Hearing members of the Tar Sands Blockade — a group taking nonviolent direct action against the Keystone XL pipeline — talk about what they’ve heard and learned in the field is like listening to an episode of The Twilight Zone.
In this episode, a foreign company, TransCanada, comes into the heart of America, through six states, toting contracts to acquire private land of U.S. citizens. They tell the citizens the land will be used for a pipeline, just like any other. Some say yes, some say no, but the company takes the land either way — with the law on their side, they’re free to use intimidation and manipulation like several cases brought to trial in Texas and Oklahoma.
They don’t pay taxes on the land. Despite citizen demands, they don’t have to move the about 2,000-mile long pipeline to the back of the property, putting it in the middle of pastures, fields and directly behind houses. And the end of the pipeline at the Gulf of Mexico happens to be a perfect location for exporting the pipelined goods to another foreign country; say … China.
It can’t get there before running directly over one of the most important fresh water sources — the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest of its kind in the U.S.
In this episode, and in many cases to date, it’s not until contracts are signed that landowners find out what’s really in the pipeline — a thick, gooey, 80 percent sand, 20 percent “tar” mixture that’s heated with natural gas to allow it to flow through the pipeline and the backyards of U.S. citizens and natural habitat.
But the heating isn’t enough. Chemicals — not disclosed by the company — are used to make the “tar sands,” more liquefied. The pipe and its contents are then pressurized to help move the tar sands oil along.They make sure to give themselves a 5 percent margin of error — if the pipeline is losing 5 percent or less of pressure (and chemical concoction), they won’t know if it’s actually leaking or just being finicky.
Then there’s the extraction process. Natural landscapes that were once lush and green, part of the Boreal Forest in Canada, are now toxic wastelands from the strip mining that must occur to get to the tar sands found beneath the fertile forests. The large amounts of water used in the process comes out as toxic as the chemicals used to treat the tar and is then put in the largest lakes of toxic water humans have devised to this point. Because these lakes of toxic water do not have to be lined, the chemicals are not fully contained, and fish and rivers downstream have been shown to be carcinogenic in the last several years.
The native populations that still thrive off this land have shown increased rates of cancer and sickness, because the very fish and rivers being polluted are their main source of food.
What does this mean for America?
While the tar sands procurement sites are not on U.S. soil, the pipeline that will offer a way to send this oil to where they can make the most profit, is. Just like in the past, the pipeline will leak; this according to TransCanada’s own environmental impact statement and the faulty welds that have already stopped construction of the pipeline once. When it does, scientists and the public know what will happen because it’s happened in the past — many times with devastating damage to wild and human life.
So why are U.S. legislatures, the President and the State Department allowing its citizens and natural resources to be used for the profit of a foreign company at their own inevitable expense?
Money! And apparently, when you’re in The Twilight Zone, even the worst ideas can make sense if you say there will be jobs created.
What You Can Do
A group of dedicated individuals around the country and world have been fighting to stop the pipeline from being built, and trying to spread the message that profit is not above the safety and health of our nation.
The Tar Sands Blockade group stands for nonviolent, but poignant action, standing in front of equipment, holding out in trees and most importantly, supporting those along the pipeline who have been affected; and there are many.
Volunteer your time for a blockade, a rally, write a letter to President Obama, to get back to the reality where clean, sustainable energy was offering us, and future generations, a healthy place to live. Visit their website tarsandsblockade.org.