Controversial Oil Pipeline Lawsuit Settled in Texas

For Immediate Release

January 24, 2013


Kerul Dyer, 415-866-0005

Lauren Regan, 541-687-9180

Controversial Oil Pipeline Lawsuit Settled in Texas

Determined activists to press on with resistance to pipeline construction

Eugene, OR–Twenty-nine individuals and organizations named in a civil lawsuit filed by the notorious Canadian pipeline company, TransCanada, agreed under duress today to settle, under threat of expansive injunction terms. The far-reaching Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) was filed on the heels of record numbers of non-violent protests in Texas opposing the controversial XL Pipeline construction.

A SLAPP is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.In this case, named defendants, Tar Sands Blockade, Rising Tide North America and Rising Tide North Texas agreed to settle the unconscionable SLAPP suit filed against them by a profiteering multinational Canadian corporation.

Under threat of far more draconian injunction terms, the parties signed a settlement that enjoins those parties from trespassing or causing damage to Keystone XL property including the easements within private property boundaries, often acquired by TransCanada by taking advantage of impoverished property owners within the States of Texas and Oklahoma.

“This is a David versus Goliath situation, where an unethical, transnational corporation is using its weight to crush First Amendment rights of people speaking out and resisting the irreparable destruction that will result from construction of this highly controversial XL Pipeline.” said Lauren Regan, veteran attorney with the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) who coordinates legal representation for the grassroots network of activists subject to the lawsuit. “But the resistance to the pipeline is growing, not shrinking; it’s coming from everywhere.  This is a national and global issue that will effect us all.”

Today’s SLAPP lawsuit controversy comes amid a heated national debate about the construction of the full Keystone XL pipeline, which if completed could transport 1.1 million gallons of oil through America’s heartland every day. The portion of the pipeline stretching from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Texan Gulf Coast is known as the XL Pipeline (or Gulf Coast pipeline). If both the northern Keystone portion and the remaining XL Pipeline were constructed, Canadian tar sands oil would be transported to the Gulf Coast.

“TransCanada’s lawyers, guns and money aren’t going to extinguish the rising momentum of resistance from the Gulf Coast to Alberta’s tar sands against the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Scott Parkin of Rising Tide North America. “Climate change is the most critical issue of our time. Compromised institutions advancing vulgar systems of fossil fuel exploitation will not deter our resolve.”

Tar sands oil may be the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet. According to the National Energy Technology Laboratory, producing a barrel of tar sands oil creates three to four times more climate pollution than the equivalent amount of crude produced in Canada or the US. In February, leading environmental organizations including the Sierra Club will push for mass civil disobedience against the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline and further extraction of the Alberta tar sands oil.

“Despite the impacts that the new oil pipeline will have on our climate and our health, activists resisting the pipeline must endure physical harm, lengthy incarcerations and felony charges – and now civil lawsuits, at the hands of TransCanada,” continued Regan. “The people have not been deterred by the company’s attempt to restrict their right to protest, however, it has only emboldened their convictions.

In addition to the civil lawsuit, TransCanada has allegedly and repeatedly violated the law by obtaining “common carrier” status in Texas to force acquisition of private property, often from low-income families. Eyewitness accounts also suggest that representatives of the pipeline company even encouraged police officers to use controversial pain compliance technologies like tasers and chemical weapons like mace against non-violent activists.

The CLDC provides pro bono legal representation to activists like those in Texas resisting the construction of the new section of pipeline. The organization helps coordinate attorneys and their allies to defend civil liberties of citizens and offers legal rights workshops for activists across the country.

“At each attempt TransCanada makes to chill the citizens’ rights to protest the XL Pipeline, the people’s lawyers will stand up to defend them in court,” said Lauren Regan. “The survival of our species in the wake of global climate change deserves nothing less.”


The Civil Liberties Defense Center focuses on defending and upholding ?civil liberties through education, outreach, litigation, and legal support and assistance.


RAMPS: Navaojo And Appalachians Join St. Louis Residents In Confronting Peabody Coal Executives


ST. LOUIS, MO — About one hundreds of protesters are gathered in downtown St. Louis today outside of the Peabody Coal corporate headquarters. St. Louis locals were joined by Navajo residents from Black Mesa, Ariz., Appalachians from coal-burdened West Virginia, and supporters from across the United States to demand the cessation of strip mining and accountability for land and people.  Navajo residents of Black Mesa, Don Yellowman and Fern Benally are demanding to speak with Peabody CEO Greg H. Boyce and have a letter detailing their concerns.

