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Real People, Real Stories About How Tar Sands Affects Us

Big Oil is pushing a web of pipelines from strip-mining of Canada's dirty and costly tar sands from under the Boreal forest. But people on the front lines are speaking out, taking a stand against dirty energy. We've captured their stories here to show how Keystone XL and other tar sands pipelines, as well as tar sands extraction and refining will have real impacts, on real people. Scroll your mouse over a starred section of the map and click on a point to bring up a particular story from the front lines.

  • Martell, Nebraska

    Voices Against Tar Sands from a Nebraska Landowner

    Randy Thompson is a landowner from Nebraska who is fighting TransCanada's attempt to cross his land with the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Randy says, "We didn't think a foreign corporation could actually have the power to come and take our land away from us. We're an agricultural state. If we don't have water, we're out of business." Watch for more on Randy's story.

  • Wells, Texas

    Voices Against Tar Sands from a Texas Landowner and Welder

    Mike Hathorn is a welder and Texas landowner who opposes the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which would run directly through his land. After three years of negotiations against the pipeline, Mike was forced to settle because it was costing him too much in legal fees, saying "Big oil, big money. That's what we were up against." Watch for more on Mike's story.

  • Sumner, Texas

    Voices Against Tar Sands from a Texas Farmer Battling TransCanada

    Julia Trigg Crawford is a Texas farmer who is battling TransCanada's attempt to build the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline across her land in court. Julia Trigg says, "My job description is to be a good steward of this place. I do believe that I can make a difference." Watch for more on Julia Trigg's story.

  • Houston, Texas

    Voices Against Tar Sands from a Houston Refinery Neighborhood Activist

    Juan Parras lives in the Houston Manchester community with the largest concentration of refineries and petrochemical plants in the Gulf. He is concerned that bringing tar sands in the Keystone XL pipeline will mean even more pollution for communities already under pressure. Juan says, "There is a lot of concern about the Keystone pipeline. We cannot place money above people's lives." Watch for more on Juan's story.

  • Hastings, NE

    Voices Against Tar Sands from the Director of Bold Nebraska

    Jane Kleeb is the executive director of Bold Nebraska and has lead the local fight against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, standing up for landowner rights. Jane says, "We're very worried about the water. This is Nebraska families fighting with everything we have to make sure our land and water is protected." Watch for more on Jane's story.

  • Port Arthur, Texas

    Voices Against Tar Sands from a Port Arthur, Texas Resident

    Hilton Kelley works with residents in Port Arthur, Texas who live in the shadow of refineries and petrochemical plants. Hilton says, "For years, these refineries have been processing crude oil, but what is different about this tar sands is that it is heavier with sulfur, metals and mercury. We do not need this tar sands coming and increasing the toxins in our environment." Watch for more on Hilton's story.

  • Port Arthur, Texas

    Voices Against Tar Sands from a Port Arthur, Texas Bronchitis Patient

    Erma Lee Smith was born and raised in Port Arthur, Texas next to the refineries and suffers from bronchitis. Tar sands could bring additional pollution to already burdened communities. Erma Lee says, "I've been having bronchitis since 1979 and I'm on a breathing machine." Watch for more on Erma Lees Smith's story.

  • Winnsboro, Texas

    Voices Against Tar Sands from a Texas Landowner and Retiree

    Eleanor Fairchild is a Texas landowner who opposes the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline which would run directly through her land. She and her husband bought their land when her husband retired as an oil industry geologist. Eleanor says, "My husband used to say this land was heaven to him. The more I learned, the worse tar sands looked. I just want fair treatment." Watch for more on Eleanor's story.

  • Ceresco, Michigan

    Voices Against Tar Sands from a Business-owner in the Michigan Tar Sands Oil Spill Area

    The tar sands oil spill near Marshall, Michigan closed down the business of Debra Miller and her husband for several months. Deb says, "That pipeline break put a million gallons into our river, changed our communities forever. What is that doing to our tax base and our public safety?" Watch for more on Deb's story.

  • Marshall, Michigan

    Voices Against Tar Sands from a Resident of the Michigan Tar Sands Oil Spill Area

    Susan Connolly is a resident of Marshall, Michigan where more than 18 months later the largest tar sands oil spill in U.S. history is still being cleaned up. Susan and her children suffered in the days following the spill and Susan is a leader in the fight to make sure that the spill is cleaned up. Susan says, "This is the perfect opportunity to learn ... especially with the proposed Keystone pipeline that will run the same horrible crude. The only ones who benefit are the pipeline companies. The only job growth here is the workers cleaning up the spill." Watch for more on Susan's story.

