly complete, with oil expected to flow through the line before the end of the year, TransCanada says.