The Canadian pipeline company TransCanada has quietly begun construction of the southern leg of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, installing segments near Livingston, Texas, company officials confirmed Thursday.
"Construction started on Aug. 9. So we've now started construction in Texas," TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard told the Los Angeles Times.
Even without the northern section, company officials have said putting the southern section in place will help alleviate a bottleneck of crude oil at the giant terminal in Cushing, Okla., that has helped depress prices for crude oil generated in North America.
Pipeline opponents, who say the tar sands bitumen is an especially toxic form of oil that poses a hazard to farms, ranches and residential drinking water across the U.S. heartland, are regrouping to fight the revised international permit and to try to slow construction on the southern route, where some landowners still are fighting TransCanada's attempts to gain access to their property.
Protesters unfurled banners Thursday at two equipment staging areas, one in Lamar County, Texas, and one in Cushing, Okla., though TransCanada officials said neither was an active construction site.