DAPL’s First Leak, Minnesota’s Own Pipeline Problem

File photo.

Well, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) isn’t fully operational yet, but it had its first spill, 84 gallons of crude oil near one of its pump stations, according a story in The Guardian. It might not seem like a lot, but think what it would look like to take the hose off a gas station pump and hold the handle down so that it spilled enough gas to fill about eight sedans. (But in this case we’re talking crude oil.)

And this is when the line is brand new!

Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the Texas-based company building DAPL, has other troubles out east. In a rush to finish its Rover natural gas pipeline in Ohio, Indian Country Today reports that ETP “spilled about two million of gallons of drilling materials in two separate accidents into two of Ohio’s few remaining wetlands.”

“Energy Transfer Partners has dumped millions of gallons of a milkshake-like substance into pristine wetlands,” said Jenn Miller, director of the Sierra Club of Ohio. “This will have massive impacts on the plant, fish and amphibian species there.”

One-third of Ohio’s endangered species rely on wetlands for habitat and survival, Miller said.

Click on the story link to see a photo of how bad the spill is.

Meanwhile, resistance to such projects continues. Indian Country Today reports on a unique alliance of Nebraska tribes, ranchers, and landowners that are resisting Keystone XL and other fossil fuel developments. Keystone XL will pass through traditional Ponca lands, lands that were taken from them. They still consider these ancestral lands as part of their culture and traditions.

On April 29, members of the Ponca Tribe began a remembrance walk to commemorate their forced removal from their traditional lands in the 1870s, the story said. The planned 12-day walk covered the 273 miles from Niobrara, Nebraska, to Barneston.

“Knowing how painful it was to have that land taken away from us, we can empathize with those farmers that own that land today. We know what it’s like to be told somebody’s going to take your property away,” said Larry Wright, Ponca Tribal Chairman of Nebraska. …

For the past three years, members of … various groups have been gathering in Neligh, Nebraska, to plant Ponca sacred corn where the pipeline’s route crosses the trail the tribe was forced to take away from their homeland. They sow the corn by hand, following principles of prayer rooted in a deep respect for the land.

Minnesota, you are next up in the efforts to stop pipelines from threatening our signature lakes and rivers. Enbridge, a energy transportation company, is proposing to abandon an old and failing tar sands pipeline through northern Minnesota and wants to install a new and larger pipeline, including a significant route change. The 337-mile pipeline, called Enbridge Line 3,  would pass through the Mississippi headwaters region and through traditional Anishinaabe wild rice areas.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce is expected to release a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Tuesday, May 16. The EIS should draw media attention and elevate the public debate over this project. There is expected to be a 60-day public comment period.  More information coming soon on how to get involved. For more background, see the Enbridge Line 3 Page of our blog.

As DAPL Construction is on Fast Track, Minnesota and Texas Also Face Pipeline Threats

“Energy Transfer Partners has finished drilling under Lake Oahe and will soon be laying pipe under the Missouri River reservoir,” according to a story by Minnesota Public Radio. As legal challenges to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) linger in court, the oil could start flowing in two weeks.

Meanwhile, Native peoples in West Texas are trying to stop an Energy Transfer Partners natural gas pipeline project that crosses under the Rio Grande. Minnesotans are gearing up to stop a proposed pipeline expansion that would increase the flow of high-polluting tar sands through the state.

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Secret DAPL Analysis Withheld from Tribes: Government Memo Spotlights Flawed Process

In the waning days of the Obama administration, the top lawyer for the U.S. Department of Interior wrote about significant flaws in the permitting process for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) easement under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe. The government had not honored federal trust responsibilities to consult with Native nations. Worse, the government had kept key environmental analysis secret, unavailable for review by Native nations and the general public. Worse yet, some of the analysis was simply inaccurate — and since it was secret it couldn’t be challenged.

The 38-page memo is from Hilary Tompkins, the Department of Interior’s solicitor, to the Secretary. The conclusion is this:

[T]here is ample legal justification for the Corps to exercise its discretion to suspend or revoke the existing Section 408 permit and/or postpone a decision on the proposed easement conditional on additional analysis
and government-to-government consultation concerning the tribal-specific issues discussed in this Memorandum … If the Corps ultimately does decide to authorize the easement, additional tribal consultation is necessary to develop conditions for the authorization that will protect the Tribes’ rights and interests in and around Lake Oahe. (page 35)

Disturbingly, the Dec. 4 memo details problems with the government’s process that until recently have been hidden.

