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Keystone XL Pipeline protesters dig in for long haul

By by Peggy Jones pljones@news-journal.com
Sept. 24, 2012 at 10 p.m.


Protesters mounted a tree-top assault on Monday, aimed at halting TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline in Wood County.

Perched in makeshift houses in 80-foot trees, the protesters, calling themselves the Tar Sands Blockade, are "well-equipped and prepared to stay as long as it takes," said Ron Seifter, a spokesman for the group.

This past week five protesters were jailed in Franklin County after chaining themselves to heavy equipment in an effort to thwart progress on the controversial pipeline which is being built to transport tar sands from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast.

The Franklin five were jailed 48 hours before bond was set there on Class B misdemeanor charges of obstructing a highway or other passageway.

Monday's tree sit-in was staged about 10 miles south of Winnsboro along C.R. 4591 on property owned by David Daniel.

Seifert said the eight protesters - who came from across North Texas - were acting autonomously but with the permission of Daniel to be on the property.

Paul Bassis, who said he was acting as spokesman for Daniel, said the landowner has unsuccessfully battled the tar sands pipeline in court during the past five years.

"Civil disobedience is being employed by the Tar Sands Blockade," Bassis said. "There has been no social progress without those out in the front of the issue who laid their bodies down and engaged in civil disobedience – whether it was abolition (of slavery) or civil rights or labor. We see what they are doing as being in line with a great tradition of righting wrongs."

Seifert said the treetop protesters are within 1,000 feet of TransCanada crews.

"They (TransCanada workers) are certainly capable of clearing that much forest in a matter of hours," Seifert said, "But as of this time I am not aware of any heavy equipment on site."

David Dodson, a spokesman for the Canada-based company, said he was equally concerned for the safety of company employees and protesters.

"They have chosen to put themselves in harm's way," Dodson said. "I have alerted our team and we are examining our options right now."

Wood County Sheriff's office said company representatives had taken pictures of the protesters in the trees.

"We told them, before we can act on anything, we would have to have something from the district court," said Wood County Sheriff's Lt. John Farmer. "We are limited on what we can do. We have to abide by the law. If he gets some paperwork or a warrant, we can serve it. Otherwise there's not a whole lot we can do - it's a pretty good hike in the woods to get where they are."

Dodson would not elaborate on the legal options under consideration by the pipeline company

"I wouldn't want to speculate about that," he said adding "Our equipment is getting closer all the time. We have the right of entry on the property and intend to construct."

Asked if the company would seek an injunction against the landowner or protesters, Dodson said, in an e-mailed statement, "TransCanada's legal strategy needs to play out in the appropriate venue."

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