Local opponents to the Comanche Trail Pipeline in San Elizario, Texas, took direct action against the 195-mile long natural gas pipeline today (January 12). The pipeline is a project of Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline.
One water protector who has chosen to go unnamed locked herself to an excavator around 7 a.m. MST on a construction site for the pipeline, a tactic also used during the #NoDAPL battle in Standing Rock, North Dakota.
Environmental groups in Texas—Frontera Water Protector Alliance and Earth Guardians El Paso—have concerns similar to those of the people in North Dakota: water contamination, pipeline explosion and land ownership rights. Some farmers in El Paso County have been against the project because it will cut through their farmland.
Energy Transfer acquired more than 91 percent of the pipeline tracts through voluntary easement agreements, said Lisa Dilinger, spokesperson for Energy Transfer, in an email. However, water protectors claim farmers are too intimidated to challenge the company’s requests. No farmers have spoken to Colorlines on the record to confirm this.
Though Energy Transfer Partners launched the pipeline project in 2015, most residents found out about it a year later in September. They’ve been taking action since. Texas residents will see few benefits from the pipeline. The 1.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas it will transport each day will go straight into Mexico. While the pipeline does include seven taps to which local communities can connect, Energy Transfer Partners is not responsible for the infrastructure or finances necessary for municipalities to do so.
The Facebook Live video below, posted by water protector Clavo P. Martinez, shows the water protector from today’s action attaching herself to the construction equipment. She remained for roughly three hours, according to Eric Stoltz, a local pipeline opponent and organizer.
About seven other opponents, including elders and a child, joined her by singing prayers and beating drums. Roughly two hours in, a deputy with the El Paso Sheriff’s office arrived but did not arrest anyone, though Martinez said in his video that the site foreman had initially threatened the group with arrest.
This is the latest series of direct action against pipeline projects throughout the state. On January 7, two water protectors in nearby Presidio County, Texas were arrested for using similar methods: They locked themselves to machinery to delay construction of the Comanche Trail’s sister project, the Trans-Pecos Pipeline.
This 148-mile long natural gas pipeline will begin outside Fort Stockton, Texas, the same as the Comanche Trail, but it will take a different route into Mexico. Water protectors recently created the Two Rivers camp—modeled off of Standing Rock—to build resistance against the Trans-Pecos Pipeline.