Meet the Treehouse-Dwelling Protesters of the Keystone Pipeline

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They're not the only ones fighting the new supply line. So are East Texas landowners whose properties the construction cross-cuts.

Earlier this week, 50 environmental activists of the Tar Sands Blockade gathered in Winnsboro, Texas. They crossed an easement owned by TransCanada, the owner and builder of the controversial Keystone pipeline, in an effort to get supplies to a handful of their colleagues. These protesters have been living in the trees above one of the work sites in an attempt to stop construction. Two activists fastened themselves to heavy machinery, halting work at the site closest, while over a dozen others stood along the roadside holding protest signs.

The activists are not alone in their fight against the Keystone pipeline, which will transport tar sands from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. East Texas landowners are also fighting the pipeline. On October 4, 78-year-old Eleanor Fairchild and actress/environmental activist Daryl Hannah stood in the path of heavy machinery on Fairchild's property. They were arrested. Since then, 21 people, including Ms. Fairchild, have been served papers labeling then eco-terrorists, as part of a civil suit against them for work stoppages. Reporters, too, have been detained covering the tree sitters' protest, though the local police have not pressed charges against any of them. Access to the activists in the trees is now blocked off to all media.

Landowner David Hightower says that if conservatives who support the pipeline knew more about the construction and about tar sands, he thinks they would change their position. "This isn't about creating energy independence for America, or jobs," he says, "but about allowing a Canadian corporation to profit at our expense." In his estimation, environmental impact reports are being done hastily, if at all.

President Obama has held up the pipeline in Nebraska until an in-depth environmental impact study can be completed. In the meantime, he endorsed the fast-tracking of the southern portion. Earl Hatley, an Oklahoman of Cherokee decent who is protesting the pipeline, thinks fast-tracking the southern portion of the Keystone pipeline will make the creation of the northern portion inevitable.

Julia Trigg Crawford, who owns property on the Oklahoma/Texas border, is fighting TransCanada using a different tack: She claims the company has misused eminent domain laws. While a district court ruled in favor of TransCanada when Crawford brought a case, she is appealing the ruling, saying that the judge offered no explanation for his verdict. She says she is willing to appeal the case all the way to the Texas Supreme Court.

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Julie Dermansky is a multimedia reporter and artist based in New Orleans. She is an affiliate scholar at Rutgers University's Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights. Visit her website at www.jsdart.com.

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