by Bill McKibben, via Grist
Or rather, they’re doing something bolder and more courageous — instead of trying to make a political point, they’re actually announcing plans to put their bodies on the line to stop the construction of a portion of the pipe.
I know what you’re thinking: We won at least a temporary victory, blocking approval of Keystone. That’s why Mitt Romney keeps talking about how his first task in office will be getting it going. Indeed, we did carry the day — but only on the portion of the pipeline that crossed the border with Canada and connected to Alberta’s tar sands. The largest civil-disobedience action in the last 30 years — 1,253 arrests over two weeks — was enough to persuade the Obama administration to postpone approval of the border-crossing permit.
But unrelenting pressure from the oil industry was enough to persuade Obama to give the pipeline companies a few slices off the loaf. In fact, the president promised to “expedite” approvals for the southern portion of the pipeline, stretching from Cushing, Okla., to Port Arthur, Texas. It was a real low point for the Obama administration, a perfect emblem of its bankrupt “all of the above” energy “strategy.”
And now TransCanada is ready to begin construction — and a brave crew of local residents is ready to try and stop them.
All along, the pipeline has drawn many different kinds of foes. In this case, environmentalists worried about oil spills and global warming are joined by Tea Party conservatives outraged that a private company is allowed to grab land from people who don’t want to sell it.
It’s hard to predict how it will all turn out. From the beginning of this fight, the oil and pipeline companies have seemed to hold all the cards. A survey of energy “insiders” conducted last fall found 91 percent thought Transcanada would win a permit for the whole route. Instead, just this one portion has been approved. But building even this portion is going to take a fight. Texans aren’t known for submitting quietly to outside authority — if a foreign corporation is going to take their land, it won’t be without a real struggle.
And this one takes place against a special backdrop — the unrelenting heat and drought that have marked one of the toughest summers in American history. If there were ever a moment to take a stand, this is it. Everyone who cares about the future owes these Texans a debt — and in fact, you can help pay their legal costs with a donation.
This comes on the heels of protests in West Virginia blocking mountaintop-removal coal mining, in Montana protesting plans for new coal-export facilities, and on the railroad tracks of the Pacific Northwest stopping trains with coal headed for Asia.
A lot of people are waking up — and the noise that will come from Texas in the next few weeks will add to that loud and lovely din.
Bill McKibben is founder of 350.org and Schumann Distinguished Professor at Middlebury College in Vermont. He also serves on Grist’s Board of Directors.