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Civil Disobedience in Climate Action: Eight Climb Into Trees to Stop Keystone XL Pipeline

A direct action group called Tar Sands Blockade has been harassing TransCanada and their efforts to build the lower half of the Keystone XL pipeline.

That portion, from Cushing, Oklahoma to the port at the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, was approved by President Obama as a way to speed through to international markets what has become a glut of oil being processed in the interior of the United States. It’s seen as a prelude to the potential approval of the northern half of the pipeline, which would connect Cushing to the tar sands region of Alberta, allowing “the biggest carbon bomb on the planet” of energy-intensive tar sands oil to move to the Gulf.

Tar Sands Blockade has been trying to block construction on the lower half of the pipeline, shutting it down for days at a time. Today, eight members of the group climbed up into trees 80 feet in the air, trees in the proposed path of the pipeline that would otherwise get cut down.

Eight people climbed 80 feet into trees in the path of Keystone XL construction, and pledged not to come down until the pipeline is stopped for good. Construction cannot proceed until tree-sitters descend and TransCanada clear-cuts through hundreds of trees to make way for the toxic tar sands pipeline.

The blockade is carefully organized to ensure that everyone sitting in the trees can remain safe as long as TransCanada does not attempt to continue clear-cutting the trees. These ardent advocates of landowner’s rights and climate justice have the safety equipment and food supplies to last indefinitely.

The advocates have attempted to use the anger over eminent domain laws and the takeover of private property for the purpose of the pipeline as much as they have used the principles of environmental and climate justice. One of the blockade members, Mary Washington, said in a statement, “This pipeline is a disaster for everyone it touches, from the cancer tar sands extraction is causing indigenous communities, to the water poisoned by inevitable tar sands spills, to the landowners whose land has been seized, and to everyone that will be affected by climate change,.”

Tar Sands Blockade is currently raising money around the action, one of several against pipelines and other core elements of fossil fuel production and distribution around the country. This is an aggressive example of what has become a growing climate action movement. “Taking action is less risky than doing nothing,” said Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson Ron Seifert.

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David Dayen

David Dayen