‘The People’ Confront Enbridge Executive In Solidarity With MI CATS 3

Last night, a group that identified themselves as ‘The People’ confronted Mark Andrew Maki, member of the Board of Directors for Enbridge Energy Company and president of subsidiary Enbridge Energy Management, at his home in Houston, Texas.

enbridge-homedemoThe action was taken in solidarity with the MI CATS 3 – Barb, Lisa, and Vicci – who, last Friday, were found guilty of trespassing and “resisting and obstructing an officer” following a July protest in which they shut down expansion of Enbridge’s tar sands pipelines. Enbridge, as the complainant in the case, testified against the MI CATS 3 and likely colluded with the state to ensure it would pursue the resisting and obstructing charge at the felony level instead of as a misdemeanor. Denied bail even though they are not considered flight risks, the three womyn are currently in jail awaiting sentencing on March 5th.

Enbridge profits from human and ecological suffering. Its business model is inherently racist and classist. Enbridge does business by contracting with shippers who destroy the Earth and poison First Nations communities, and with refiners willing to transform entire ecosystems into sacrifice zones and poison the communities–predominately people of color–who live in their shadows. Enbridge profits from expropriating land and putting local community health and safety at risk. No one wants rivers of poison flowing through their backyards, but Enbridge doesn’t care; it’s in the business of making money, not making people happy.

Mark Andrew Maki

Mark Andrew Maki

As a member of the Board of Directors, Mark Maki shapes the culture and direction of Enbridge; hence, the reckless criminality and depraved indifference exhibited by the corporation are the direct result of decisions he makes. Accordingly, if Enbridge decides to commit its resources towards the persecution and incarceration of peaceful protesters defending their homes, then The People are justified in holding him accountable for that decision.

The People challenged Mr. Maki on the ongoing cover-up of the 2010 Kalamazoo River spill in Michigan, which dumped over a million gallons of tar sands dilbit into the river in the largest inland oil spill in US history, Enbridge’s negligence with regards to the 18 people that died and countless others that were injured as a result of that spill, Enbridge’s role in fuelling the emissions that poison thousands of East End Houstonians every day, and the company’s role in sending a great-grandmother, a grandmother-to-be, and a young woman to jail for up to three years.

Throughout the confrontation, Mr. Maki denied the fact that any people died as a result of the Kalamazoo spill, held to the company line that Enbridge was compensating everyone who claimed damages from the spill, and showed no sympathy at all for the imprisoned MI CATS. Mr. Maki does not think environmental racism or tar sands exploitation intersect with his business. Not surprising, given that Enbridge pays him over $1.4 million annually to cover up their crimes and maximize their profit at the expense of the planet and all its inhabitants.

The stand-off came to an end when Mr. Maki disengaged, retreating into his fancy house without showing any sign of actually hearing The People’s concerns. Before leaving, one activist hopped on the bullhorn to wish Mark goodnight and assure him they’d meet again.

Check out the video:

Solidarity is a movement that refuses to back down in the face of repression.

For information about how to write a letter of support to the MICATS 3 or for other ways to support, check out their website: http://www.michigancats.org/free-the-felines/

Also, check out our open letter to the MICATS 3.

After the home demo, a “candlelight” vigil was held for the MI-CATS 3 at an entirely different location. There were never any torches at Mark Maki’s house; this photo was part of Monday’s nationwide candlelight vigil marking the release of an inadequate FEIS for KXL North – with a twist, to emphasize the struggles of communities already facing tar sands.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.tarsandsblockade.org/enbridge-home-demo/

Open Letter to the MI CATS 3


Lisa Leggio, Barb Carter, and Vicci Hamlin in court

As some double-down their efforts to engage in the corrupt political process surrounding the northern leg of Keystone XL, we want to take some time to honor three brave womyn currently imprisoned by the state for resisting another tar sands pipeline in their backyard.

On Friday, Vicci Hamlin, Lisa Leggio, and Barb Carter of Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MI CATS) were found guilty of trespassing and “resisting and obstructing an officer”, a felony charge in Michigan that carries a maximum jail sentence of three years. They were arrested while blockading construction equipment being used to expand Enbridge’s Line 6B – the same tar sands pipeline which caused the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history when it leaked over one million gallons of tar sands bitumen into the Kalamazoo River in 2010.

While they are being held awaiting sentencing on March 5, MI CATS is calling on all those who oppose tar sands to send messages of solidarity and support. Plain text, handwritten messages (sorry, no pictures) on blank 4″x6″ index cards can be sent to:

Vickie Hamlin (139214) OR Lisa Leggio OR Barbara Carter (Please only one per card)
640 N. Cedar Street
Mason, MI 48854

IMPORTANT: Vicci’s name is spelled Vicci, however there have been several mix-ups with the state and they list it as Vickie Hamlin which is what you will have to use to write her. To help make sure it gets to her, include her inmate number next to her name: 139214. However, we are hearing that Vicci is getting letters, so thanks for writing and keep it up!

