TransCanada Avoids Direct Confrontation, At Least For Now
After its initial sanction of extreme violence against the protestors, TransCanada has apparently managed to keep its security officers relatively restrained except for the occasional roughing-up or hog-tying. The multi-billion dollar Canadian company's more recent actions have included numerous court suits against landowners and protestors, including a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, known as a SLAPP suit, a form of litigation that has been limited by statute in 28 states other than Texas.
The SLAPP suit is a notorious form of legal bad faith, designed not so much to be won (or even taken to trial) by the plaintiffs, but rather to intimidate, silence, censor, and exhaust the resources of opponents who are typically, as with environmental groups like the Tar Sands Blockade, incapable of matching the resources of a multi-billion dollar corporation.
Even before the SLAPP suit, TransCanada had aroused anger among landowners by its use of eminent domain to take control of their land along the pipeline route. Texas law expects eminent domain to be used for a public purpose, and the Texas Supreme Court has ruled similarly in recent cases, but the Texas Railroad Commission continues to allow eminent domain claims based on earlier custom. The question is currently on appeal, but the pipeline construction continues.
The failure of the state of Texas to protect Texas landowners has aroused considerable anger and resentment, as expressed by Edwin Tullos in a letter to the Dallas Morning News: "As a landowner in rural Texas, I find use of the law by a company to override landowners' rights for a profit venture extremely disconcerting. The interpreting of the law by state level government officials in this matter demonstrates their intent to use it to void any law protecting private landowners from profit oriented consortiums including foreign companies--as this one is. How secure are we in our homes when the state--not federal--orders our homes seized to assure the profit of their donors?"
TransCanada Harasses Tree-sitters with Light and Sound
TransCanada has maintained low level pressure on the tree-sitters, with round-the-clock security waiting to arrest anyone who might come down and anyone who might try to bring supplies. The company has also maintained floodlights on the treehouses all night, powered by noisy generators, making sleep difficult. For some reason, TransCanada turned off the lights and generators the night of October 24, according to retired Col. Ann Wright who visited with the tree-sitters without incident.
That same day a Louisiana woman chained herself to the gate of a TransCanada
equipment yard, preventing trucks and other heavy equipment from going to work until sheriff's deputies cut her chains with bolt-cutters and arrested her. Cherri Foytlin, mother of six and wife of an oil field worker, posted her intentions in advance in a video and on her blog, Bridge The Gulf, acting in solidarity with an another anti-pipeline movement in Canada.
In British Columbia in western Canada, massive and widespread opposition has emerged to try to stop another pipeline intended to bring molten tar sands oil from central Alberta to an oil tanker port in Vancouver on the Puget Sound. On October 22, thousands of people took to the streets of the provincial capitol Victoria to make their views known to the provincial legislature and Premier Christy Clark. Two days later the protest spread across the province as more than 60 local communities joined hands in solidarity against the pipeline plan, with significant media attention
Texas Land Commissioner Calls Blockaders "Eco-anarchists"
An elected official, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, called the blockaders names in an October 16 op-ed piece that begins, inaccurately: "I've recently learned that a bunch of out-of-state, self-appointed "eco-anarchists' think they know better than Texans and have arrived to save us from ourselves. They're trying to block the Keystone Pipeline Gulf Coast Project, the pipeline that's under construction in East Texas that will create thousands of jobs and lessen our dependence on foreign oil."
This provoked a number of hostile letters and comments in opposition in the Dallas Morning News and elsewhere around the state. The Tar Sands Blockade is a native Texan effort with supporters from other states.
National mainstream media coverage, like the Times, has been spotty and behind the curve: on October 15, the Washington Post "discovered" the three-week old civil disobedience in the treetops; on October 17 an Associated Press report said "a battle is brewing over an unlikely project, an oil pipeline;" and on October 19 the Los Angeles Times reported on 78 year old Eleanor Fairchild's October 4 arrest (with actress Daryl Hannah) to protest the pipeline's damage to her farm and livelihood.
Regional mainstream media coverage has been somewhat more attentive, with the Fort Worth Weekly running a lengthy, balanced overview piece on October 17. Similarly, regional TV has aired some coverage, but the Tar Sands Blockade of TransCanada's pipeline has apparently not yet been covered by any national TV news network or program.
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