Texas farmers face off against Keystone pipeline

Construction continues on TransCanada’s Keystone XL oil pipeline. The 1,179-mile-long pipeline will stretch from Canada to southern Texas, delivering oil to refineries there. But there is an outcry among Texans who do not want pipelines snaking along their property – and who fear the environmental risks of potential spills.

Texas landowners have reportedly filed and appealed many lawsuits, which could slow the project’s progress, adding to a laundry list of prior delays to the pipeline construction, including outcries from concerned environmentalists and Native American tribes. Texas farmers and workers from all walks of life are also staging protests; several of them have been arrested already this month.

For many of these farmers, the Keystone issue is a personal one; on August 23, Texas Judge Bill Harris had ruled that TransCanada could seize portions of land from owners who refused to sign an agreement with the corporation. Landowners do not want an oil pipeline running through their property, however. So they’re fighting back.

“There’s a lot of reasons that Texans are very proud of their land; you’re proud when you own land and you are the master of that land, and you control that land,” said Julia Trigg Crawford, who is trying to stop the condemnation of a section of her family’s 650-acre farm in Sumner, Texas. And despite offers of compensation by the company for her willingness to surrender the land, she added, “this is not about the money. This is about the right of a landowner to control what happens on their land.”

And the project, moreover, offers no local economic benefits. Nearly 50 percent of the steel being used to make the pipeline is not American-made, and the corporation has no intention of using only workers in the U.S.; in particular, it has made no promises to rely primarily on local workers.

“This is a foreign company,” said Crawford. “Most people believe that as this product gets to the Houston area and is refined, it’s probably then going to be shipped outside the United States. So if this product is not going to wind up as gasoline or diesel fuel in your vehicles or mine, then what kind of energy independence is this creating for us?”

Despite the championing of the project by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who during the first presidential debate declared, “We’re going to bring in that pipeline from Canada,” the economic and energy benefits of Keystone XL are questionable. Most who oppose Romney’s pro-oil agenda believe that pursuit of the pipeline is simply not worth putting the environment at risk, nor is it worth encroaching on the property of landowners.

Among the Texas activists arrested this month was 78 year-old Eleanor Fairchild, a great grandmother who was forced to spend a night in jail for trespassing on condemned land on her own 425-acre farm.

The outrageous ability of TransCanada to condemn private property is the general reason for most of the lawsuits being filed against it by Texas residents.

Fairchild said she has been strongly against Keystone XL for years before construction began, and will continue to protest and stand in solidarity with other landowners and environmentalists.

“What this foreign corporation’s doing just isn’t right,” she remarked. “I want the world to know that Texans do not want this pipeline forced through their homes. From the White House to my house, I don’t want this pipe threatening anyone’s house anywhere in the world.”

Photo: TarSandsBlockade.org


Blake Skylar
Blake Skylar

Blake writes on environment and culture. He has covered issues including the BP oil spill and the UN Climate Conference in Paris. In 2015, he received an award from the Illinois Woman's Press Association for his coverage of the People's Climate March in New York. As production manager, he is also responsible for the daily assembly of the PW home page.

He grew up in Garfield, New Jersey. He likes cats, wine, good books, music, and nature - especially long hikes in the woods. He currently lives in Chicago. He writes a blog that can be found at blakedeppe.com.