BENNINGTON — Two protesters were arrested Tuesday while trying to stop construction of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline.
McLoud native Eric Whelan, 26, sat atop a 40-foot pole structure along the pipeline route in Bryan County, while Luther resident Gwen Ingram, 56, locked herself to a piece of construction equipment.
Both were arrested by noon, along with another protester at the site near Bennington, according to organizers.
Work was suspended as authorities tried to remove the protesters, but officials with developer TransCanada said work continued at other sites along the 485-mile pipeline route.
The pipeline is expected to be completed by the middle of this year.
Whelan and Ingram are part of the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, which aims to prevent disasters like the recent pipeline spill in Mayflower, Ark.
Like the Exxon Mobil line that ruptured in Arkansas, the full Keystone XL pipeline would carry diluted bitumen from Canada's oil sands.
Crews are working on the southern leg, dubbed the Gulf Coast Project, after the Obama administration last year denied a permit for the transcontinental pipeline.
The line being built now will transport oil from Cushing's storage hub to refineries along the Gulf Coast.
Arkansas spill cited
“Keystone XL sounded like a bad idea from the beginning,” Whelan said in a news release. “The Mayflower spill proves that we shouldn't be trusting these multinational corporations, like Exxon or Trans-Canada, because every spill further exposes their criminal incompetence. Now TransCanada wants to build a toxic pipeline through the center of the country.
“I'm taking action to prevent a tragedy like that from happening in Oklahoma.”
Protesters insist the corrosive nature of the thick Canadian oil makes pipelines more prone to leaks. When spills do occur, diluted bitumen, which is heavier than regular crude oil, sinks in water and into the water table.