Protesters including representatives from Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival, Black Mesa Indigenous Support, Veterans for Peace, SEIU and other labor unions are refusing to leave until Peabody executives meet with them.   Banners have been dropped from two nearby buildings reading, “Stop the War on Mother Earth.  Peabody: Bad for St. Louis, Bad for the Planet” and “Peabody Kills.”

Peabody, the largest coal company in the U.S., operates massive strip mines on Black Mesa, Ariz., ancestral homelands of the Navajo people. Tens of thousands of Navajo families have been forcibly relocated in order to clear the land for Peabody’s strip mines; this constitutes the largest forced relocation of indigenous peoples in the U.S since the Trail of Tears. To this day, Navajo and Hopi people are engaged in resistance to the forced relocation and mining practices threaten the land and livelihood of future generations.

In nearly 45 years of operation, Peabody’s mines on Black Mesa have been the source of over 325 million tons of carbon dioxide discharged into the atmosphere#. The strip mines have damaged countless graves, sacred sites, and homes. 70 percent of a once-pristine desert aquifer has been drained for coal operations. The remaining groundwater is polluted, causing devastation to a once-flourishing ecosystem.

“The mine affects lots of ways of life. It’s destroying the places that have names. Everywhere you go here, every place has a name: names I learned from my grandparents, names that have existed for hundreds of years.  A lot of those places and knowledge of those places and cultural values are being destroyed by the mine. It’s destroying our way of life,” says Gerold Blackrock, a resident of Black Mesa.

Peabody’s strip mines harm the health of communities wherever they operate, from Black Mesa to Appalachia. Appalachian miners’ hard-earned healthcare benefits and pensions are threatened by Peabody’s business practices. “Peabody and Arch dumped their obligations to retired miners into Patriot.  This was a calculated decision to cheat people out of their pensions,” said retired United Mine Workers of America miner Terry Steele.

“Enabled by the City of St. Louis, Peabody’s corporate executives hide out in their downtown office building, removed from the destruction they cause in communities across the nation,” said Dan Cohn, St. Louis resident.  In 2010, the Board of Aldermen, in conjunction with the St. Louis Development Corporation, gave Peabody a $61 million tax break, including $2 million that was designated for the St. Louis City Public Schools.

“Peabody’s everyday business contributed to this summer’s triple-digit heat waves and historic drought. St. Louis residents are here today to stand in solidarity with the other communities that Peabody impacts and demand that our city stops subsidizing the unjust relocation of indigenous people and climate change. We need our taxpayer development dollars to be invested in green jobs, not corporations who have no regard for human life,” Reggie Rounds, a MORE member, said.

MORE is currently collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would force the city of St. Louis to divest public money from fossil fuel corporations and switch over incentives to renewable energy and sustainability initiatives. The St. Louis Sustainable Energy ballot initiative has gained the support of numerous local social and environmental groups, small businesses, and 6th Ward Alderperson candidate Michelle Witthaus, who was present at today’s protest.

Today’s action is part of a growing movement for indigenous self-determination, and against exploitative business practices that destroy communities and land.

Activists Disrupt Arch Coal Corporate HQ In St. Louis

arch prayCREVE COEUR, MO —  Seven affiliated with the RAMPS campaign (Radical Action for Mountain Peoples’ Survival), MORE (Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment) and Mountain Justice are locked down to a 500-pound small potted tree in Arch Coal’s third-floor headquarters while a larger group is in the lobby performing a song and dance.  Additionally, a helium balloon banner with the message “John Eaves Your Coal Company Kills”, directed at the Arch Coal CEO was released in at the Arch Coal headquarters.

Seven protesters locked down outside the corporate office of Arch Coal.

“We’re here to halt Arch’s operations for as long as we can. These coal corporations do not answer to communities, they only consume them.  We’re here to resist their unchecked power,” explained Margaret Fetzer, one of the protestors.

Arch Coal, the second largest coal company in the U.S., operates strip mines in Appalachia and in other U.S. coal basins. Strip mining is an acutely destructive and toxic method of mining coal, and resource extraction disproportionately impacts marginalized communities.

