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Protesters Occupy Houston TransCanada Office Lobby

With the future of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline still undecided, protesters occupied the lobby of TransCanada's Keystone project group offices in west Houston yesterday.


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About 50 mostly young protesters stormed the lobby of the office building at 2700 Post Oak Boulevard chanting slogans and handing out flyers with arguments against the Keystone XL oil pipeline.  The protesters were soon forced out by police but continued demonstrating outside.

Tar Sands Blockade is a coalition of Texas and Oklahoma landowners and other environmentalists opposed to the construction of the pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.

Police block access to the property outside a TransCanada satellite office near the Galleria after protesters occupied the building lobby.

Ramsey Sprague is a spokesman with the group.

“We’re dedicated to stopping it and that’s why we’re here at the offices and we’re also in the rural areas. We’re taking our struggle from the backwoods to the boardrooms saying that, you know, we will blockade anywhere necessary in order to get the message across that this is an unacceptable project and that we’re dedicated to ending it.”

The group asserts that the oil to be transported through the pipeline, so-called “tar sands” that are diluted, is highly toxic and a danger to people and to the environment.

They also claim that landowners are being forced to let TransCanada build the pipeline through their properties.

Protester Sam Hit says he’s afraid the pipeline will send the planet “over the edge.”

“It’s a game changer. The second-largest source of carbon on the planet after Saudi Arabia. If we tap into it, which this pipeline would allow, it’s game over for the planet, according to the best climate scientists in the world.”

Police block access

The group also cites a study by Cornell University that downplays the economic effect of the jobs created and asserts that it could even destroy more jobs than it creates.

David Dodson is with TransCanada in Houston. He says besides creating about 4,000 temporary construction jobs, the pipeline will ensure that many more jobs are maintained.

 “The jobs that you want to be thinking about are the long-term refinery jobs — that’s what’s really important. Refineries are closing elsewhere in the U.S. We want to keep the refineries in Texas open. They need product in order to refine, and that’s what this project represents, is a North American source of reliable crude oil to retain those jobs in the refinery complex on the Gulf Coast.”

Asked about the environmental impact of the project, Dodson says the pipeline is safe.

“This pipeline is being built with absolute latest technology. We also agreed to 57 additional conditions on the construction and operation of the pipeline in discussion with the State Department when we were doing the Keystone XL permitting. This is going to be the safest pipeline ever built.”

Dodson says state laws recognize TransCanada as a common carrier, which allows the company to use an easement through private property. This is also called “eminent domain.”  Some protesters called it “corporate bullying.”

While the protest was peaceful, police arrested two demonstrators for minor offenses.