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AUSTIN, TEXAS—Protesters trying to save the world by sitting in trees or blocking equipment used to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline are learning that environmental activism can be a ticket to lengthy jail time in East Texas.
Matthew Almonte, Glen Collins and Isabel Brooks landed in jail in Tyler on Dec. 3, charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass, resisting arrest and illegal dumping, following efforts to stop work on the TransCanada Corp. pipeline. Each has asked for a reduction in the $65,000 (U.S.) bond that must be posted to get out pending trial, without success.
The trio joined more than 30 others arrested since October near Tyler and Nacogdoches as they tried to halt work on the $7.6 billion (U.S.) pipeline that would bring products of Alberta oilsands to Houston-area refineries. President Barack Obama blocked the northern U.S. leg, citing environmental risks in Nebraska. An updated review of a revised route may be released in days. The southern end runs from Oklahoma through Texas.
“This is the front line where the climate debate comes onto the ground and you can come over and kick it,” said Eddie Scher, a Sierra Club spokesman. The Washington-based group calls itself the largest, most effective U.S. environmental advocate. “There isn’t an inch of space between us and the blockaders.”
Dozens of mostly 20-something activists have pitched tents on a ranch outside Nacogdoches, a city near the site of the state’s first oil well. The camp provides a staging area for protests, which have included perching in trees on the route and locking people to construction equipment.
“Gangs of tree sitters who trespass and defecate on landowners’ property don’t understand Texas values and culture,” Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said in an essay posted on his website in October. He called the protesters “a bunch of out-of-state, self-appointed eco-anarchists.”
No state elected officials have lent public support to the protests, which, if successful, may curb the energy boom in Texas, the nation’s biggest oil producer. Blocking interstate pipelines would threaten the economic viability of Houston refineries, which support thousands of jobs, Tom Zabel, a TransCanada lawyer, said in an Oct. 4 court hearing.
At least five groups are fighting the Keystone route across their property, while about 95 per cent of landowners favor the project for financial reasons, said John Johnson, a rancher in Douglass who has leased acreage to accommodate the pipeline.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1304688–keystone-protesters-pay-price-for-dangling-in-texas-trees