If the Keystone XL pipeline is approved, 90 percent of the tar sands crude that flows through it will be processed near an embattled Houston neighborhood called Manchester. Residents are joining up to demand a healthier future.
Manchester, one of Houston’s oldest neighborhoods, is surrounded by industry on all sides: a Rhodia chemical plant; a car crushing facility; a water treatment plant; a train yard for hazardous cargo; a Goodyear synthetic rubber plant; oil refineries belonging to Lyondell Basell, Valero, and Texas Petro-Chemicals; as well as one of the busiest highways in the city. Industrial development continues uninterrupted down the Houston Ship Channel for another 50 miles south to the Gulf of Mexico. The refineries around Houston have been called the “keystone to Keystone” because they’re expected to process 90 percent of tar sands crude from Alberta if the controversial Keystone XL pipeline is completed.
It’s one of the most polluted neighborhoods in the U.S., one where smokestacks grace every backyard view. But it’s taking on a new significance as the terminus of Keystone because the pipeline is at the center of the highest-stakes environmental battle in recent years. As international pressure builds, residents are beginning to organize, educate themselves, and speak out for the health of their families.
For them, the struggle over Keystone not a political game. It’s not even about climate change, at least not exclusively. The effects of the pipeline will be right next door.