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Texas Keystone XL hearings draw very different crowds in Austin, Port Arthur

Port Arthur, Tex., is the end of the line for TransCanada’s proposed pipeline for tar sands oil, Keystone XL, and a public hearing there drew a “massive” crowd of supporters Tuesday, according to the Beaumont Enterprise.

In the cradle of the Texas petroleum industry, the Enterprise reported the only concerns raised for much of the meeting were that the U.S. State Department has taken too long to OK the pipeline from Canada, and that Southeast Texans might miss out on the bounty of jobs sure to flow along with the oil:

Members of the Teamsters Union, Labor International Union of North America and other labor groups were heavily represented Monday in Port Arthur, and without exception urged the State Department to sign off on the project, which has been under consideration since TransCanada applied for a permit in 2008.

“It’s not a pipeline; it’s a lifeline,” Josh Adams with the Labor International Union of North America said.

After a summer of mass protest outside the White House, and anti-Keystone sentiment at the week’s other public hearings, the scene was something of an anomaly.

A few environmentalist groups and concerned residents did speak up at the meeting, but at the University of Texas at Austin Thursday, though, they grabbed the headlines again.

As at other State Department hearings this week, the crowd included environmentalists, students and landowners troubled by the pipeline encroaching on their property.

More than 100 people spoke to “representatives of the State Department,” according to the Austin American-Statesman, including state Rep. James White (R-Hillister), who the Enterprise reported also attended the hearing in Port Arthur.

The progressive group Public Citizen’s blog included a photo of a man it said had been arrested for “criminal trespass” after criticizing how the meeting had been managed — specifically, that they’ve been organized not by the State Department, but by a TransCanada subcontractor called Cardno Entrix. As ThinkProgress pointed out, Cardno is running the hearings and maintaining a website for public input on the pipeline, but has also prepared TransCanada’s reports to the State Department, in what the blog calls a “stunning conflict of interest.”

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