Seven Texans Blockade Truck Carrying Keystone XL Pipe In Livingston, TX

Press Contact: Ron Seifert, 843-814-2796, ronseif@gmail.com

BREAKING: 4 Blockaders are Locked to Truck Carrying Keystone XL Pipeline in Livingston, TX!

Pipe truck stuck at entrance of yard, stopping construction on the Keystone XL pipeline

LIVINGSTON, TEXAS – August 28, 2012 – Just minutes ago four landowner advocates and climate justice organizers locked themselves to the underside of a massive truck carrying 36″ pipe intended for Keystone XL construction. The truck is parked, idled at the entrance of the pipeyard, rendering construction activity impossible. Seven blockaders total are onsite risking arrest. Blockaders from the Red River valley to the Gulf Coast and beyond have united to realize their collective vision of a world without toxic tar sands pipelines. Today’s message is clear: the people are rising up to defend their homes.

This act of peaceful civil disobedience comes in the wake of a recent court decision condoning TransCanada’s use of eminent domain for private gain. Last week Lamar County Judge Bill Harris ruled in a shockingly abbreviated fifteen-word summary judgment that Texas farmer Julia Trigg Crawford cannot challenge TransCanada’s claim that it is entitled to a piece of her home. The underwhelming ruling was emailed to Ms. Crawford’s attorney late in the evening of August 15 from the Judge’s iPhone.

The arrogant disregard levied at landowners like Julia Trigg Crawford for simply not consenting to have a tar sands pipeline permanently bisect their homes is what motivated Houston businessman Ray Torgerson to take action with the Blockade. “The fact that this corporation can check a box on a form and steal someone’s land is insulting,” Ray says. “We are here to defend our homes and stand with landowners like Julia.

Further emblematic of the disrespect small town families like the Crawfords have faced throughout Keystone XL legal proceedings, Ms. Crawford received first notice of the ruling from a reporter seeking comment who had been blind carbon copied on the County Judge’s email ruling.

“It was heartbreaking to hear a generational family farm like the Crawford’s can be taken away by a multinational corporation,” exclaims blockader Audrey Steiner, a linguistic anthropologist from Austin. “I’m here to change the direction our country is taking.”

The concerns of the blockaders today go well beyond TransCanada’s appalling contempt for property rights. As Tammie Carson, a lifelong Texan living in Arlington explains, “I’m doing this for my grandchildren. I’m outraged that multinational corporations like TransCanada are wrecking our climate. The planet isn’t theirs to destroy, and I’m willing to take a risk to protect my grandchildren’s future.”

Denny Hook, a retired minister from Gainesville Texas, describes himself as “An environmentalist that happens to be a minister.” In taking action today, Hook hopes to inspire more people to join the movement. “Things are so dire that if all of us don’t rise up we won’t make it. This pipeline is the difference between Earth on the edge and Earth over the edge.”

Tar Sands Blockade is a coalition of Texas and Oklahoma landowners and climate organizers using peaceful and sustained civil disobedience to stop the construction of Keystone XL.

“The blockade is an expression of people who have spent years using every available avenue afforded to them, and nothing has worked,” explains Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson Ron Seifert. “The urgency of this crisis is galvanizing supporters who understand that doing nothing involves a greater risk than taking action.”

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The Time Has Come: A Call to Action Against the Keystone XL Pipeline

Originally posted on tarsandsblockade.org

The Time Has Come: A Call to Action

By Ben Kessler

By signing up to take action at tarsandsblockade.org, you joined thousands of others in taking a courageous stand against the dark tide of fossil fuels that threatens our life on this planet.  All of us have different stories that lead us to this place, but we share in being inspired, hopeful, and determined to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.

Now, it is time for our stories to join together and bend the arc of history towards a future without tar sands.  We are issuing a call – starting this September, your courage is needed in Texas.  The path ahead requires great courage. The odds are stacked against us; money is overwhelmingly tipped in TransCanada’s favor. But we can win – we plan to win.