If you have questions about sending in your solidarity message, or if you want to learn about other ways to support MI CATS, check out their website: http://www.michigancats.org/free-the-felines/

We are asking that anyone attending upcoming vigils and actions to stop the northern Keystone XL pipeline keep the MI CATS 3 in your thoughts, tell others their story and gather messages of solidarity from those attending. Just as important as honoring those who face the very real threat of tar sands devastation coming to their community from KXL North, those who take action need to know they have the support of this growing movement. Now is the time to show that those who take bold action are not left behind.

Of course, everything we want to say to the #MICATS3 doesn’t fit on a single notecard, so we’re posting our thoughts here in full and will be sending them to the kidnapped cats on a series of numbered 4”x6” index cards.


Dear Vicci, Lisa, and Barb,

From the Blackland Prairie, Pineywoods, and Buffalo Bayou of Texas, know that our hearts are with you. We remember the pain of having comrades kept from us all too well and feel outrage over your verdict, sympathy for your situation, and renewed inspiration to never give up.

We understand why you feel driven to defend your community. We support and honor your decisions to take direct action rather than beg politicians for salvation. With the recent startup of KXL South through Oklahoma and Texas, we share your belief that tar sands pipelines are too great a threat to the health and safety of local communities across the continent, and that tar sands mining and refining are additional strokes of injustice for communities of color already overburdened by environmental contaminants and intersecting layers of oppression.

We recognize that throughout history womyn have always been the backbone of grassroots movements. As political leaders like Obama continue to sacrifice our homes and environment for the benefit of the extraction industry, their political betrayals will result in more and more powerful womyn like yourselves being forced to sit in cages. We wish this wasn’t so. In a more just world your cells would be occupied by the Enbridge executives whose negligence and greed poisoned the Kalamazoo River.

In our hearts we know that what is happening to you is one more onslaught of state repression, similar to the very calculated use of the term “eco-terrorist” we’ve seen applied to our friends. The state posits that if the penalties are severe enough, resistance will wither and let oil & gas continue their rampage of destruction across this planet. But make no mistake: your courage only strengthens our resolve to stand up to these real criminals.

As some of us are still awaiting our own trials, we know what it feels like to be fearful of state repression and the terrible prison apparatus. But we also understand that the consequences of inaction are far more terrifying. Please know that we will continue to send our love and support as you endure the violence of the state – and that our rage against injustice burns that much hotter during your incarceration.

Keep looking to the light of freedom, friends. The arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

Love and Solidarity,

Tar Sands Blockade


Permanent link to this article: http://www.tarsandsblockade.org/micats3/

TX and OK Residents Start New Chapter as KXL South Begins Hazardous Materials Transport Through Region

cc-3TX and OK Residents Start New Chapter as KXL South Begins Hazardous Materials Transport Through Region
Shoddy KXL South Pipeline Connects Communities United in Opposition to Tar Sands

The highly anticipated startup of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has not deterred impacted residents from beginning a new chapter in advocating for the safety and integrity of their homes, communities, and natural spaces. Following years of entanglement with multinational pipeline corporation TransCanada and no support from elected officials, residents stretching from Oklahoma to the Texas Gulf Coast have been meeting to discuss how the tar sands pipeline has shaped how they relate to their communities and the political geographies of the pipeline.

Communities on the frontlines of the tar sands refining complexes in Houston’s toxic east end and Ponca City, Oklahoma near KXL South’s origin in Cushing, are facing increased toxic emissions from the facilities as tar sands transport capacity increases with KXL South. Yudith Nieto, an organizer with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS), suggests her neighbors in Houston’s Manchester neighborhood have felt sidelined as the national debate about the pipeline remained transfixed on private property scandals and climate change without much regard to the already life-threatening air quality near the tar sands refineries.

“Independent of whether or not KXL South construction went ahead, children in my neighborhood are 56% more likely to contract childhood leukemia than children just 10 miles away,” says Nieto, citing a recent comparative health study of residents living in proximity to refining activity along the heavily polluted Houston Ship Channel. “What we do know is that refining tar sands will only increase that percentage while the refineries keep up their blatant disregard for the lives of those of us forced by circumstance to breathe their dangerous emissions on a daily basis.”

Along the length of the pipeline route, residents nearby are worried by documentation of shoddy construction brought to public knowledge by landowners and advocates. After months of stalling on the part of federal Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Materials Administration (PHMSA) officials, a meeting was arranged in early January to hear concerns about the construction process. During this meeting, PHMSA insisted that TransCanada’s history of shoddy welds, which have lead to catastrophic blowouts, nor the hundreds of photos of damaged KXL South pipe and illegal trenching practices employed during its construction phase gave little reason to not simply have faith that TransCanada had fixed the problems. PHMSA officials also made it clear that they had no authority to ensure TransCanada fully inform community first responders about the chemical makeup of tar sands and what equipment is necessary to ensure effective rapid response.

