Early this morning Norman, Oklahoma resident Elisabeth Leja locked her neck to equipment used in constructing the Keystone XL pipeline. Citing concerns for Oklahoma’s waterways, and their importance for the health of future generations, her actions have halted construction at the site on Highway 62, just North of the North Canadian River, for the day. The Gulf Coast segment is being actively constructed in Oklahoma and Texas, despite objections by impacted communities.
Leja is working with a coalition of groups and individuals dedicated to stopping Tar Sands transportation through the Great Plains region. She joins scores of anti-extraction activists in Texas who have, for months, used similar tactics to oppose and actively blockade the construction of the pipeline there. Her action also follows the recent commitment in South Dakota by a number of Tribes, indigenous groups and allies to resist the Northern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline through the signing of the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred.
From Alberta to the US Gulf Coast, Tar Sands industry disproportionately affects indigenous, and traditionally marginalized communities of color, poisoning the land base and water supply that rural communities rely on. This is especially apparent in Oklahoma, home of 32 federally recognized tribes. Once called “The Indian Territories”, reservation land was opened to private ownership by the Indian Appropriations Bill of 1889, beginning several years of “land runs” in Oklahoma, and opening the state up for eventual oil development. A product of that development, Cushing Oklahoma, is the location of the US strategic oil reserves, and is also the origin for TransCanada’s Gulf Coast segment. In addition to the pipeline, the corporation is expanding its storage capacity there.
The Keystone XL, as it snakes its way through the heartland of North America, not only crosses numerous major rivers, but the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides drinking and agricultural water for huge sections of the American Midwest. In Oklahoma, its route threatens the numerous tributaries of Lake Eufala, the Arbuckle-Simpson Reservoir, and the Cimarron and Red rivers, among others.
“The North Canadian river, which the Keystone XL crosses just south of here, isn’t something that we can compromise”, said Leja “These two years of drought have made Oklahoma waterways even more sacred, and the dilbit they want to put in that pipeline is just crazy, it isn’t safe.”
Communities directly impacted by this industry, as well as a growing North American Anti-Extraction movement have made halting tar sands transportation by the Keystone XL an international priority. Groups from all over the political spectrum are committed to stopping the pipeline using any means necessary.
UPDATE 7:30am: Workers on site. Welding crew arrives in a bus, but is unable to begin work.
8:30am: Sheriffs Deputy on Site. Elisabeth communicates that she does not wish to unlock. Direct support is communicating to the police in regards to her safety. Workers remain on site, unable to work.
9:45am: Elisabeth still sitting tight, doing some reading as 20 people rally in support.
1:00pm: Elisabeth has been extracted. Please donate to the legal fund to help support actions like this.
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