As we recently announced, construction of the southern leg of the Keystone XL, running through Oklahoma and Texas, has begun. Our task is clear: through peaceful and sustained direct action, we are going to bring construction to a halt – permanently. Of some things we can be sure: It will be difficult. It will be hot. Many of us will be arrested. Our resolve will be tested and our commitment strained. The government and the corporations know this, and they will try to exploit it; they are determined to see us fail. What they aren’t equipped to deal with is our joy, our resolve and our passion. No force on Earth can make us forget what is at stake. No violence, no repression, no method at their disposal can extinguish our belief that the future of life on Earth depends on us uniting to put an end to the tyranny of oil.

Let’s be clear about what is at stake. The Alberta Tar Sands is a reservoir of extreme fossil fuels vast enough to single-handedly spell death for the climate, if we are foolish enough to extract and burn it. The nearly 2000-mile path of the Keystone XL pipeline, Big Oil’s tar sands-transporting monstrosity, will create a permanent environmental disaster zone, bringing ruin to countless communities and threatening the health and water supply of millions. The carbon contained in this filthy resource will rocket us past all meaningful tipping points, sending our atmosphere into a catastrophic spiral of warming. Ice caps will melt and our temperate plains will turn to deserts as our food supply cooks and half of the species on this Earth fade into the eternal sleep of extinction.

This simply will not stand. The situation is too dire to wait for political or economic solutions.  When you join the Tar Sands Blockade in Texas, be assured that you are joining a movement that intends to win. We believe the time for symbolic arrests to prove a point has passed, and our strategy reflects this belief. With wood and concrete, stone and water, steel and flesh, we will pit our bodies and our spirits against the engines of destruction. One day at a time, we will mire TransCanada in a struggle that will give new meaning to the term “sustained direct action”.  Nothing less can accomplish our goal.

Let’s face it, the environmental movement has been losing. We have been losing because we refuse to be honest with ourselves. Small campaigns, small goals, and small actions aren’t enough. Community organizing to resist fossil fuels will always serve as the foundation for our movement. But if we are to defeat the biggest and most destructive energy projects, we are going to have to find a way past the failing status quo. Tar Sands Action set a new precedent for civil disobedience actions in this movement. It had the right idea, the right vision, but a flawed political analysis. Now we know that the corporations won’t stop unless we make them stop.

In 2011, political prisoner Tim DeChristopher shared his vision of ending Mountaintop Removal with a massive, rolling wave of mine site occupations. It is clear that a similar effort will be required to bring down the KXL. We know that Texas is a long journey for some, and that the privilege of leaving work isn’t available to everyone. We want you to come because this is not just another action. If we succeed, we will redefine the fight for a livable future in this country.  Following in the footsteps of the largest climate civil disobedience actions in decades, there can be no doubt that it is time for the largest disruption of fossil fuel business as usual.

With your participation, Tar Sands Blockade will turn the tide against TransCanada, and make other fossil fuel giants think twice before trying to trample the dignity, health, and autonomy of our communities and ecosystems. We can’t do it without you.

This is a pivotal moment in history, and it is unlikely that there has ever been a more important fight in the history of our species. Our actions right now will determine whether our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren and the countless generations to come, long after we have turned to dust, have a living and healthy planet to thrive on. We recognize the gravity of the situation. We understand the magnitude of the challenge we face. We embrace the courage we must summon. We acknowledge the sacrifices that must be made. We are ready. We ask only that you join us.

Uprising in Montana: Activists Take a Stand Against Coal Exports

This was originally post on Alternet.

By Scott Parkin

Uprising in Montana: Activists Take a Stand Against Coal Exports

Five days of civil disobedience took place in Montana to protest the coal industry’s latest scheme to save itself from obsolescence.

August 21, 2012  |

It wasn’t as big as we’d hoped. These things never are, until, well, they are.

It didn’t really matter though: Hundreds converged from across the country for the Coal Export Action and 23 participated in five days of civil disobedience in protest of the coal industry’s latest scheme to save itself from obsolescence. The message we sent reverberated around the state capitol here in Helena, MT: We will not sit idly by while King Coal attempts to export coal from the Powder River Basin through port towns in Oregon and Washington to Asian energy markets.

