October 8, 2012

TransCanada arrests grandmother for trespassing on her own land!

The recent protests against the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline have reached a new height in Texas.  On Thursday, Eleanor Fairchild, a 78-year old great-grandmother, was arrested for trespassing after she stood in the path of bulldozers and machinery on her 300-acre ranch outside of Winnsboro, Texas that were tearing down trees to make the way for pipeline construction.

"Get off my land.  Period.  I don't want tar sands anywhere in the United States. I am mad.  This land is my land. It's been our land since '83, our home is on it.  They are going to destroy the woods, and also they could destroy the springs.  It's devastating, but it also is not very good to have tar sands anywhere in the United States.  This is not just about my land, it's about all of our country.  It needs to be stopped."

While eminent domain and the laws and statutes surrounding it are complicated, the Keystone XL situation in Texas has come down to whether the pipeline is a common carrier of oil (giving it the right to eminent domain) or a private project (meaning that the company would have to negotiate individually with landowners).  Just recently, a judge ruled in favor of TransCanada and granted it eminent domain.  As Fairchild refused to sell any of her land to TransCanada and did not sign any contracts, the company was able to use eminent domain and legally have her arrested for trespassing on her own land.
The Washington Post described TransCanada's general attitude towards landowners fighting pipeline by quoting one of the company's lawyers who said:
We are not going to have one landowner hold up a multibillion-dollar project that is going to be for the benefit of the public.
The Keystone XL pipeline consists of three legs.  The northern and most well-known portion runs from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska, and it remains under additional review by the U.S. Department of State because landowners in Nebraska raised serious concerns about its impacts on the Ogallala Aquifer.  Construction on the southernmost leg began in August(President Obama directed his administration to "make this project a priority" in March), and a middle leg that is already online runs from Steele City to Cushing.
In addition to Fairchild and Hannah's arrests, currently a handful of protestors are camped out in a tree house in the path of the pipeline construction.  And protestors have been arrested after chaining themselves to heavy machinery over the last few weeks.

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