Line in the Sand: The Conflict Surrounding the Keystone XL Pipeline and Canada’s Tar Sands

Flickr - Crude Oil - shannonpatrick17Alex Pietrowski, Staff Writer
Waking Times

Whether you are aware of it or not, there is a revolution brewing in the backyards of the United States and Canada. The issue is over the development of a colossal pipeline that will deliver ‘tar sands crude‘ bitumen, a form of unrefined shale oil mixed with an undisclosed mixture of chemicals, from the highly contested Alberta, Canada Tar Sands project to oil refinery markets across the Midwestern US and the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Currently in phase III of development, the construction of a 3 foot diameter pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast of Texas, the project is drawing increasing attention and exposure as environmental activists are joining with land owner’s and property rights advocates, putting up direct physical resistance to construction efforts.

“It takes 2 tons of tar sands and 470 gallons of water to make 1 barrel of oil” – University of Alberta and Royal Swedish Academy

Arrests are mounting, complaints are growing, and the evidence increasingly suggests that the concerns of citizens directly affected by the construction, and of those advocating on behalf of environmental and property rights issues, are being plowed under by corporate influence and a judicial system that operates seemingly on direct behalf of the corporations involved.

  • In a free market, especially one that relies so heavily on energy consumption, corporations who develop our energy resources should be able to strike lawful agreements with landowners and communities for access to natural resources. And in a lawful society people should not be allowed to physically interfere with and disrupt a lawful business arrangement. Yet, our world, however, is unfortunately complicated by the fact that legal disputes over matters such as this are easily and obviously dominated by the party who wields more financial resources, in this case the corporations vying for access to private and protected lands, by any means necessary.

    In a legal environment like this, where individuals directly affected are easily overrun by the legal teams of companies like TransCanada, with the potential end result being the permanent poisoning of land and health, then the issue escalates beyond a simple battle of legal rights into a genuine human rights issue where court rulings are seen as part of a corporate takeover.

    “If each side got, say, $10,ooo, and said you put on the best case you can for $10, then it would be a whole different story.” – Julia Trigg Crawford, landowner

    Looking at it this way, it makes sense that people of all walks of life who love land, the earth and get the critical importance of having a clean environment would be willing to attach themselves to heavy construction machinery and to trees, and willing to face certain removal and arrest.

    It also makes sense, when looking at it this way, that Sheriff’s officers would uncaringly spray elderly women directly in the eyes with painful pepper spray as a means to resolve this complex issue, as did Texas Sheriffs recently.

    Perhaps some people see macing elderly women as a necessary part of maintaining law and order, or perhaps as an unfortunate requisite of taking care of business, but it demonstrates the failure of our system to both serve our communities and the government’s inability to mitigate our redresses. It highlights the brutal reality that the relationship between individuals, government, and corporations is about dominance, violence, and the cremation of care. If macing people fails to keep people from protesting this, will they resort to shooting people dead for trying to stop this?

    “We don’t have a dog in the fight as far as what’s right or what’s wrong, you know, we’re here to protect property and, and people, so that’s what we’re doing.”  – Capt. John Raffield, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department, Texas regarding the removal of activists disrupting construction with tree sit-ins.

    The people fighting against this have a reasonable, logical, ethical, and justly moral complaint about the seizure and destruction of land to install a private pipeline carrying deadly toxic sludge across once pristine and precious natural habitats. Their interests are not protected by our judicial system and they cannot be heard in the courts.

    Given the historical American spirit of resisting and revolting against injustice, is it any wonder why people with everything to lose are directly confronting the heavy machinery of this pipeline effort?

    And considering how devastating a tar sands bitumen pipeline leak can be, like the 2010 Enbridge Kalamazoo spill that is already being dubbed the most expensive oil spill in US History, shouldn’t there be a more equitable and civilized means of negotiating this debate, with more consideration given to quality of our environment and to the idea that some risks are not worth taking?

    “It’s not safe to be here. You’re going to have to leave your house. Now.” – Enbridge Employee during 2010 Kalamazoo pipeline spill 

    As more people re-awaken to the universal idea that we are all un-negotiably bound to the earth for life, health and abundance, and that selling off nature for the short term generation of consumer energy and the for the profit of the energy industry is simply not an intelligent design for our future?

    Watch the pilot for the upcoming documentary film, Line in the Sand: The conflict surrounding Keystone XL and Tar Sands, created by three college students in Ithica, NY….

    Line in the Sand: The conflict surrounding Keystone XL and tar sands – Pilot from Drew Bastien on Vimeo.

    About the Author

    Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer for and an avid student of Yoga and life.

    This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

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