Every day, people sat-in in the middle of the Montana statehouse until it closed at 6 pm. At 5:30, the nervous facilities manager, Marv Eicholtz, would awkwardly give the larger group the first dispersal order. At 5:50, he’d issue a second one with Helena policemen standing in the background. At 6 pm, Eicholtz would approach and say, “I’m giving you the third and final dispersal warning. Anyone refusing to leave the building will be turned over to the Helena Police Dept.” Those not risking arrested would circle around those sitting in and ask them why we were going to jail, sing civil rights songs, or chant. They’d then quickly leave and wait outside as the police brought the arrestees out to idling sheriff’s vans and took them to the Lewis and Clark county jail.

Every day for five days this routine happened over and over. By the end of the week, 23 had been arrested. Most of the arrestees were from Montana, Oregon and Washington—all states expected to be impacted by coal exports, coal trains and expanded western coal mining.

On the fourth day, I joined the sit-in with my friends Griff (an Episcopal minister from Portland), Jasmine and Gloria (who are Rising Tide organizers in Portland and Chicago, respectively), and younger activists Mia and Kai’l (both from Portland). Every day was a theme day, and on our day it was “climate change day.” Quite fitting since everyone arrested that day had worked on climate campaigns from Appalachia to the South Side of Chicago to Oregon port towns at one time or another. All six of us opted not to pay the $340 bond and be bailed out. We spent the night in the Lewis and Clark county lock up in general population, a small sacrifice for making a statement against coal exports.

Montana Rising

The Coal Export Action was initiated and led by grassroots, youth, and student organizers from Montana, Oregon, and Washington, most of them affiliated with the Blue Skies Campaign and the Cascade Climate Network. It was also supported by a number of environmental and climate groups like Rainforest Action Network, 350.org, and Rising Tide North America. It was inspired by the Tar Sands Action called for by writer Bill McKibben at the White House in 2011, which resulted in over 1,200 arrests. Some of the 23 arrested in Helena last week were also participants in the actions at the White House.

For months, we’d organized, done outreach, and built a buzz calling on people from the coastal and mountain regions of the West to join the Coal Export Action. It was eight days of rolling sit-ins and protests at the Montana statehouse designed to pressure the state’s land board to deny Arch Coal’s permit application to mine Otter Creek and create a new source of greenhouse gas emissions.

While not the same size as the Tar Sands Action, the Coal Exports Action was not lacking in spirit. Noted Montana environmental writer and poet Rick Bass sat-in and was arrested on the first day with six others. On the second day, three Montana men sat in and were arrested. On the third day, a group of women called “Montana Women For” led a ladies-only occupation of the capitol rotunda. On the fourth day, our climate crew was arrested. On the last day, three men were taken away.

More importantly, the Coal Export Action turned a spark of grassroots climate activism in the Northwest into a blaze. “We are here to demonstrate mass citizen opposition to big coal corporations’ dirty plan to export millions of tons of Powder River basin coal each year to the international energy market,” said Lowell Chandler, a construction worker and volunteer with the Blue Skies Campaign. “We’re here to pressure the state Land Board to stand with us against these massive coal export proposals.”

Every day the Coal Export Action transformed the Montana statehouse into participatory space where people from around the country held teach-ins and strategized the next steps for coal export campaigns in the West. A No Coal Exports grassroots coalition is coming out of Helena fired up and ready to fight.

The Coal Industry is Dying

In the middle of the week, Arch Coal issued a press release stating that they’d officially applied for the permit to strip mine Otter Creek. Otter Creek is a tract of land in southeast Montana sitting between two national forests and on top of over a billion tons of coal. The permit spreads over 7,639 acres of state, federal and private land. Arch paid the state of Montana $86 million for the coal and will also build new rail lines to get the coal transported out.

It became obvious the tension we’d hoped to create was working. The day after Arch’s announcement, we picketed the Montana Dept. of Environmental Quality’s offices and began a dialogue with the agency’s amiable director, Richard Opper. He was obviously sympathetic but also said he had to abide by state laws and regulations.

The coal industry is dying. Coal has peaked in Appalachia. Environmental regulation, litigation, community-led campaigns, and the price of natural gas have all drastically reduced the amount of electricity generated by coal nationally, from 50% to 35%. The shrinking demand has led to large layoffs and fading quarterly profits for the biggest coal companies.

