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Actress Daryl Hannah, landowner arrested in Wood County oil pipeline protest

By Richard Yeakley and Peggy Jones;
Oct. 4, 2012 at 11 p.m.

WINNSBORO - A Hollywood actress and Northeast Texas landowner were arrested Thursday afternoon as they protested construction of a pipeline that will carry Canadian crude oil through the region.

Daryl Hannah, 51, and Eleanor Fairchild, 78, were arrested on charges of criminal trespass and booked into the Wood County Jail, the sixth and seventh people to be arrested in recent Wood County protests aimed at stopping TransCanada's construction of the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline.

The women were taken into custody about 4 p.m. at property near Texas 154 and FM 2869. They had been standing in front of an excavator and other construction equipment, according to a statement issued by Tar Sands Blockade, a group supporting protests of the project.

Several acres of Fairchild's farm have been condemned through eminent domain to provide access for TransCanada's pipeline to cross her property. Like other Northeast Texas landowners, she has opposed the process used to take her land and raised environmental concerns about the project.

Earlier Thursday, about six miles north of where Hannah and Fairchild were taken into custody, several other protesters continued a crusade that began Oct. 1, sitting in trees on a TransCanada easement across property owned by David Daniel on FM 2088.

As protesters have taken to the trees to block clearing and construction, TransCanada crews have simply bypassed the protest, leaving the trees standing while continuing to work beyond the area. The protesters remained perched in the trees late Thursday.

Before Hannah's arrest, Wood County Sheriff Billy Wansley voiced his impatience with protests by what he termed "outside environmental activists." He said the sheriff's office was working to protect the rights of TransCanada, landowners and protesters.

"I can't stop (the pipeline), that's not my job. ... All we are interested in is to keep the peace," Wansley said. "All we can do is what we are doing. During the meantime we have hundreds of other calls. We have 43,000 other people in the county, and we have to answer to them, our taxpayers."

Thursday's arrest was not Hannah's first in connection with protests of the pipeline. She was jailed in 2011 in Washington D.C., after a protest organized by a group called Tar Sands Action. That day, she joined about 100 other protesters to sit on the sidewalk outside the White House.

Thursday's protest was one piece of continuing civil disobedience in response to construction of the pipeline designed to transport heavy tar-sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to Texas' Gulf Coast refineries.

Wansley said his office made five earlier arrests in connection with protests. And in September, five protesters arrested in Franklin County spent 48 hours in jail after attaching themselves to machinery.

In addition to environmental concerns, protests have been raised over what opponents say is TransCanada's abuse of eminent domain using its status as a so-called common carrier.

The issue became politically charged when congressional Republicans gave President Barack Obama 60 days to decide whether TransCanada should be granted the necessary permit for the pipeline to cross an international border before snaking its way 1,700 miles south to the Texas coast.

Obama, saying his administration did not have enough time to study the potential environmental impacts, denied the permit in January. However, he expedited permitting of a southern portion of the pipeline from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf. TransCanada began construction of that portion this summer.

"Hundreds of thousands of people stand in opposition to this pipeline and have since this became widely known," said Paul Bassis, who identified himself as Hannah's manager for her work as an environmental activist. "This Canadian company is taking land from private landowners to bring this oil to the Gulf to be sold on the open market. It is a false premise to say it will bring energy independence."

Officials with TransCanada issued a statement on Hannah's arrest Thursday afternoon.

"It is unfortunate Ms. Hannah and other out-of-state activists have chosen to break the law by illegally trespassing on private property," the statement said. "It is also unfortunate that she and other professional activists have chosen to engage in illegal acts, putting their own safety and the safety of others at risk, along with trying to prevent thousands of Americans from providing for their families by helping to build the Gulf Coast Project and the energy security it will provide."

Hannah and Fairchild were being held on charges of criminal trespass. Fairchild's jail record also showed an additional charge of obstructing highway passage. Bond had not been set for either woman by late Thursday.

Bassis said it was his understanding Hannah would be held overnight and not released on bond until today.

Hannah is known for her roles in the movies "Splash," "Steel Magnolias," "Blade Runner," "Roxanne," "Wall Street," "Kill Bill Vol. 1" and "Kill Bill Vol. 2."



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