Keystone XL Pipeline Case Faces Jury in Oklahoma

Press Contact:
Ron Seifert, Tar Sands Blockade, 940-268-5375,
Stefan Warner, Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, (405) 283-6140,

Man who blockaded Keystone XL construction argues threats of climate change and environmental harm justify his actions

On April 22, 2013, Alec Johnson disrupted construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline near Tushka, Oklahoma by chaining himself to heavy equipment and effectively halting work. Eventually the police were called and Mr. Johnson was removed from the site and arrested. Now, more than a year after his arrest, Alec Johnson will attempt to make US history becoming the first to argue that he was justified in breaking the law to prevent a greater harm: the urgent threat of climate change. This kind of ‘necessity’ defense rooted in climate justice could have national implications for the growing movement of resistance to the fossil fuel industry across the US.

Mr. Johnson will argue thaclimatehawkspeakingt enforcing future generation’s rights to a stable climate and livable environment is not a crime. His defense will introduce a commanding consensus of climate science, including that of renowned climate scientist Dr. James Hansen who is preparing written testimony for the consideration of the court which will make clear that effective action to address the climate crisis is urgent and can no longer be delayed. Mr. Johnson will also draw attention to imminent health and safety risks posed by Keystone XL. He will address contamination threats to people living near the 1,700 mile pipeline route, the health problems experienced by First Nations communities from the extraction of tar sands, which is the product that flows through the KXL pipeline, as well as the toxic refinery emissions that it is forcing upon Gulf coast communities.

WHO: Alec Johnson, a 62 year old father of two and resident of East Texas, and dozens of supporters from across Oklahoma and Texas many of whom are directly impacted by the Keystone XL pipeline.

WHAT: A rally outside the Atoka County Courthouse featuring the voices of defendant Alec Johnson and community supporters from Oklahoma and Texas, followed the next day by a jury trial featuring the unprecedented use of a climate change necessity defense.

WHEN: Rally begins on Wednesday, October 22nd at 6:30pm. Trial begins the following day on Thursday, October 23rd at 9:00am.

WHERE: Both the rally and criminal trial will take place at the Atoka County Courthouse on 200 East Court Street, Atoka, Oklahoma, 74525.

Recap of Rational Synergy Convergence, 10/15/2014

Oklahoma City – Oklahomans and Texans gathered and marched today in Oklahoma City outside Cox Convention Center to protest the International Energy Conference being hosted by Oklahoma City University’s Meinders School of Business. The International Energy Conference featured Texas Governor Rick Perry, Devon Energy CEO John Richels, and Matthew McManus with the U.S. Department of State and other international leaders in the oil and gas industry.



The protest, dubbed the Rational Synergy Convergence, highlighted the nefarious actions of the oil and gas industry, economic inequality in the age of a “fracking boom”, and the effects of global capitalism on human lives. Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance called for concerned residents to speak out for an economically just and ecologically sustainable future. As industry leaders spoke with their heads in the sand at the International Energy Conference, local community leaders such as Angela Spotts of Stop Fracking Payne County shared stories of living next to one of Devon Energy’s frack wells in Stillwater. Native leaders such as David Hill of Oklahoma American Indian Movement and Rev. Chebon Kernell, Executive Secretary of Indigenous Ministries of the United Methodist Church spoke out against industrial abuse of land.davidhillwithsign

“I am here today to remind Oklahoma City University, a United Methodist University, of the United Methodist Social Principles on the environment,” said Pat Hoerth, Deaconess in the United Methodist Church, pointing out the contradictions between Oklahoma City University’s religious tradition and business partnerships.

