There Will Be Tar Sand

Tarry Canadian bitumen is barreling its way to Texas via the Keystone XL pipeline. Will it bring energy independence or environmental calamity?

I met a 75-year-old Nacogdoches woman named Jeanette Singleton. She's lived there since 1956. "They've been really thuggish," she said of TransCanada. "I'm not anti-energy. But we have wells. If it pollutes the aquifer, there goes our country water."

Before long, an 18-wheeler bearing a cherry picker to pluck protesters out of trees slowed as it approached a shouting, sign-wielding crowd. Several young men leaped in its path. One fell beneath the truck. The others screamed and pounded the hood with their fists. A deputy rounded the front of the truck and drove the protesters back, loosing clouds of pepper spray. Singleton, standing off to the side of the road, caught a gust of the burning mist. She clutched at her face and sank to her knees. Several young women rushed to her and gently poured bottled water over her eyes and cheeks.

Others shouted at the deputies pacing the road, crying, "Shame!"

Cherokee County Sheriff's deputies drag a protester who had tied himself to heavy equipment used to clear the Keystone XL's path through East Texas.
Brandon Thibodeaux
Cherokee County Sheriff's deputies drag a protester who had tied himself to heavy equipment used to clear the Keystone XL's path through East Texas.
Landowner Mike Bishop is suing TransCanada to prevent it from building the pipeline across his land.
Brandon Thibodeaux
Landowner Mike Bishop is suing TransCanada to prevent it from building the pipeline across his land.

It looked as though every law enforcement officer within a two- to three-county radius had deployed to the pipeline's right-of-way. In some counties, the court system has dealt with them harshly. For three protesters accused of misdemeanors in Smith County, bail was set at $65,000. It was lowered only after Judge Thomas Dunn recused himself over a conflict of interest. The judge had been paid some $40,000 by TransCanada for an easement across land he recently sold. In East Texas, it isn't difficult to find people who've been touched by — or who have profited from — the pipeline. To them, the Keystone XL is in some way almost always personal.

TransCanada's approach to the resistance has been to discount it as out-of-town, not from around here. "Despite their claims that they're standing up for Texas, these aren't Texans," says TransCanada spokesman Dodson. "Look at the people arrested in Nacogdoches. One of them was from Texas, and he wasn't even from that area."

Of course, neither is Dodson's company.

Nevertheless, many of the protesters weren't Texans. That's one way to look at them. Another is to see them as a generation bequeathed a warming planet. NASA says the North Pole has lost sea ice roughly equivalent to the size of the United States. Arctic permafrost, which contains vast stores of carbon dioxide and methane — potent greenhouse gases — is beginning to thaw. The United Nations Environment Programme warns the window in which to prevent global temperatures from reaching a crisis point is quickly closing. It is simply unlucky that Canada is unlocking one of the largest stores of carbon in the world as the climate is balanced on a knife edge.

Yet the protesters can't stop development of the Canadian oil sands any more than they can stop a pipeline through a state that owes its relative prosperity to minerals. Enbridge, the Canadian pipeline corporation responsible for the Kalamazoo River spill, is reversing the flow of 36-year-old pipeline that will carry crude and diluted bitumen from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Gulf Coast. Even without the Keystone XL, it will find its way through Texas.

Asian investors have funneled tens of billions of dollars into oil sands development. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently approved China National Offshore Oil Corp.'s $15 billion bid to purchase Calgary-based oil sands producer Nexen. Harper says it was necessary to increase the pace of oil sands development and to diversify Canada's exports away from the slower-growing U.S. market. With or without us, Canada's oil sands will flow.

As law enforcement brought young people down from the trees, I spotted a local man whom I'd noticed at the last protest site. His name was Chris Myers, 36, from nearby Wells. He works for a phone company. He wasn't a part of the protest, but he was curious. "I've heard different things about what's going on here," he said. He'd heard the Keystone XL would reduce our dependency on Middle Eastern oil. He heard it would bring jobs, which this area badly needs. But that's just what he's been told, he added. Myers turned toward the Angelina River, a few hundred feet away from the pipeline right of way. "I should research it more," he said. "I didn't see that. It's a big strip of land close to the river. That is concerning."

If Myers ended up doing any research, he might have learned that in October the National Energy Board, the Canadian government's regulatory watchdog, sent the company a strongly worded letter. A whistle-blower had come forward, complaining that the company was putting budgetary and scheduling considerations above quality. An initial investigation by the NEB bore this out. The agency announced a sweeping audit of TransCanada's pipelines, including the Canadian portion of Keystone I.

The protesters were loading up and heading out at the end of a long day spent battling with a $7 billion pipeline, bound for skirmish points farther on down the line. I walked over to the pipeline right of way. Four hundred yards distant, a backhoe was starting up. The construction company had a schedule to keep. Before long, the backhoe was an indistinct shape moving in a dust cloud.

