Occupy Houston celebrates one year anniversary by joining forces with Tar Sands Blockade Houston to Occupy TransCanada


By Leif Hayman

Houston, Texas – September 19, 2012 - Land owner advocates and climate justice activists from the newly formed group Tar Sands Blockade Houston and Occupy Houston have teamed up. The groups plan to occupy TransCanada’s U.S. headquarters in downtown Houston on Sept. 20th and 21st. They are demanding a stop to the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas.

Gathering outside TransCanada at 4 p.m. Thursday, Tar Sands Blockade Houston will demonstrate until 4 p.m. Friday. After the occupation, there will be a rally in Market Square Park and a march back to TransCanada’s headquarters. Houston businessman Ray Torgerson and Tammie Carson of Occupy Dallas are scheduled to speak at the event. Torgerson and Carson were arrested during a Tar Sands Blockade action in Livingston, Texas last month for locking themselves to trucks carrying pipes to a construction site.

At 8 p.m. on the 21st, Tar Sands Blockade Houston will host a fund raising concert at the East Side Social Center. All money raised at the event will go to directly support the efforts of the Tar Sands Blockade group in North Texas and their direct actions. Five Tar Sands Blockade activists were arrested this morning near Winnsboro, Texas after they locked themselves to tree clearing equipment. Construction was stopped for the day.

One reason the activists are unhappy with TransCanada, is the company’s use of eminent domain to attain the right to build on public and private lands. Many landowners who did not agree to TransCanada’s initial offer ended up losing the rights to their land after long and expensive legal battles.

A report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and another from the Cornell Global Labor Institute found that after the tar sands are mined in Alberta, Canada and pumped through the pipeline to Houston and Port Arthur, the refined products would be exported and sold on the international market. Both reports say that the refining of tar sands will lead to decreased production of oil for domestic use, causing the average price of gasoline in America to increase.

While TransCanada and others have claimed the pipeline will create tens of thousands of permanent jobs, the U.S. State Department says the pipeline will only create, at most, a few hundred. The Cornell Global Labor Institute calculates that construction of the pipeline will create between 2,500 and 5,000 temporary jobs.

According to NASA scientist James Hansen, the extraction, manufacture, and consumption of tar sands will take the global ecosystem to the brink of, or beyond, climate catastrophe. Recent studies found that tar sands refineries in Alberta near the Athabasca River are responsible for increased levels of carcinogenic pollutants in the river.

As for tar sands spilling on public and private lands, by TransCanada’s own calculations, up to 700,000 gallons of tar sands could escape the pipeline without triggering the leak-detection system. In 2010, another Canadian tar sands pipeline operator, Enbridge, spilled over 840,000 gallons of tar sands, polluting the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. More than two years and $800 million later, the cleanup is still not complete. The diluted bitumen sands that the Enbridge pipeline released have proven to be far worse on the ecosystem than conventional oil spills. By Enbridge’s own admission, they had to “write the book” on cleaning up a tar sands spill.

With construction well underway all across Texas and the Houston Lateral segment of the pipeline scheduled to begin in early 2013, Tar Sands Blockade Houston plans to organize future resistance and stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all.


Theresa Keefe – TK77018@gmail.com

Leif Hayman – Phyllo@riseup.net