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TransCanada Pipeline Protest in Fifth Week

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   By William Boardman   Email address removed  

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Officially, it seems, the Tar Sands Blockade was supposed to be over in mid-October, when the New York Times, having thus far ignored the story, announced that it was a "last-ditch bid."  But Tar Sands Blockade, a grassroots coalition of Texans opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline, is still there, still occupying the treehouse blockade it mounted September 24, still trying to hold up construction of TransCanada's $7 billion pipeline that will bring hot, toxic tar sands oil sludge from Canada for global markets. 

Two more people joined the tree-sitters this week, bringing the number of tree blockades to four, as blockaders maneuver in response to TransCanada's effort to build around the original blockade.  One of the new tree-sitters is Cat Ripley, 20, a veteran pipeline protestor who last year helped stop another TransCanada pipeline near Portland, OR, when the builders withdrew their permit application. 

Presidential candidate Mitt ("if I have to build it myself to get it here, I'll get it to America") Romney and President ("I'm all for pipelines") Obama both support the Keystone XL pipeline, and both claim -- falsely -- that it will contribute to the chimera of American energy independence.   While both candidates are also all but silent on climate change, former US Army chief of staff Gen. Gordon Sullivan and the other ten retired officers of the CNA think tank's Military Advisory Board say unambiguously: "Climate change is and must be recognized as a threat to our national security." 

Sometimes lost in the details is the basic argument about tapping the Alberta tar sands in Canada, since tar sands oil is much more toxic than oil from previously exploited reserves.   Because the Alberta reserve is vast, it's a significant hedge against oil shortages, and has drawn heavy investment from the oil industry, including PetroChina.  Because tar sands oil is so toxic, environmentalists warn against it -- as James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, wrote in the New York Times last may:  "If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate."   

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   Tar Sands Resistance Spreads Across U.S. and Canada

TransCanada pipeline construction sites offer clear confrontation points in the oil/climate struggle, with resistance growing wherever pipelines have threatened to go lately, whether Nebraska or British Columbia, Vermont or Texas, where the Tar Sands Blockade's action has entered its second month.

Two days after the Times virtual "obituary" on Tar Sands Blockade, more than 50 supporters swarmed the construction site and later posted video of their actions and security reactions.  October 15 was the biggest action of the blockade to date, with protestors outnumbering security officers roughly 3-1.  The main purpose of the action was to re-supply the nine tree-sitters, but protestors also disrupted construction for the day, as they ran around the site and some locked themselves to equipment.  Dozens more demonstrated against TransCanada from nearby public land, and there were solidarity rallies in Austin and Denton, Texas, as well as Washington, DC, New York City, and San Francisco.    

Security officers made some eight arrests and tackled a 70 year old Cherokee woman, but police violence did not reach earlier levels when officers tortured

two protestors, a man and a woman, using chokeholds, pepper spray, and tasers, while the pair was chained helplessly to a backhoe.

The October 15 action came after TransCanada had clamped down on the area with police-state tactics, as reported by Firedoglake: "Enlisted off-duty police officers are intimidating, harassing and arresting just about anyone they think is trespassing, even if those people happen to be on property they own. And, officers who are acting as armed henchmen for TransCanada have arrested three journalists in the past twenty-four hours for simply being there to report on resistance to the pipeline construction." 

   Times Reporter Leans Pro-TransCanada, Ignores Basic Issue

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One of those arrested on October 10 was Times reporter Dan Frosch, whose dismissive October 13 story minimized the size and significance of the confrontation while heavily quoting TransCanada spokesmen without balancing views.  For example, Frosch quoted the company view that "the company was making sure that work sites were safe, "even for those who are breaking the law and trespassing on these locations'," as if there was no opposing point of view. 

The Times reporter also reported, as if it was true, the TransCanada claim "that the company was respectful of those people whose land it needed," when the opposite is easily documented.  And for the self-described "paper of record," Frosch chose to quote only two resigned and passive landowners, rather than any who have been actively resisting on site or in court.

In a gesture of journalistic malpractice, Frosch omitted any mention of his own arrest or the arrest of the photographer with him or the arrests of three other journalists, none of whom were apparently charged.  He did mention the arrest of Daryl Hannah and others, but not their excessive bail or over-charging by local authorities. 

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Vermonter living in Woodstock: elected to five terms (served 20 years) as side judge (sitting in Superior, Family, and Small Claims Courts); public radio producer, "The Panther Program" -- nationally distributed, three albums (at CD Baby), some (more...)

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