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26 comments
rusknative
rusknative

no one living in Douglas has an IQ greater than 54. especially exjarheads.

rusknative
rusknative

not like the USA doesn't have VAST amounts of OUR OWN CRUDE under public land and offshore to develop and provide for our OWN petroleum products without needing to process Canadian stuff or South American stuff....but NO, the EPA and lib obamabots and the treehuggers are too stupid for solutions...they just want to live on borrowed debt money and smoke dope.

rusknative
rusknative

the Hispanics that are moving into and going to dominate all East Texas Love pepper spray...put it on their food...the hippy wannabe protestors are nannyboys.

fernaldus
fernaldus

Actually, Ozarka has sucked up all the good water.

cesar39nt
cesar39nt

how sad the gov. of Texas has no soul, our beloved state soon will be a dump ground for oil waste, and the conservative base sees nothing wrong with poisoning the water, then the food supply chain, and soon enough they will blame anyone for allowing them, to poison their own families? with the toxins from the project the conservatives sponsor, and our governor or his cronies, stand to make a fortune, just for making a few thousand of their very own constituents children mentally retarded, or physically handicapped, or dying, or all the above! shame on the republicans as long as they get paid they care not for any living thing themselves included.

pooua
pooua

Right, because East Texas isn't the birthplace of the modern U.S. oil industry and doesn't have a speck of petroleum product in any of its pristine, like-mountain-water-quality water! East Texans are the soul of Conservatism, representing the intellect and grace for which Conservatives and Libertarians have become famous; that's why they were targeted with this *monstrosity*! 

I lived in Longview for 5 years, with regular trips to Henderson, Kilgore, Gilmer and Marshall. I began filtering my drinking water for the first time in my life while I lived there, because I suspected that some brain-eating something in the water must explain East Texan behavior. When I expressed my suspicion to an industrial water quality worker, I was surprised that he only nodded his head and said, "It's benzine." Incidentally, the only pure water in Longview (and much of East Texas) is sucked up for use by Texas Eastman for use in chemical manufacturing; they couldn't use the Sabine River water, because it's too polluted! That's the water East Texans drink! 

I was so glad when I finally moved out of East Texas!

lobar
lobar

Another great mess rented Perry has gotten us into,,,disgusting and smelly crap,,,hope it all lands inside his drinking water and as he is washing his corrupt body,,may it stick to his horrible hair. GREED, and more GREED, thats what its all about.

kenneth51
kenneth51

What a great article about this horrible pipeline filled with toxic diluted bitumen, deceit and corruption. Thank you so much for spreading the truth. Our public officials should be so ashamed of themselves !!!!

sidewalkastro
sidewalkastro

You would think there would be a much bigger stink about this pipeline. A foreign country forcing its way across the most conservative part of Texas, tearing up the land and major potential for very toxic spillage. Conservatives are so easily bought and sold. Just wait until the first major spill, there be much hand wringing and kiss your drinking water goodbye.

PerryMoore
PerryMoore

Around here, we call them the Land Rapists. You ought to see what they have done to some of the most beautiful parts of Texas, and they shit on the property owners to boot.

bifftannen
bifftannen

This will not lower gas prices one iota. You've been fed a load of crap, and cut your own throat for pennies. Even if it did, this isn't worth it no matter what.

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

"Cherokee County Sheriff's deputies wearing straw cowboy hat".....you gotta love the deep south!  Betcha none of them "be's" fat either-right?

rusknative
rusknative

@cesar39nt our "beloved state" has had lead smelters, oil wells and slag pits, chemical waste dumps, an army arsenal in Red River filled with unbelievable trash as well as Karnack chemicals, and a Gulf Coast that brought permanent tar balls to the beaches....and the locals infected the water supplies for years with Flourides.


give me a break with the Pristean beloved state of Texas...you live in some kind of la la land.

rusknative
rusknative

@kimfeil thirty people got shot in Chicago yesterday....get rid of guns and bring on oil.

director21
director21

@pak152 Where have you been? We have been expecting you to show up ever since we lambasted Trinity East at the CPC hearing on December 20. Cat get your tongue?

joearpaio
joearpaio

@sidewalkastro It's like the disconnect between the attitude of the crowd who says "don't touch our guns" and who also say "wire tapping American citizens without a warrant in the name of fighting (non-white) terrorists is fine".  Such hypocrisy.  

"TransCanada had "34 eminent domain actions against landowners in Texas"" Nice job, Koch bros.

markzero
markzero

@sidewalkastro I would think true conservatives would be up in arms against this simply because of the "exemption in state law that allows for-profit enterprises to condemn private land if they cannot reach a deal with the landowner," as Brantley put it.

rusknative
rusknative

@PerryMoore most of the property owners are dumb as bricks anyway, and fouled up their own land already....anywhere that hosts the world MUD races is too stupid to need education nor housing.

pak152
pak152

@director21 @pak152 nope busy working. finally realized that the anti-fracking crowd doesnt want to deal with facts that run counter to their beliefs. ad hominem attacks on those who offer a counter view result in shutting down discussion. . anti-frackers are much like the anti-gun crowd.
ttfn

kenneth51
kenneth51

@rusknative LOL - Spoken like a true idiot. So you now know most of the property owners in East Texas. What an ass.

 
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