  • Pine Ridge, South Dakota

    Voices Against Tar Sands from an Oglala Lakota Nation Tribal Member in South Dakota

    Debra White Plume is an activist, grandmother, and member of the Oglala Lakota Nation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, who has been fighting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, concerned about its effect on water resources. She says "I think our native nations are going to stay opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline and stay opposed to any other oil pipelines that come through here because we understand that water is a precious resource, it's a gift from our Grandfather and it's a gift for life, it's a gift of life…." Watch for more on Debra's story.

  • Fort Berthold Reservation, North Dakota

    Voices Against Tar Sands from a North Dakota Tribal and Environmental Activist

    Growing up and living in North Dakota, Kandi Mossett has experienced firsthand what oil development can do to communities. She is a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nations on the Fort Berthold Reservation and works with the Indigenous Environmental Network, organizing with tribes to fight the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Kandi says "there are sacred sites out here, there are burial sites out here, there's places that are holy that they want to just bulldoze right through." Watch for more on her story.

  • Sargent County, North Dakota

    Voices Against Tar Sands from a North Dakota Landowner along the Keystone I Pipeline Route

    Bob Banderet is a farmer in southeastern North Dakota, where his land lies next to the Ludden Pumping Station for the Keystone I Pipeline, the site of a 21,000 gallon spill in May, 2011. While TransCanada downplayed the magnitude of this spill, Banderet witnessed the 60 foot geyser of oil shooting up from the pumping station and was the first to report it. "I saw it," he says "I guess the best way to describe it is just like the movies you used to see as a kid when they'd strike oil and that geyser straight up in the air and then, you know, the plume on top." Watch for more on Bob's story.

  • Lubicon Cree territory, Alberta, Canada

    Voices Against Tar Sands from a Lubicon Cree First Nation Member and Environmental Campaigner

    Melina Laboucan-Massimo is a member of the Lubicon Cree First Nation in Alberta, Canada, and a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada. She is concerned about the impacts of tar sands development, saying, "What we're seeing happening to the communities around these projects are elevated rates of cancers, as well as elevated rates of respiratory illnesses like emphysema and asthma because there's air quality issues, there's contamination to the water, destruction and complete fragmentation of the Boreal forest." Watch for more on Melina's story.

  • Winner, South Dakota

    Voices Against Tar Sands from a South Dakota Rancher

    John Harter is a cattle rancher from Winner, SD, who lives along the Keystone XL pipeline route and has been battling TransCanada over eminent domain. As a rancher, he's concerned about the threat of tar sands oil spills that could ruin his pristine water supplies. "If they put this pipeline across here, this property is a bad investment. What's at stake is the future of our children and grandchildren, and their children and grandchildren," he says. Watch for more on John's story.

Our Work

NRDC works with a coalition of partners in an effort to clean up existing tar sands operations, stop tar sands expansion and stop new proposed tar sands pipelines such as the Keystone XL project from Canada to Texas. This is part of a bigger effort to reduce our dependence on oil and move to cleaner forms of energy.

Voices Against Tar Sands from a Nebraska Landowner

Randy Thompson is a landowner from Nebraska who is fighting TransCanada's attempt to cross his land with the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Randy says, "We didn't think a foreign corporation could actually have the power to come and take our land away from us. We're an agricultural state. If we don't have water, we're out of business." Watch for more on Randy's story.

Voices Against Tar Sands from a Texas Landowner and Welder

Mike Hathorn is a welder and Texas landowner who opposes the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which would run directly through his land. After three years of negotiations against the pipeline, Mike was forced to settle because it was costing him too much in legal fees, saying "Big oil, big money. That's what we were up against." Watch for more on Mike's story.

Voices Against Tar Sands from a Business-owner in the Michigan Tar Sands Oil Spill Area

The tar sands oil spill near Marshall, Michigan closed down the business of Debra Miller and her husband for several months. Deb says, "That pipeline break put a million gallons into our river, changed our communities forever. What is that doing to our tax base and our public safety?" Watch for more on Deb's story.

For more video stories from real people affecting by tar sands, visit our YouTube channel playlist.

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