Now the coal industry is moving into an endgame scenario and coal exports are its last hope.  Coal reserves in the Powder River Basin area of Montana and Wyoming are still abundant and the industry is hoping to export coal through proposed mega-ports on the Oregon and Washington coast to international energy markets in China and India.

At the end of the Coal Export Action, I traveled to Missoula to unwind for a few days. On one of those days I took a six-mile hike into the Bitterroot Wilderness. Sharing a name with Montana’s state flower, the Bitteroot is populated with majestic trees, diverse wildlife and flowing waterways. Along the trails I encountered fellow hikers, fisherman, and horse packers. It was an opportunity to reconnect, if only for a moment, with the forests and mountains I’d spent a night in jail to preserve.

In the late 1990’s and the early part of the last decade, Wild Rockies Earth First! fought fierce campaigns in the Bitterroot against timber sales initiated by the forest service and logging companies. Many of these activists spent weeks and months in Montana jails for using escalated tactics like blockades and tree-sits to protect thousands of acres of Montana forests. As the anti-coal and climate movements resist fossil fuels with harder and harder campaigns and actions, it’s best to remember that the more we escalate, the more we will sacrifice.

Scott Parkin is an organizer with Rainforest Action Network and Rising Tide North America.

Mountain Mobilization shuts down largest mountaintop removal mine

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 28, 2012

Contact: Charles Suggs, 304-449-NVDA (6832), media@wg.rampscampaign.org
Talking Points document: http://rampscampaign.org/key-messages-of-mountain-mobilization/

“Mountain Mobilization” shuts down Logan Co. strip mine

Call for end to strip mining and a just transition for the region’s families

Charleston, W.Va.—More than 50 protesters affiliated with the R.A.M.P.S. Campaign have walked onto Patriot Coal’s Hobet mine and shut it down.  Ten people locked to a rock truck, boarded it and dropped banners: “Coal Leaves, Cancer Stays.”  At least three have been arrested, with another in a tree being threatened by miners with a chain saw.  Earlier in the day, two people were arrested at Kanawha State Forest before a group of protesters headed to the state capitol.

“The government has aided and abetted the coal industry in evading environmental and mine safety regulations. We are here today to demand that the government and coal industry end strip mining, repay their debt to Appalachia, and secure a just transition for this region,” Dustin Steele of Matewan, W.Va. said.  Steele was one of the people locked to the rock truck.

Mounting scientific evidence shows that strip mining negatively impacts community health and miner health.   Recent studies have found a 42 percent increase in risk of birth defects around strip mines, and miners who spend at least 20 years as strip-mine drillers have a 61 percent chance of contracting silicosis, a virulent form of black lung.  “The coal companies are poisoning our water and air, and they’re treating the workers no better than the land – fighting workplace health and safety protections to get the most out of labor as they can,” said Junior Walk of Whitesville, W.Va.

As coal production declines, protesters are concerned that the region will be left with only illness and environmental devastation as the industry pulls out of the region and companies file for bankruptcy to shed legacy costs.

Patriot Coal is currently going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy, in which union contracts and pensions could be on the chopping block.  Both UMWA pensions and the state’s Special Reclamation Fund are funded through a per-ton tax on coal.  With Central Appalachian coal production in the middle of a projected six-year, 50 percent decline, this funding stream is increasingly unsustainable.  Protesters are calling on the coal industry and government to ensure that funding is available both to honor commitments to retired workers and to restore the land.

“Coal companies must employ their surface mine workers in reclaiming all disturbed land to the highest standards.  Instead of arguing about the ‘war on coal,’ political leaders should immediately allocate funds to retrain and re-employ laid off miners to secure a healthy future for the families of this region,” said R.A.M.P.S. spokesperson Mathew Louis-Rosenberg.

Appalachian communities, from union miners to the anti-strip mining activists of the 1960s, have a proud history of confronting the coal industry and demanding an end to its exploitive practices with direct civil disobedience. R.A.M.P.S. and other campaigns have returned to this tradition to eliminate strip mining once and for all. Since its founding in 2011, R.A.M.P.S. has organized a range of actions, from tree-sits to blockades of coal trucks.

Today’s protesters are among the hundreds of people across the country who are joining this summer’s National Uprising Against Extraction, using radical tactics to fight oppressive extractive industries and demand a transition to a sustainable economy.

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