Best Brunch

Best Brunch

Best of SA 2013: 4/24/2013
Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy Disappear into ‘Eleanor Rigby’

Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy Disappear into ‘Eleanor Rigby’

Screens: “If you’re going to start, you might as well start big,” an ambitious person once said. Ned Benson must have been paying attention, because for his first... By Cameron Meier 9/17/2014
The Permanent Gangsta Status of Mobb Deep’s Prodigy

The Permanent Gangsta Status of Mobb Deep’s Prodigy

Music: Prodigy, better known to ’90s rap aficionados as the prodigious half of Queensbridge duo Mobb Deep, has made a successful career operating on... By James Courtney 9/17/2014

Best Tattoo Shop

Best of SA 2013: 4/24/2013

Best Fajitas

Best of SA 2012: We wracked our brains over this one. Fajitas are pretty much all the same, no? Kinda like huevos rancheros. Our mind then drifted to a certain middle sister's wedding rehearsal... 4/25/2012

Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.

Search hundreds of clubs in our database.

Follow us on Instagram @sacurrent

Print Email


Tarnation: Environmentalists, landowners and Valero await decision on the Keystone XL pipeline

Photo: Photos by Tar Sands Blockade / LauraBorealis, License: N/A

Photos by Tar Sands Blockade / LauraBorealis

A protester is arrested outside Wells, Texas.

Photo: , License: N/A

Protester sits in the trees above the Keystone XL pipeline construction outside Wells, Texas.

Keystone XL's top tar sands customers. In return, activists have desperately tried to make Valero synonymous with tar sands and Keystone XL, launching hunger strikes, public protest, and organizing in refinery neighborhoods.


Some young protestors grew sick of shouting and sign-carrying by the time construction on Keystone XL began last August. They started locking themselves to machines to stall the pipeline.

Last November outside Wells, sheriff's deputies pepper-sprayed four men who locked themselves to pipe-laying equipment. Authorities broke them loose after hours of consternation, leading them away in handcuffs, one with a foot-long strand of snot dripping from his face. It was one of over a dozen actions that took place at pipeline construction sites late last year.

"Stopping the infrastructure is the reason our campaign exists," says Ron Seifert, an activist with the Tar Sands Blockade group.

But as efforts ramped up in the East Texas woods, blockaders also began organizing in the neighborhoods near the Houston Ship Channel, an area long clouded by petrochemical haze. With local environmental justice groups, they started giving tours of the nearby refineries. They particularly took to Manchester, a small Hispanic enclave that lies in the shadow of Valero's Houston refinery.

"We found a community that's been oppressed for decades," Seifert asserts. Blockaders decided they wouldn't just target the pipeline, but the refiners, too. They started filming, photographing, and interviewing families, hearing common fence-line community ailments: headaches, respiratory problems, asthma, rashes, and cancer. Yudith Nieto, 25, a lifelong resident of Manchester who started organizing with the blockaders, says, "Almost everyone I know here has trouble breathing."

On November 29, the blockaders escalated. Diane Wilson, a longtime environmental justice and jail reform activist, locked her neck to an oil tanker truck with a bicycle U-lock. Friend and fellow activist Bob Lindsey Jr. did the same. "Quite frankly, the Gulf Coast is a sacrifice zone," Wilson told the Current once released from the Harris County jail. "I have no time for holding hands, walking around in circles, and demonstrating. There has to be pressure."

The initial stated goal was to disrupt oil coming into the Valero refinery; the company says Wilson and Lindsey were not on Valero property and questions whether they were even locked to trucks destined for its refinery. In jail, Wilson and Lindsey began what would become a 46-day hunger strike. Their demands: that Valero end its support of the Keystone XL pipeline and reject any oil from the pipeline in the future. The wish list evolved. They wanted Valero to clean up and compensate Manchester, and then they wanted Valero to pull out of the community entirely.

Valero spokesman Bill Day readily dismisses the effort. "Pretty much everything they have said about it (Keystone XL), about our refinery and the refining process has been incorrect," he says. "At first we thought they were misguided and a little naïve. But now they're actually spreading misinformation."

Recently in News
We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
comments powered by Disqus