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DAPL Rorschach Test: Pope Appears to Back Standing Rock While Pipeline Exec Sees Terrorists

Pope Francis appeared to back the Standing Rock Nation’s efforts to block the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), “saying indigenous cultures have a right to defend ‘their ancestral relationship to the earth,'” according to a story published Wednesday in Reuters.

While [the Pope] did not name the pipeline, he used strong and clear language applicable to the conflict, saying development had to be reconciled with “the protection of the particular characteristics of indigenous peoples and their territories”.  …

Speaking in Spanish, Francis said the need to protect native territories was “especially clear when planning economic activities which may interfere with indigenous cultures and their ancestral relationship to the earth”.

Some comments on a listserve of Native American scholars and allies took the Pope to task for being a late comer, noting that the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) passed in 2007. (In fairness to Francis, he did not become Pope until 2013.)

Pope Francis’ statement stands in stark contrast to an oil company executive who is comparing the DAPL protestors to terrorists, according to a Wednesday story in Minnesota Public Radio. Joey Mahmoud, executive vice president of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, made his comments at a hearing before a U.S. House energy subcommittee, it said. Continue reading

DAPL Economics: Investor Concerns and Market Forces Work Against the Project

Opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is having an impact, even on the mainstream financial sector.

Give Steven Heim and Boston Common Asset Management part of the credit.

Heim is not a name you will recognize, but he is an important behind-the-scenes player. He works for the Boston Common Asset Management, a company committed to the “global commons” and “dedicated to the pursuit of financial return and social change…”

According to Tim Brennan, Treasurer and CFO of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), a community opposed to the pipeline, Heim “has been a leader in getting investors organized around DAPL.”

Here is the background on how Heim and Boston Common have been working to stop DAPL, and other updates from the financial sector. Continue reading

DAPL, Standing Rock are Becoming National Metaphor and Model

p1010103Standing Rock is becoming a national model for opposing oil pipelines. Read a story about a oil pipeline controversy in other parts of the country and it will reference DAPL or Standing Rock.

For example, here is a Jan. 4 story from Folio Weekly, a Florida-based magazine, with the headline: Florida’s Own STANDING ROCK. It concerns the Sabal Trail Transmission, a gas pipeline that crosses Alabama, Georgia and Florida. According to the story:

The $3.2 billion project crosses 13 counties in Florida and more than 700 bodies of water, including the Withlacoochee, Suwannee, and Santa Fe rivers. The EPA approved the project despite its concerns about the pipeline’s path through 177 acres of conservation areas, including the Green Swamp and Rainbow Springs in Florida. …

Similar to Standing Rock, people in Florida worry about the potential leaks and their impact on drinking water. Pipeline opponents have adopted the Standing Rock term “water protectors” and created a Water Is Life Camp near the Santa Fe River.

Wisconsin’s Chippewa Tribe also is fighting a pipeline battle, according to a Jan. 6 MPR story:

The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s tribal council voted Wednesday to refuse to renew several easement rights of way for Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline that expired in 2013….

The Bad River Band’s decision comes amid an ongoing protest over the Dakota Access Pipeline in which the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribes have argued the project threatens drinking water and tribal cultural sites.

Click on the story for details.

More updates on DAPL and environmental justice issues follow. Continue reading

DAPL’s Financial Risks Raise Red Flags on Wall Street; Banks Behind DAPL Hire Independent Human Rights Expert

(Credit: Wikimedia)
(Credit: Wikimedia)

We wrote Thursday about how the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is engaged in shareholder advocacy around the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The ELCA is one of several religious organizations raising moral questions of corporate social responsibility regarding DAPL.

In a new turn of events, Wall Street, too, is raising red flags about DAPL. Financial markets are simply looking at the bottom line, apparently becoming skittish of companies investing in the pipeline because of unidentified financial risks. They are asking tough questions, according to Bloomberg, a business news service.

The following is an excerpt from a Dec. 1 Bloomberg story headlined: Investors Take Stand on Dakota Access Pipeline:

Investors concerned about the Dakota Access Pipeline have started submitting shareholder proposals to the energy companies building the pipeline as well as to the lenders behind it, urging the companies to better disclose the risks to their business from the controversial investment.

The third largest U.S. pension plan, the $178.6 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund, is one of the investors leading the charge.

Click on the link above for the full story. It’s hard to know how optimistic to be about these reports, but we’ll take the good news where we can get it.

Meanwhile, companies providing credit for the pipeline seem concerned about potential risks, too. For more positive news, keep reading. Continue reading