Keystone XL: Pipelines, Property Rights And The Film Making Sense Of It All

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The final construction of the Keystone XL pipeline carrying Canadian tar sands to the US has been back burner issue for progressives and conservatives alike with periodic twists, turns and spills. The consistent delay of its approval by the Obama Administration, or more specifically the State Department has pushed the stalemate into year 3, but in many ways it is still a victory for environmentalists and advocates of clean American energy. As recently as last week Vice President Joe Biden expressed his opposition, while Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ramped up his new lobby group to promote its construction.

I was first introduced to TransCanada and their plans to pump bitumen from the Boreal forests of Alberta, Canada to my own backyard in Port Arthur, Texas for refinement in 2010. The Sierra Club contacted me about getting local citizens to testify at public hearings. All of a sudden my home county was caught in the middle of international energy policy. It was not a case as simple as progressives against and conservatives for it, there are legitimate landowner rights at issue here.

That's where the filmmakers of Above All Else come in. They have been following the unfolding story of Keystone XL through the experiences of Texas landowners, most notably David Daniel. Daniel started a tree-sit on his property which resulted in the Canadian company rerouting the pipeline around his land. I spoke with the Director and Producer John Fiege, whose films have been featured from Austin Film Festival to Cannes, about the overwhelming amount of data and and numbers of angles to approach the subject. I expressed my interest in covering the issue more but such a daunting task has led me down more rabbit holes than it has produced cohesive and informative but digestible articles. He agreed and said that was a large part of why he chose to tell the story of this group of landowners. The films website describes the film as follows:

Learn more about the film with a link to footage after the jump…

“ABOVE ALL ELSE is an intimate portrait of a group of landowners and activists in East Texas who tried to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which is slated to carry tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. Through their journeys, the film tells the story of how the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline has affected the larger fight against climate change. The film's characters risk financial ruin, their personal safety, and their relationships with the people they hold most dear. Their stories become both an exploration of the human spirit and a window into how social change happens in America.”

You can read a great indepth interview with John about “Above All Else” just published at Truthout. The film is in its final production stages but needs help to get it completed. You can help by supporting their kickstarter, but do it now, there are only 6 days left!


About Author

Joe Deshotel

Joe was born and raised in Beaumont, Tx, but live music and politics brought him to Austin. He has worked in and around government and elections for over a decade including for a member of US Congress, the Texas Legislature, the Mayor of Austin. He currently serves as Communications Director for the Travis County Democratic Party. He is most interested in transportation, energy and technology issues. He also likes Texas Hold'em and commuting on his electric skateboard. Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

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