HOPKINS COUNTY (KYTX) - A group of protestors from the Tar Sands Blockade locked themselves to construction equipment to fight against TransCanada's Gulf Coast Extension (formerly the Keystone XL) Wednesday.
The Tar Sands Blockade is a group devoted to raising awareness of what its members perceive to be environmental concerns with the transportation of tar sands crude oil products and TransCanada's alleged abuse of eminent domain laws in obtaining land for the Gulf Coast Extension.
Construction workers on TransCanada's controversial pipeline project showed up Wednesday morning to find more than just the muddy machines they'd left behind.
"I was willing to get arrested in order to show people what's happening here," protestor Sarah Reid said.
Through the axle of a giant excavator, Reid locked arms with Gary Stuard.
"This is really the only moral thing we can do," Stuard said.
They're two strangers brought together by one worry: that TransCanada's Gulf Coast Extension will do more than just tear up some grass on its way to the ocean.
"It's not just polluting your neighbor's river," Protestor Shannon Beebe said. "That river effects your land. It goes across where you live."
"Constantly we hear about tar sands pipelines breaking and major spills," Stuard said.
Stuard said he was convinced he had to do something after seeing the devastation in Kalamazoo, Michigan when a tar sands line leaked into the local river.
"I even met someone from that town who has permanent brain damage from just living six miles away from the tar sands spill," Stuard said.
"I told them from day one I didn't want them," Wood County land owner Susan Scott said. "Never wanted them."
Scott joined the protest after losing her land to eminent domain.
"I signed under threat and duress," Scott said.
Construction managers chose not to press trespassing charges and the protestors stayed.
"This is a good day," Reid said.
With caution, the protestors called it a small victory--with a chance at becoming a big one.
"If people realize they have the power to say no, then we can stop it," Stuard said.
The following is a statement from David Dodson with the TransCanada Gulf Coast Project in Houston:
"Even though we have all the necessary permits and approvals to build the Gulf Coast Project and have followed all laws of the State of Texas, there are some who will not accept that the project is legally allowed to proceed.
"Their claims that they disrupted construction are false.
"The reality is protesters attached themselves to equipment located on a private landowner's property that belonged to a third-party contractor. The equipment was not in use today. Construction activity was not disrupted and continued as planned elsewhere.
"It is unfortunate that this handful of individuals - and the groups supporting them - are spending so much time and energy trying to prevent hard-working Americans from providing for their families by building the Gulf Coast Project. The Gulf Coast Project is creating jobs that help several thousand American workers use their skills to build an important piece of energy infrastructure, and that energy infrastructure is going to keep Gulf Coast refineries full with a reliable supply of crude oil.
"Regardless of some people's misinformed opinions about this pipeline, we hope that they will conduct themselves in a way that respects the safety and security of our work sites and the employees and contractors working there, not to mention their own personal safety.
"It's important to note that in coordinating with local law enforcement agencies regarding today's event, protesters were treated with respect, no arrests were made, and no injuries were reported."