“From the Battle of Blair Mountain to the current fight with the Patriot pensions, the people of central Appalachia have been fighting against the coal companies for the past 125 years. The struggle continues today as we take action to hold Arch Coal and other coal companies accountable for the damage that they do to people and communities in Appalachia and around the world. Coal mining disproportionately impacts indigenous peoples, and we stand in solidarity with disenfranchised people everywhere,”  Dustin Steele of Mingo County, W.Va. said.  Steele was one of the people locked in Arch’s office.

Mingo County is representative of the public health crisis faced by communities overburdened by strip mining.  A recent study of life expectancies placed Mingo County in the bottom 1 percent out of 3,147 counties nationwide.

Arch’s strip mines not only poison communities, but also seek to erase the legacy of resistance to the coal companies in Appalachia. Arch’s Adkins Fork Surface Mine is blasting threatening to blast away Blair Mountain—the site of the second largest uprising in U.S. history and a milestone in the long-standing struggle between Appalachians and the coal companies. 

The devastation of Arch’s strip mines plague regions beyond Appalachia.  Arch’s operation in the Powder River Basin is the “single largest coal mining complex in the world.”  Producing 15 percent of the U.S. coal supply, Arch is a major culprit of the climate crisis.

NASA scientist James Hansen describes the burning of coal as a leading cause global climate change.  The Midwest region faces serious public health impacts from climate change due to “increased heat wave intensity and frequency, degraded air quality, and reduced water quality” according to recently published data from the National Climate Assessment.

Making Green A Threat Again

Cross-Posted from Counterpunch

“The climate movement needs to have one hell of a comeback.”

–Naomi Klein

The energy was there. It was an overcast spring morning in April 2011 in the nation’s capita1. Thousands had shown up to take action on climate change. The earlier march led us to the Chamber of Commerce, BP’s Washington D.C. offices, the American Petroleum Institute and other office buildings associated with oil spills, coal mining, carbon emissions and more. We heard speakers. We saw street theater. It was all very tame and managed. It lacked confrontation.

It was almost a year to the day after the Gulf oil spill, yet offshore drilling continued as usual with little consequence for oil giant British Petroleum. Out west, the Obama administration had just opened up thousands of acres for coal mining in the Powder River Basin. Appalachia’s mountains were still under attack by the coal industry. Natural gas extraction, also known as “fracking,” was spreading like an epidemic through the countryside.

Over 15,000 youth, students and climate activists had gathered at Powershift for weekend of education, networking and keynote speakers. There were keynote speeches by Al Gore and Bill McKibben, yet little was offered in the way of taking action against Big Oil and Big Coal. We are faced with the greatest crisis in the history of the world, so we were told, yet the Beltway green groups had only produced failure in Copenhagen and Washington.

Globally, we had watched the Arab Spring throw out dictators; anti-austerity movements in Iceland and Greece rise up against corrupted regimes and massive protests in the Wisconsin state house fighting for labor rights. We were only a few months away from Occupy Wall Street.

Needless to say, the North American climate movements wanted in on the action.

As the morning march ended that day at Lafayette Park, the unofficial march, spearheaded by Rising Tide North America, formed and headed into the streets of Washington D.C. Tim DeChristopher of Salt Lake City, who had become something of a folk hero to climate activists after derailing a federal land auction and protecting thousands of acres of southern Utah wilderness, announced on the microphone that it was time for more drastic action. Anyone that wanted to take that step should join the Rising Tide march that was heading down 17th St NW to the Dept. of Interior.

The crowd quickly swelled to over a thousand, both singing “We Shall Overcome” and chanting “Keep It in the Ground” and “Our Climate is Under Attack, What’ll We Do? Act Up, Fight Back!”

As we approached the Dept. of Interior, the small group of twenty that had been pre-organized to occupy the lobby began to more towards the doors. Then to much our surprise and shock, a crowd of over 300 stormed in after them and joined the sit-in. As they sat in, they chanted “We’ve got power! We’ve got power!” It was scary. It was exhilarating. It was powerful.

Direct action is supposed to push a person’s comfort zone, but even veteran direct action organizers felt their comfort zones pushed when many in the march joined the occupation.

In the end, 21 were arrested as part of the sit-in. The Dept. of Interior action began a shift for the youth and grassroots activists with the North American climate movements. Soon, they would become a force to be reckoned with.

Corporations and Politicians Stall, Nature Doesn’t

The clock is ticking and the science is not just a theory, its science. Yet, corporate and political decision-makers continue to ignore these warnings for short term profit.

