Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

New York Times Reporters Detained Covering Keystone XL Protests in East Texas

UPDATE: The latest on this story can be found here.

The massive (and controversial) Keystone XL pipeline, which will take heavy crude harvested from oil sand pits in Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast, is currently under construction. And it’s also under protest.

For weeks, protesters have chained themselves to tractors and fences in attempts to halt construction of the pipeline. Some have camped out in trees in the pipeline’s path. And several private landowners have protested the pipeline’s construction as well. Landowner Eleanor Fairchild was arrested this week on her own property for trespsassing as she and actress Daryl Hannah attempted to stop a bulldozer clearing a path for the pipeline. You can watch their protest in the video above.

Joining the ranks Wednesday were two reporters covering the protests for The New York Times. Reporter Dan Frosch and an unnamed photographer accompanying him were covering a protest on private land yesterday when they were handcuffed and detained by a security guard for TransCanada (the Canadian company behind the pipeline) and local police.

The reporters were on the private land at the invitation of the landowner, but were detained for trespassing, according to a spokesperson for the newspaper. After identifying themselves as members of the media, they were released, but told they had to leave the property immediately or they’d be arrested for trespassing.

“So they complied,” says Eileen Murphy, Vice President of Corporate Communications for the New York Times. “We obviously don’t want to be in a position where our reporters are facing arrest.” Murphy does not know the exact location of the arrest or the name of the landowner.

It isn’t clear if the reporters were on land that belonged solely to the landowner, or was part of the easement TransCanada is using to construct the pipeline.

Reports on the website helping to organize the protest, Tar Sands Blockade, indicate that the incident took place at private property adjacent to where protesters have camped out in trees in the path of the pipelines. The website says that “minutes after the first two [Times] journalists were handcuffed, police barred another group of journalists from approaching even within sixty feet of the Keystone XL easement, an arbitrary designation with no legal precedent.”

At the time of this post, TransCanada representatives were not available to comment. We’ll update if we hear anything back.

To get to the refineries on the Gulf Coast, the Keystone XL pipeline must cross a lot of private land. In many cases, TransCanada has secured agreements with landowners to route the pipeline across their property. But the company has also used eminent domain more than 100 times to seize private land to construct the pipeline.

The protest website Tar Sands Blockade asserts that local police are being paid by TransCanada to patrol the pipeline’s construction:

“Arthur Judge, a Wood County deputy sheriff, admitted to Texas landowner Susan Scott that TransCanada was paying the police by the hour to work private security details. “He was patrolling the easement on my farm and he informed me that his mandate was to arrest anyone at anytime that sets foot on the easement,” attests Ms. Scott. “The officer also demanded that I show ID or he would arrest me, all this while I was standing on my own private property in the middle of the woods. TransCanada is ordering to police to arrest me just for trying to take a walk across my own farm.””

The New York Times says the reporters will continue to report on the protests from other locations in East Texas.


  • forgive us our trespassers as we get arrested on private land by private police by a private business; who is on first, who is in charge

  • Never before has crude oil left such a crude taste in our mouths.

  • A surprise to many who are new to TX is the requirement to involve, and pay for, a Title Company when real estate is bought or sold.
    This law was established to protect the home-owner/property-owner from fraud, graft, and influence of those who are more powerful (whether government, private enterprise or foreign country.)
    So it is extremely wrong that a Texas landowner cannot expect the sanctity of the Deed of Trust they hold.

  • FromtheRight

    The northern end of this pipeline is Oklahoma, not Canada.

    • The southern leg of the pipeline does run from Cushing to Texas, FromtheRight. But it connects to the existing Keystone pipeline, which runs from Canada. Also, if the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline is approved, that will also run from Canada. The entire purpose of this pipeline network is to get oil from Canada to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.

  • The Keystone XL pipeline, if ever completed, will run from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, so TransCanada can sell tar sands oil (not crude oil) to China and Europe. There are nine very brave American patriots right now in Wood County, 40 feet up in trees, holding their position to prevent the destruction of beautiful, 80-feet-high, trees which are considered sacred by thousands of indigenous people in this region. TransCanada has taken actions which have endangered their lives, and the presence of the media is extremely important, to keep this greedy mogul from further endangering them. This is America, Jack. We have a right to peaceful protest. TransCanada needs to go back to Canada and refine their dirty tar sands oil on their own land.

  • Frank Lurz

    Eminent domain? Since when do corporations have a right to exercise eminent domain? Answer: since they began paying off politicians to exercise it on their behalf. Make no mistake, this is a harbinger of the demise of democracy, a portent of American fascism, the rise of the police state. It is the advent of the new world order in which a man’s home will never again be his castle!

  • Alex

    This was a solid article on the Tar Sands Blockade. Please reference this response that I wrote in regards to the New York Times story released yesterday: http://documentingresistance.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/the-new-york-times-got-it-wrong-with-the-tar-sands-blockade/

  • earlrichards

    The Keystone XL Pipeline should not be permitted to cross the Ogallala Aquifer.

  • Janie

    This is so incredibly sad ~ well done and congratulations for making a difference ~ you have brought the news to the world, of this atrocity cutting these beautiful trees and environment , to shreds. ~ money money money ~ stuff money ! The whole system is so dam corrupt that these industries just have the right to go anywhere because they buy it..how much land will be destroyed while Trans Canada plough through and destroy more of the environment ~ dam humans, it is embarrassing to be one at times !

  • Instead of at a protest, two Public Herald journalists were detained while photographing in a state forest in PA – http://www.publicherald.org/archives/15283/investigative-reports/uncategorized/

  • sirbenjonson

    Comments below – and the timidity of the so-called “protesters” I’ve read about . . . sure don’t sound like Texans. The Texans I grew up with would do one of two things if a bunch of “lower grade” Canadians hired the local sheriff to arrest them on their own land inside the national boundaries of the Republic of Texas. First, they’d band together as as a Texas militia and would — led by the county judges and sheriffs — obtain some good old fashioned justice . . . Texas style . . . and second, they’d go to Houston and hire some of the country’s best plaintiffs’ lawyers and soon enough . . . they’d take the pipeline away from the Canadians . . .

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