Texas Oil Spill Hits Home for Tar Sands Activists

By scott parkin

East Texas Oil spillDoes the Tar Sands Blockade (TSB) have a crystal ball we didn’t know about?

Yesterday in Tyler County, TX, a pipeline operated by Sunoco Logistics sprung a leak and spilled 20,000 gallons (or 550 barrels) of oil into local East Texas waterways. Deep East Texas is known for its creeks and lakes, freshwater eco-systems and aquifers that provide water to the eastern part of the state, including mega-cities Dallas and Houston. But oil companies treat these forests and waterways as collateral damage.

Quality control requires that oil companies use “leak detection systems.” Those systems reported nothing until local residents began to report that oil was in the water. (Ummm… so, how do you not detect a 20,000 gallons oil leak?)

Sunoco’s spill is merely a prologue for leaks and spills that might come once the southern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline is completed.

The site of the spill is not far from a Tar Sands Blockade (TSB) action in Diboll, TX in January.  It’s only a few hour away from TSB’s tree blockade that prevented construction of TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline for 85 days.

The Keystone XL itself will cross major waterways such as the Neches, Red, Angelina and Sabine rivers as well as the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, which provides drinking water for more than ten million Texans. The pipeline route will run near the Big Thicket National Wildlife Preserve in southeast Texas. Big Thicket is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the country and is full of bogs, lagoons, plants, trees and a variety of wildlife including the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

In a sense, local Texas landowners and environmentalists that began blockading the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline foretold this story. TSB continues to tell a story trying to stop environmental disasters like this with grassroots organizing and spectacular direct actions as their message delivery devices. The courts and cops, owned by companies like TransCanada, throw everything at them to stop the campaign and now local communities and eco-systems are paying the price.

Last month, a Tar Sands Blockader locked himself inside an oil and gas industry conference in Houston and decried the lackluster construction and maintenance of these pipelines.

While local pipelines continue to poison communities and eco-systems, TransCanada continues to move forward with its massive Keystone XL Pipeline.

This only begs the question “when will the next Texas oil spill happen?”