Pat & Cheboon

Pat & Cheboon









Grand Riverkeeper Earl Hatley told about leading a statewide effort of grassroots citizens calling for a one-year moratorium on class II underground injection control (UIC) disposal wells for drilling and Fracking waste. “An increasingly warming planet must dramatically decrease its output of carbon and methane gas emissions now to insure a safe future. Earthquakes are starting to ravage our state, health issues are mounting due to air quality and water reserves are being squeezed. The people in this conference must grasp and take reearlandangelawithbullhornsponsibility for the environmental, social and human rights violations inherent in the unconventional oil and gas technologies and, indeed, the further exploration and extraction of new deposits of fossil fuels. It is time for a rigorous expansion of the renewable energy and conservation sector before it’s too late for our future generations ofan ever increasingly warming planet” said Earl Hatley, Grand Riverkeeper.



Colin Ferguson, student at Oklahoma City University, ended the rally by condemning the University’s partnership with Devon Energy while posing to be a “sustainable” institution. colinofocuMy university funnels business students into the Devon ranks at an incredible rate, as engineers, scientists and public relations workers. Is this where the best young minds in our state ought to end up? Should they not instead be directed towards finding solutions to the shaky mess caused by oil and gas extraction, and towards alternative efforts at energy production? Let’s demonstrate, together, our disappointment in this state of affairs. Let’s express to these industry men and women and to President Robert Henry in particular, that we won’t let Oklahoma’s young talent be usurped into this cycle of environmental destruction, of economic inequality, of manipulation and deceit in the name of money and power!”

Next, protesters left the permitted space and began marching and singing. Angela Spotts of Stop Fracking Payne County led the march towards Continental Resources to confront Harold Hamm, CEO who is credited with perfecting technology used in horizontal drilling. As protesters neared Continental Resources, they were met by security who threatened to call the police. Angela Spotts took the bullhorn and led chants demanding to speak with Harold Hamm. A brief standoff ensued before protesters marched towards Devon Energy Tower. When protesters arrived, Earl Hatley took the mic to explain his legal fight with Devon to keep them from fracking his land in rural Stillwater, Oklahoma. Protesters blocked the sidewalk with banners, passed out WANTED, JOHN RICHELS flyers to employees. A sizeable crowd of Devon employees gathered outside to listen before protesters marched back to the Convention Center and dispersed.IMG_1132

Outside Continental Resources

Outside Continental Resources



Rational Synergy Convergence

Join us for the Rational Synergy Convergence! 

The Rational Synergy Convergence is a public gathering of local leaders and thinkers committed to economic equity and environmental justice.  Speakers discuss the bleak state of global capitalism and envision a more economically just and ecologically sustainable future. 
The convergence will focus on economic inequality in the midst of a “fracking boom” and the effects of imperialism on human lives & biological communities. 

The Rational Synergy Convergence will be meeting in protest of the International Energy Conference! Oklahoma City University’s Meinder’s School of Business will be hosting he International Energy Conference at Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City. Rick Perry, current governor of Texas and opponent of reproductive and migrant justice, will be speaking. John Richels, tar sands tycoon and CEO of Devon Energy will also be presenting. They will be joined by other speakers discussing “the state and future of the global and domestic energy resource development.” This conference is an opportunity for “leaders” in oil and gas development to share ideas responsible for environmental degradation, racism and economic inequality in Alberta, CAN, Mexico, sub-Saharan Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

Some community members who will be sharing at the Rational Synergy Convergence are:

Angela Spotts of Stop Fracking Payne County 

Earl Hatley, Grand Riverkeeper, LEAD Agency

Rev. Chebon Kernell, Executive Secretary of Native American/Indigenous Ministries of the United Methodist Church 

Pat HoerthTurtle Rock Farm: A Center for Sustainability, Spirituality and Healing

David Hill, Oklahoma American Indian Movement

Jonathan Adams, Blackland Prairie Rising Tide and Frack Free Denton volunteer.

Eric Whelan, Great Plain Tar Sands Resistance 

We will be gathering on the sidewalk of the northwest side of Cox Convention Center, which is the southeast corner of the W Sherdian Avenue and Ron Norick Blvd intersection.

