Keystone Pipeline Protesters Tie Themselves to Construction Equipment, Halt Work

Three protesters tied themselves to logging equipment clearing trees for the southern portion of the Keystone pipeline early Wednesday morning. A representative of the group, which calls itself the Tar Sands Blockade, says work on the East Texas site is currently halted.

"A caravan of between seven and nine vehicles (filled with workers) came to the site and the foreman waved them on and sent them on their way," says Ron Seifert, a representative of the group.

The site is near Saltillo, halfway between Mt. Pleasant and Sulphur Springs. Seifert says the Hopkins County Sheriff Office is "negotiating" with the protesters and representatives from TransCanada, the international pipeline company. A representative of the company says the company may comment later. We'll update accordingly.

Seven were arrested last week during a similar blockade near Livingston, just east of Huntsville. The protest was sparked by a judge's decision to allow the Canadian corporation to seize a portion of a Paris, Tex., rancher's land through eminent domain. "Since the last action took at least five hours to clear the scene, we anticipate this going on for some time today," says Rita Beving, an organizer with the group.

The permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have stretched from Canada to refineries on the Texas coast, was denied by the State Department in January. TransCanada split the project into two sections -- a northern pipeline whose approval is still pending, and a southern segment already underway, stretching from Oklahoma to the Gulf. The pipeline will carry hundreds of thousands of gallons per day of diluted bitumen, or DilBit, a substance strip mined from beneath arboreal forests.

The protestors fear a DilBit spill similar to the one that occurred in 2010 on a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. Some 800,000 gallons of the benzene-laced slurry despoiled the river. The clean-up, still underway, has risen to around $1 billion.

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Brantley Hargrove