“PHMSA hasn’t provided one shred of documentation they ever set foot on my land to inspect KXL South construction, and TransCanada’s had absolutely no dialog with our local Fire Chief on preparing first responders,” insists Direct, TX farmer Julia Trigg Crawford, a founding member of Texas Pipeline Watch. “PHMSA and TransCanada may shirk their responsibilities, but our communities step up and proudly take them on. We stand united to do whatever is in our power to protect our families, communities and lands.

Residents in communities along the route are quick to point out that it’s not just landowners who should be concerned. Others living near the pipeline are just as much at risk of toxic exposure should a leak or spill occur. According to them, many who live near the pipeline do not fully understand the ways it threatens their air, water, soil, or health.

East Texas landowner Mike Hathorn’s land is also traversed by KXL South. “No one is ready for it. Most people near me don’t even know what it is,” he explains.

Maya Lemon, of Nacogdoches County Stop Tar Sands Oil Permanently (NacSTOP) shares Crawford’s concerns about emergency preparedness. “In East Texas, first responders will not receive training on responding to a tar sands spill until March 2014, a full three months after the pipeline goes online. If a spill event occurs before then, first responders will not have the information to fully protect themselves from toxic exposure or to ensure the safety of their communities, and should one not occur until after, there’s no guarantee that the training they will receive will be adequate. In fact, there is no way to clean up a tar sands spill.”

Kathy DaSilva with the Safe Community Alliance, also of Nacogdoches, was present at the PHMSA meeting with Crawford. “TransCanada and KXL South’s lead construction contractor Michels were out all last spring digging up hundreds of sections of pipe damaged in the shoddy construction phase of the project. Along the entire length of the pipeline, we documented evidence of outstandingly poor construction practices that are likely actually illegal under PHMSA code, but with no PHMSA inspection officials ever present to the best of our knowledge, the fox was guarding the hen house.”

“I don’t think about my land as much as the entire pipeline. I worry about the whole surrounding area, and I just don’t think it’s good,” adds Hathorn. “As far as our land is concerned, a spill could happen here, it could happen anywhere. And it’d definitely affect everybody at that point.”

Tar sands, a mixture of sand, petroleum, and mineral salts, must be diluted with a highly toxic class of chemical, which industry considers proprietary despite the dangers associated with its use. Tar sands are known to sink in water, making cleanup exorbitantly expensive and practically impossible. When exposed to air, its diluents evaporate like paint thinner forming heavy toxic clouds near at ground level. Toxic chemical exposure through respiration has happened in every instance of tar sands leaking near populated areas, and poisoned residents have described a litany of painful rashes, breathing complications, chemical sensitivities, nausea, migraines, and exacerbated cancer activity.

“Do TransCanada not care for their children or grandchildren?” muses Henrietta Stands-Nelson, an Idle No More Central Oklahoma organizer from Oklahoma City. “They only think of themselves at the moment, and this is why they are known as greedy. I would sure hate for their children to know what their ancestors did for them. Just because you can feed your family off the fossil fuel industry’s fodder doesn’t mean that you should not think of the future. We will need clean food, water, and shelter for ever.”

The tar sands being transported by KXL South originate from a bitumen deposit roughly the size of Florida in Alberta, Canada. The nearby Beaver Lake Cree and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations are currently in litigation with the Canadian federal and provincial governments to not only halt expansion of the mine sites but to revisit the original permitting of the sites altogether, due to egregious violations of Treaties 6 and 8, to which these First Nations are signatories, respectively. The mine sites, the tribal governments assert, have heavily contaminated their traditional subsistence hunting grounds, devastating local game populations, interrupting cultural continuity, and impeding their national sovereignty.

“We hope from this point on that unity is the clarion calling for the climate movement. It’s really unfortunate for everybody that a lack of solidarity in movement mobilization with Texas and Oklahoma communities has led us to this moment,” laments Juan Parras, the founder of TEJAS.

“As tar sands begin to flow through the pipeline, we recommit to raising our voices to assert our profound dissatisfaction with the process that has allowed this pipeline to be approved, constructed, and put into operation with such cavalier disregard for community health and safety. Environmental Justice communities, residents living in proximity to the pipeline, and all those up and downstream – we’re are all connected here in the same struggle: to permanently stop the most ecologically devastating mining operations in the world and address the ongoing injustices of petrochemical refining. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has only catalyzed our resolve to know each other better.”


Permanent link to this article: http://www.tarsandsblockade.org/kxlsouthstartup/

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