Local Activists disrupt Devon Energy Board Member Robert Henry

Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance interrupted Devon Energy board member and president of Oklahoma City University Robert Henry as Henry emceed a book review event for  The Frackers by Gregory Zuckerman at Full Circle Books in Oklahoma City. Reasons cited for the disruption were Devon Energy’s role in the controversial tar sands in Alberta, tar sands extraction’s connection to the Keystone XL, fracking in Oklahoma and abroad, and Devon’s membership in American Legislative Exchange Committee (ALEC).

Jay Fowler speaks critically of Robert Henry as Henry stands before him, arms crossed.

“No matter how many lies you tell, how many politicians you buy, how many skyscrapers you build, it will not wash away the oil you have spilled.” Local resident Jay Fowler said to Robert Henry.

This month news broke that Devon Energy recently applied for a permit to begin a new tar sands project, Walleye, in Alberta, Canada. The Beaver Lake Cree Nation and other First Nations stand at the frontline of Devon’s tar sands projects. Cancer blooms and loss of sustenance are among the numerous problems plaguing the First Nations.  In addition to the devastating effects on local communities, Devon Energy’s plan to increase tar sands production is a reminder that no consideration is being given to the effects of climate change.

A banner reading “Keep it out of the air! Leave it in the ground!” is displayed as people disrupt Robert Henry’s attempts to gain control of the situation.

“We can no longer ignore the damage being done by Devon Energy and the fracking industry to our homes, communities, and eco-systems.. As a lifelong resident of Oklahoma (and former industry worker), I believe it is high time for us to say goodbye to the greedy CEO’s and Presidents like Robert Henry and John Richels of Devon Energy and transition to a just, renewable economy.” – Eric Wheeler

Across the United States Devon Energy is a major playing in the phenomenon known as fracking. This extraction process uses toxic water to create fissures in bedrock miles beneath the surface. This practice has been linked to contaminated water, water depletion, earthquakes, illness, and large gas explosions.

ALEC is a right-wing legislative thiaaronwhatsupnk-tank that encourages public services to be privatized (i.e. schools, prisons). ALEC creates legislation that weakens worker’s rights, rolls back civil rights, and deregulates commerce in favor of large corporations. Disrupters believe that Robert Henry’s political legacy conflicts with the goals of ALEC, and see his appointment to the Devon Energy board as an attempt to create silence among Oklahoma progressives.

Before becoming president of Oklahoma City University, Robert Henry had served as Oklahoma Attorney General and as a judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. Often revered as the most influential Democrat in Oklahoma, Robert  Henry is educated enough to understand the science and risks of  climate change and the urgent need to immediately stop exploration and extraction of fossil fuels and shift to renewable energies, based in local economies.  Profits rather than a livable, vibrant planet are more important for Devon Energy and Robert Henry. According to Forbes, Robert Henry’s total compensation from Devon Energy in 2013 was $336,015.









Oil Spills at the Lexington Wildlife Preserve: Negligence to Prevent, Negligence to Report

Report from concerned Oklahoma resident,

Xanadu has not reported this spill to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. This is how Xanadu Exploration Company conducts its business on public lands at the Lexington Wildlife Preserve in Cleveland County, failing to prevent a spill and failing to report a spill. Spill Lexington 2

Xanadu has multiple wells located in the Lexington Wildlife Preserve. This one is called Top Gun #1. Top Gun #1 has two significant leaks. One leak is near the tank battery. Another is near the horse head well pump. This is not a major spill with hundreds of barrels pouring onto the land. There are multiple small leaks contributing to what appears to be a slow, steady accumulation. From the looks of it, this has probably been going on for several months. Maybe longer.

