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Tar Sands in the Basin: Politics and protests

By Kenny Mitchell
July 23, 2012 at 11 p.m.

The Sulphur River this time of year is barely a trickle in some places and little more than a slow moving stream at its best but when the rains come it swells to a raging behemoth overflowing its banks and flooding acres and acres of pasture land on its path downstream to the local water supply housed in the confines of Wright Patman Lake.

It was during one of these times of flooding that the Enbridge pipeline burst into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan causing close to a billion dollars in damage and an ecological disaster that is still being cleaned up two years after it happened.

The same could happen here according to the experts in the field. Those experts point to TransCanada's own words when they constructed the first Keystone pipeline in which they predicted that it would see fewer than two spills, but it actually had 14 leaks in its first year of operation alone. An independent study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln predicts the Keystone XL will experience 91 spills over a 50 year period.

All in all, the proposed pipeline will cross 631 streams and wetlands in Texas alone, including not only the Sulphur River, but the entire Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, which is the water supply for as many as 12 million homes in East Texas.

Texas Senator Kevin Eltife said about the pipeline and its impact on his constituents here in East Texas, "It is important for our country to secure other sources of crude, including supplies in Canada. However, no foreign or domestic company should be allowed to trample the rights of property owners in the process. The Senate Natural Resources Committee has been charged to look into the Keystone Pipeline and its impact on Texas, and the information will help determine what changes in state law need to be made in the next Session of the Legislature."

Aside from those issues are the eminent domain issues where landowners from Texas are watching as the Canadian company that wants to build the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline are taking their land whether they agree to it or not.

Representative George Lavender said, "Last session, one of the committees I serve on in the Texas House, the Land & Resource Management Committee, handled the historic eminent domain legislation, SB 18. I am proud that we were able to pass this important legislation as it strengthens the private property rights of landowners in Texas."

Lavender went on to say, "With respect to the Keystone Pipeline, it is important that we pursue these types of initiatives as it reduces our dependence on foreign oil and has a positive economic impact on our region. However, the pipeline project must be initiated in a manner that respects the private property rights of landowners, complies fully with all applicable eminent domain laws and does not negatively impact our East Texas landscape."

Landowners like Julia Trigg Crawford of Paris, Texas and a slew of others here and in states to the north have decided to put up a fight.

Next week near Sulphur Springs, Texas landowners, environmentalists, activists and many others are expected to come together at the Texas Keystone Convergence to form a Tar Sands Blockade.

According to their website, The Tar Sands Blockade will be coordinating nonviolent, direct actions along the pipeline route to stop its construction and will be working with national allies as well as local communities to coordinate a road show that will travel throughout Texas and Oklahoma as well as a regional training effort for activists interested in getting involved in the blockade movement against the Keystone XL.

Organizers say, "The Tar Sands Blockade is a direct action campaign to stop construction of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, and the event in Sulphur Springs will help prepare for actions to come with training that will cover strategy, tactics, safety and more to help build the Texas climate movement and resistance to Keystone XL."

With all of this opposition and controversy to the project, what do some of our other politicians have to say about TransCanada's pipeline and the toxic bitumen that it will carry across our water supplies and farm land?

Ralph Hall has been a long time supporter of the projects and said earlier this year, "By removing energy barriers, America can decrease its dependence on foreign oil, improve national security, and lower gas prices. Increasing energy production would also promote long-term job creation and an increase in revenue. I will continue to fight for legislation that promotes job creation and economic growth as we work together to create the best future for America."

Hall voted with a House majority in favor of H.R. 3408, the PIONEERS Act, which required approval of Keystone XL.

Outgoing Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson also supports the pipeline's construction and stated, "The pipeline would be an important step for our energy independence and security. In contrast to the instability in the Middle East and in other oil-producing regions, Canada is one of our most trusted allies and a friendly neighbor. Keystone XL could essentially eliminate our Middle East oil imports. Without the pipeline, however, Canadian crude oil will be sold to China and other nations. I will continue to look for ways in which Congress can work to keep the Keystone pipeline as an option for America to go to work and lower energy costs by increasing supply."

The county judges of Lamar, Red River and Bowie counties did not respond to queries for their viewpoints.

For more information or to join the local efforts to stop the tar sands pipeline through Texas go to <em></em>



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