The fight against extractive industries links together indigenous, Global South, and environmental justice communities, says research fellow Yvette Arellano
KIM BROWN, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Kim Brown in Baltimore. The movement against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline has been called the largest collective action ever by Native American tribes not only from across the continent but they are receiving report from tribes in the Caribbean and Central and South America. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota has received a lot of support and this coalition has even been attracting more grassroots people including the organization for black lives matter and other communities who are negatively impacted by industry and oil extraction. But now the action is being brought to the front door of the company actually building the Dakota Access Pipeline. Energy Transfer Partners is located in Houston, Texas and on Wednesday October 12th there is going to be a pray action at their headquarters opposing both the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Tran-Pecos Pipeline. Joining us tonight from Houston, Texas is Evette Arellano. She is a research fellow at the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services also known as TEJAS. Evette thank you so much for joining us. EVETTE ARELLANO: Thank you for having me. BROWN: Evette, talk about the need to not only have an action in general because we’ve seen a lot of protests, a lot of support across the country for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in regards to their protests against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline across their lands, but this one is going to be a little different. You’re actually doing this action in front of the headquarters of the company constructing the pipeline. Tell us why that is. ARELLANO: Well we actually are hosting a conference, the Building Equity and Alignment for Impact Conference, here in Houston where grassroots organizations along with National Greens, funders, and other advocacy groups are coming together to build an alignment on the issues that affecting things like LNG pipelines in both South Dakota and west Texas. BROWN: Well, talk to us about the Trans-Pecos Pipeline because it’s not as well-known at this point as the Dakota Access. Where is the Trans-Pecos being constructed and talk to us about the community that’s being impacted? ARELLANO: So the group that’s organizing the TPPL or the Trans-Pecos Pipeline action, is the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of West Texas. They’re inviting us to join in a peaceful prayer march and rally to defend their sacred lands, sacred sites, burials, and the Rio Grande. In fact, one of the major slogans or messages in campaigns that we’re pushing for this is honor the Rio Grande Treaties and by stopping the Trans-Pecos Pipeline in West Texas, the big binge region, what we’re doing is we’re not only standing up for environmental justice communities and sacrifice zones, but indigenous groups like those in West Texas and South Dakota. I do think that there needs to be an amplification of not only movement building that happens in certain areas but going across the nation to find out what other groups are being effected by the same organizations and corporations like Energy Transfer Partnership Group. BROWN: Energy Transfer Partnership Group is the group responsible for constructing the Trans-Pecos Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline. Your group released this action on Wednesday in front of the Energy Transfer Partner headquarters, is attracting environmental justice organizations from across the country. I saw on your press release, groups are coming from as far as Kentucky and California. What are some of the commonalities that these communities are facing from industry groups, from oil companies’ refineries even that are doing things in their community. What are some of the commonalities that you’ve noticed? ARELLANO: The fact that groups and corporations like Energy Transfer Partnership, take advantage of voiceless communities like indigenous tribes, sacred lands, environmental justice communities, which happen to be the poorest communities. They’re economically depressed. People of color communities who are then used these places inhabited by environmental justice folks are encroached on by industry and because there’s such little care, nationwide there’s this recognition that there’s something [Sally Stones] in order to build the economy and the wealth of the nation. You have a burden on communities that don’t have the power, the money, the lobbying efforts or the massive movements behind them to support and defend them. So just like the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe in West Texas and the Dakota Access Pipeline, again they’re communities that people forget. We love to eroticize movements across the globe in other countries and we refuse to look in our own backyards to notice that extracted industries hurt communities in our own nation. BROWN: Talk about any type of legal repercussions that these communities are seeking. For example, we know that the Standing Rock Sioux are continuing their legal fight to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. But what is partially in dispute is whether or not the federal government even had the authority to grant the permit for the pipeline to be constructed because this was land seeded to the tribe via federal treaties of hundreds of years ago. But a treaty’s a treaty. It’s contract regardless. The tribe in west Texas that you reference that is being impacted by the Trans-Pecos Pipeline, are they also experiencing a reneging on either federal treaty or contract? Is something being violated there that they don’t feel as though they have any recourse to go to the government to perhaps stop the construction of the