A new scientific report put out by the United Nations on the second day of the 18th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP18) in Doha this week reports that thawing of the Arctic permafrost will “significantly amplify global warming.” Permafrost emission spurred by rising global temperature will contribute up to 39% of global emissions. On the third day of COP18 negotiations, the World Meteorological Organization warned the delegates that the Arctic ice melt had reached an alarming rate and that “far-reaching changes” would from climate change would impact the Earth.

Despite these dire warnings from the scientific community, wealthy industrialized nations continue to stall any sort of climate progress in Doha. The top topic at COP18 has been an extension of the Kyoto Protocol –up for renewal this year—to 2020. The Associated Press reports, a number of wealthy nations including Japan, Russia and Canada have joined the ranks of the U.S. and “refused to endorse the extension.” The U.S. has never endorsed Kyoto and continues to block any progress on agreements to reduce global emissions or pass legislation to regulate its own emissions.

Not surprisingly, the fossil fuel holds a chokehold on the American political system. In 2012, oil and gas industries combined with Big Coal to spend over $150 million elections to both parties.

U.S. deputy climate envoy Jonathan Pershing told the media in Doha that the Obama administration plans to stick to its 2009 goal of reducing emissions by 17% by 2020. Pershing went on to say that U.S. efforts to curb emissions are “enormous.”

Yet, Obama recently signed into law a bipartisan bill to shield the U.S. airline industry from a European Union carbon tax. Furthermore, Obama’s top candidate to replace Hillary Clinton at the State Dept., UN Ambassador Susan Rice, has been revealed to be a major investor in companies developing Canadian tar sands and building the Keystone XL pipeline.

While the politicians in Doha and Washington stall, Mother Nature has thoughts of her own. Global warming is no longer an abstract notion. Rising temperatures and extreme weather are spreading at unprecedented levels. 11 of the past 12 years are among the hottest since 1850. This summer in Colorado, wildfires brought on by scorching heat, high winds and drought conditions killed four people, displaced thousands and destroyed hundreds of homes.

In late Oct., Hurricane Sandy battered the Atlantic seaboard from the Caribbean to New England. It took over 100 lives and cost tens of billions of dollars in damage. Millions were displaced while politicians scrambled for photo ops and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s finance network declared “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”

Harnessing Rebel Energy

Presented with these stark facts, it begs the question: Why haven’t governments and corporations been forced to act on climate change?

To begin with, the mainstream strategy, which controls large portions of resources to fight climate change, is too rooted in working within the existing political and economic system. In 2009, the environmental establishment comprised of small grouping of donors and environmental non-profits primarily based in Washington D.C. (aka the Beltway Greens) placed its faith in the Obama administration. They hoped that his ability to regulate emissions through the Environmental Protection Agency, combined with lobbing Congress to pass meaningful climate legislation in 2010 and pressuring world governments to secure a unilateral agreement on climate at the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP15) in Copenhagen would turn the tide on global emissions. These strategies are fraught with compromise on a global crisis that pays no heed to politics as usual.

Second, the environmental establishment was completely unprepared for the power that Corporate America, particularly Big Oil and Big Coal, wielded in Washington D.C. In 2009, oil and gas companies spent $121 million to dispatch 745 lobbyists to Congress in 2009 to influence the climate bill. Before the 2010 election, Big Oil put $19,588,091 into the U.S. election cycle. Big Coal put in $10,423,347. The Beltway Greens were outgunned, outspent and outmatched.

Finally, turning the tide on the most powerful industry in history requires more than lobbyists and policy people. It requires rebel energy fueling people power and non-violent direct action. In the 1970’s when activists were doing battle to end the war in Vietnam and stop the proliferation of nuclear power, author and activist George Lakey wrote in the pamphlet “The Sword that Heals:”

“You can’t pull off powerful nonviolent direct action without rebel energy. You’ve run this campaign as a conventional lobbying operation and you can’t — at the last minute — switch gears and become a nonviolent protest movement!”

Political parties and non-profits did not drive the uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia or Iceland; it was People Power that had been organized for decades. In Egypt, the established opposition groups only joined in after the masses took over the streets in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez calling for President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster. In North America, Corporate America, the political establishment and the media has convinced us that national politicians and well paid non-profit staff are the change agents we’ve been waiting for. Thus far, they’ve only delivered epic failures in Copenhagen and Washington D.C. We mustn’t let the priorities of big well-resourced institutions trump planetary or community survival.

The momentum to stop climate change is going to come from the rebel energy that challenges not only the established order, but the established opposition as well.