Spill Lexington 1The Oklahoma Corporation Commission does not require companies to report spills of less than 10 barrels unless it is a threat to a water source. The spills are located near two large fishing ponds in the Lexington Wildlife Preserve. The leaks near the well pump do not appear to be contained by any berm. The City of Purcell relies on groundwater wells, many of which are located in the Lexington Wildlife Preserve, not far from this and other wells operated by Xanadu. According to OCC spokesperson Matt Skinner, no OCC field inspectors have been to the site of this spill. I have filed an ORA request on the history of inspections for this well. I have also requested that the OCC conduct a water quality analysis for the nearby fishing ponds and water wells.

The spills appear to be due to negligence on the part of the operator; a failure to maintain their equipment in good working condition. The leaks near the well head have spewed out of the pipes and coated some of the pressure gauges making them unreadable. One of the pressure gauges appears not to be functioning at all. This well site seems to constitute multiple violations of OCC rules. Xanadu has failed to report this spill and should be liable for fines and damages.

Xanadu is the same company whose application for a hydraulic fracturing drilling permit drew protests from Slaughterville residents earlier this week. 
The citizens opposing this permit need to be made aware of Xanadu’s practices. This should serve as a clear example for the Town Board that public health and safety are not a priority for the company. Clearly they are using faulty equipment and have done nothing to contain the leakage. By all appearances, this has been an ongoing problem for several months. Is the company just unwilling to spend the money to make the repairs or purchase better equipment?

Based on their record in the area, I think the town of Slaughterville would be well within their rights to deny Xanadu’s permit application. If this is how Xanadu treats our public lands and conservation areas, I doubt they think very highly of their neighbors in Slaugterville.
If I were on the town board in Slaughterville, I’d be doing everything in my power to run these folks right out of town.”

- Casey Holcomb, Concerned Oklahoma Resident

Dr. Riki Ott speaking in Oklahoma this week

Dr. Riki Ott is a marine biologist and toxicologist with important information that connects dispersants used on Valdez & BP oil spills with diluents mixed in tar sands (bitumen) and chemicals in fracking fluid, will visit our area on her Keystone XL tour.








Tues. July, 8th: Dr. Ott will be hosted by Clean Energy Future Oklahoma, speaking in Tulsa, 7-9pm at Foolish Things Coffee Company, 1001 S. Main St.


Wed. July 9th: OK Chapter Sierra Club will host Dr. Ott at Cocina De Mino Restaurant,6022 S. Western & S.W. 59th in Oklahoma City. Dinner will begin at 6:00 pm(dinner is on your own) and Dr. Ott’s presentation will begin at 7:00.


Thurs. July 10th: Stop Fracking Payne County is hosting Dr. Ott @ 6:30pm at the Stillwater Public Library 1107 S Duck Stillwater, OK.

Basic Human Decency

Last Thursday several people appeared at the Okfuskee County Courthouse in Okemah, Oklahoma to support Elisabeth as she went to trial.  People nervously awaited trial in the hallway, some folks talked to individuals from Bikers Against Child Abuse, and others helped Elisabeth practice pronouncing some hard words from her statement.

Leading up to the trial, Elisabeth and 20140626_134833her attorney Doug Parr had made several trips to Okfuskee County for arraignments, hearings, etc. From the day she was arrested last February until the day of her trial, even when faced with time in the county jail, Elisabeth refused to give in. Elisabeth was determined to take her case to trial, hoping to mount a necessity defense to highlight the many egregious social and ecological problems associated with tar sands. From extraction to transportation to refining, Elisabeth’s statement goes farther than the conventional discourse associated with the Keystone XL.  Never the less, Elisabeth didn’t go to trial. The prosecutor in this case reportedly said this trial would be a waste of the state’s resources. We were informed ten minutes before trial was scheduled to begin that the case had been dismissed. Slightly disappointing but better than a guilty conviction!

Elisabeth put a lot of time and work into preparing her statement. You can read the full statement here.  Elisabeth’s statement is a glaring example of the reality that resisting resource extraction is not a wild idea, rather resisting resource extraction is an act of basic human decency:

“I was taught to leave my surroundings and the world in as good as or better shape than it was before I entered into it.”

- Elisabeth Leja