pipeline that’s coming through their area. ARELLANO: Just like any indigenous lands, the Carrizo Comecrudo reinforced the Rio Grande treaty which was there to protect their lands. They’re seeking legal recourse. It’s just legal recourse takes funding. It takes time. And it takes another partner willing to come in and say I will fight on your behalf which is something that they don’t have. A lot of communities across the nation don’t have the resources to combat legislation that would keep them in courts for years. You can literally take a case to court and then a community can run out of funds and the outcome is then settlement. We’ve seen it time and time again. Not only with these indigenous lands but also environmental justice communities where we press for action and because you’re going against a multimillion dollar industry, you’re left with little recourse for anyone to fight on your behalf or speak on behalf of you. The idea there is we’re in Texas. Texas is an oil state. We understand that but at the same time you have enter agencies working against organizations who are attempting these efforts to come in and pollute and contaminate continuously in our communities. So you have anywhere from EPA officials turning the other cheek to department PCQ, the Texas commissioner on environmental quality not standing up for these companies. In fact, standing next to industry and defending their actions in order to promote jobs and wealth. You have politicians who are in the pockets of these industries because they’re one of the top 3 funders amongst their campaign. So you have layer upon layer of injustice and when it all comes together you have not only communities left out who have financial resources but who are disenfranchised who lack a voice because of influence. So it’s a struggle. BROWN: So the action is planned for Wednesday October the 12th. As I’m certain you’ve seen the pictures that came out of North Dakota over the weekend where SWAT teams arrive to the sacred camp where the protestors against the Dakota Access have been posted up for months. They came heavy handed. We’ve seen attack dogs. We’ve seen people be pepper sprayed. Are you expecting a militarized police response to your prayer action in front of the Energy Transfer Partner headquarters in Houston? ARELLANO: Actions both small and larger ones, we always expect a massive police presence. We’ve had actions with 7 people where we have had more than 7 officers, even those on horseback come in and make sure that we are not violating ordinances or we’re keeping on the sidewalk, and these are small actions. Tomorrow is an immensely larger action and we know that we’re going to face that when it comes to HPD. Not only HPD but people forget these are companies and corporations with millions of dollars. They themselves have security follow our groups, take pictures in their own vehicles, take down license plates. We encourage anybody who attends these actions to park further away because they’ve been known to follow us to our vehicles. So we are expecting lash back. This one will be larger than the other actions we’ve held here in Houston. Because of the national support and the national attention, we’ve gotten from everyone, we expect a larger presence of police force. But one thing I did want to mention is how this ties into a broader picture. Both South Dakota and West Texas are fighting against LMG pipelines. These are natural gas pipelines that the Clean Power Plan supports. In fact, the Clean Power Plan looks at it and other organizations and advocacy groups that argue with the big greens say that natural gas is a transitional fuel, it is an alternative, it is something that will lead us into further renewables. But don’t take into account the communities that will be effected not only be the construction of the plants but by the infrastructure that they place down. They place down pipelines that then lead into places like the Gulf Coast. The Gulf Coast will receive immense impacts and the sacrifice zones will once again pay. So it’s not only the sacred tribal lands and environmental justice communities but even beyond that into other global [south] communities and to other environmental justice communities. In fact, these LMG terminals that are being built in the Gulf Coast, 33 of the 46 that are existing approved and proposed will be in the Gulf Coast. This is Texas and Louisiana. They’ll be extracted from tribal lands and the Midwest. So it’s a larger than life picture that we’re trying to get out to the general public. BROWN: Evette for any of our viewers who want to offer some assistance or offer support in the action not only on the 12th but for your organization and for the efforts of environmental justice going forward, how can people do that with your organization? ARELLANO: I would encourage them to go to the Carrizo Comecrudo tribe site which is www.CarrizoComecrudodonation.com in order to contribute to financial support that can lead to litigation against these companies as well as the Tejas Barrios site. That is TejasBarrios.org. And stay engaged and be encouraged that we are all standing in this together. That even though we have been ignored by federal agencies and state agencies, that we’re not going to stop. Grassroots organizations band together and together we can fight this. BROWN: We’ve been speaking to Evette Arellano. She is a research fellow at the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services also known as TEJAS. Her organization is planning a prayer action on Wednesday October the 12th in front of the headquarters of Energy Transfer Partners, the company that is constructing both the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Trans-Pecos Pipeline. Evette we certainly appreciate you joining us today. Thank you so much. ARELLANO: Thank you. BROWN: And thank you for watching the Real News Network.
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