Know Your History

As daunting as it sounds, climate rebels wouldn’t be re-inventing the environmental movement’s wheel in building a grassroots mass climate movement. Far from it, in fact, greens have threatened corporate power with non-violent direct action and people power for decades.

During the 1970’s and early 1980’s, emerging from the anti-war and burgeoning environmental movement, the anti-nuclear, or “No Nukes,” movement rose up to challenge the Nixon administration’s plant to build 100 new nuclear power plants by the year 2000. In 1976 and 1977, thousands with the Clamshell Alliance used non-violent direct action to occupy the site of a proposed nuclear plant in Seabook, NH. Similar mass actions followed Seabrook. The Three Mile Island disaster was a watershed event that by the early 1980’s put millions into the streets against U.S. nuclear power. While Seabrook and few other plants were built, the vast majority of plants proposed remain halted.

Similarly, in the early 1980’s, a group of disgruntled redneck tree-huggers fed up with constant compromise on wilderness protection in western states by the Beltway Greens formed the radical ecological movement known as “Earth First!” Their politics of “No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth” manifested into the direct action tactics of road blockades and tree-sits that strengthened and emboldened the environmental movement. Their campaigns and tactics targeted corporate logging and development companies, but also created much needed political space for grassroots activists on environmental issues

Former Sierra Club director and Friends of the Earth founder David Brower remarked “I thank God for the arrival of Earth First!, they make me look moderate.”

A third movement that challenged corporate power for the betterment of the environment was the global justice movement. This grassroots street wing of anti-austerity, human rights and environmental movements emerged from the World Trade Organization (WTO) protests in Seattle in 1999. Rooted in direct action, direct democracy and anti-capitalism of movements both in the U.S. and abroad, the global justice movement undermined global trade talks set to privatize labor, environmental and human rights protections across the globe.

In the laboratory of resistance we call “social change,” the “No Nukes” movement, Earth First! and the global justice movement all had at least one strategy that set them apart from the establishment: they did their most important work out of Washington D.C. The anti-nuclear movement didn’t organize their massive rallies in Washington until they had built power on the highways and byways of the country. Likewise Earth First! and the organizers coming out of the WTO protests rejected Beltway politics as usual to build and embolden their own anti-establishment movements.

Hope & Climate Change

Fortunately, the rebel energy is alive and well in today’s climate movement. Outside of Washington D.C., grassroots activists, direct action organizers, smaller environmental, faith-based and student groups, rank and file Sierra Club members and environmental and climate justice groups have mobilized a very different climate movement from the air conditioned offices of the Beltway Greens.

Climate activists, the youth climate movement in particular, are fed up and hungry to make some real change and take real action. Just this summer, numerous actions from a mass civil disobedience in West Virginia at the Hobet Mine to a week of civil disobediences opposing the western coal exports in the Montana state capitol to community-led direct actions against fracking in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania have created space for groups to make meaningful progress both on their issues and internally within the movement. While this work has been complimentary and cumulative, it’s not always necessarily collaborative, nor should it be.

The fight over tar sands development and the Keystone XL pipeline has galvanized climate activists of all ages. Over the past year, we have witnessed people from the Lakota nation in South Dakota and from Moscow, Idaho putting their bodies in roads and highways blocking large transport trucks carrying oil refining equipment to develop further tar sands extraction.

In Texas a young marine veteran named Ben Kessler returned from the war in Afghanistan to witness oil and gas companies ravaging North and East Texas with fracking and the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline. He got involved in environmental and climate organizing, and with friends, formed a student environmental group at the University of North Texas. In April 2011, some of them attended Powershift in Washington D.C. At the Dept. of Interior, Kessler took his first civil disobedience arrest. But more importantly the group went back to Denton, TX and transformed their group into an anchor for a grassroots direct action campaign called the Tar Sands Blockade. The Tar Sands Blockade joined with Texas landowners to form the Tar Sands Blockade which has organized dozens of actions and a two month old tree blockade to stop the construction of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline.

People are hungry for climate action that does more than asks you to send emails to your climate denying congressperson or update your Facebook status with some clever message about fossil fuels. Now, a new anti-establishment movement has broken with Washington’s embedded elites and has energized a new generation to stand in front of the bulldozers and coal trucks and, in the words of Naomi Klein to make “one hell of a comeback.”

Scott Parkin is a climate organizer working with Rainforest Action Network, Rising Tide North America and the Ruckus Society.