Proposals to build new crude oil pipelines are an investment in an old and failing energy infrastructure. They reflect a world view that favors short-term profits over the long-term health of local economies and the planet itself. Investors make money off selling refined gas, but shift long-term costs to future generations — costs from destructive oil mining practices, costs from future oil spills, and costs from climate change.
It is no wonder that Native nations and indigenous advocates have lead efforts to stop new crude oil pipelines, as they hold to a world view that considers the impacts of decisions seven generations into the future.
As we head into what is expected to be a frustrating Monday meeting at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) regarding the future of Enbridge Line 3, let’s pause for a moment to reflect on some recent wins. They are a reminder that this work takes years, allies continue the resistance, and we do have victories. Continue reading →
News reports about the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and Keystone XL have faded into the background locally, but resistance continues from Standing Rock to Louisiana.
Here are a few updates:
North Dakota prosecutors dropped felony charges against Chase Iron Eyes for criminal trespass and incitement of a riot. The charges stem from DAPL events in early 2017. Iron Eyes was ready to put on a ‘Necessity Defense.’
A federal judge sided with water protectors who challenged the Trump administration’s fast track approval of a reroute of the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska.
Louisiana authorities are using harsher trespass laws to prosecute water protectors opposing construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, DAPL’s southern extension. A fund-raising concert is planned in Duluth for Saturday, Oct. 13 to raise money for these water protectors.
The bad news is that the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC) today approved the Keystone XL Pipeline through the state on a 3-2 vote. The good news is that it approved an alternative route to the one proposed by TransCanada, a route the company opposes.
Articles from news organizations and environment groups has been quick. An initial article from Politico says this could bring to an end a nearly decades long regulatory battle over the pipeline and Reuters is framing the vote as a win for Trump.
Environmental groups are saying they will continue the fight through the courts and through boycotts. Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, looked for a silver lining in today’s vote:
The Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline was just approved by Nebraska’s Public Service Commission, but there is some good news. The PSC has approved an alternative route that TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, has called unworkable.
That means TransCanada still has multiple hurdles to overcome — so this pipeline may never be built. That gives Sierra Club and our allies the perfect opportunity to fight back by urging banks to stop funding Keystone XL.
And court challenges remain. According to Politico:
The pipeline already is the focus of a court challenge stemming from Trump’s State Department approving the project. A coalition of groups is arguing the State Department did not do due diligence before approving the cross-border pipeline in March. The case is still in the beginning stages, with a decision pending from the U.S. District Court of Montana on a Trump administration motion to dismiss.
Native groups also have opposed Keystone XL. I will add their comments when I get them.
I went to the Parkway Theater last night to watch the premiere of Black Snake Killaz. The documentary had its uplifting moments, but was a reminded that the deck is stacked against water protectors. Treaty rights don’t matter. A lack of adequate environmental review didn’t matter. The government could use military weapons. concussion grenades, mack and more and call the water protectors terrorists. A para-military private security firm was allowed to operate against the water protectors and influence law enforcement’s response, and did so without a license to operate in the state.
I checked my email when I got home and read a news update from MPR, another “stacked deck” story about water protectors.
Nebraska lawmakers gave the five-member commission the power to regulate major oil pipelines in 2011 in response to a public outcry over the pipeline and its potential impact on the Sandhills, an ecologically fragile region of grass-covered sand dunes.
But when they passed the law, legislators argued that pipeline safety is a federal responsibility and should not factor in the state decision.
The law makes no sense and is one more example of a rigged system.
The current Keystone pipeline that runs from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska spilled 5,000 barrels, or more than 200,000 gallons of tar sands crude oil this morning, according to accounts in the Washington Post and other media outlets.
The spill occurred just southeast of the small town of Amherst in northeast South Dakota, affecting either grasslands or agricultural land, the story said.
This gives pipeline opponents one more example to use to try to stop other major projects, such as Keystone XL and Enbridge Line 3 through northern Minnesota.
A story in the Atlantic described the Keystone as a 1,100-mile-long pipeline that links oil fields in Alberta, Canada, to the large crude-trading hubs in Patoka, Illinois, and Cushing, Oklahoma. … It was completed in 2011.”
Keystone is the older sibling to the highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline proposal, which still awaits final approvals. (See map.) TransCanada, a Canadian-based pipeline company, is behind both projects.
During his term, former President Obama rejected Keystone XL. But President Trump quickly reversed that, issuing an executive order to approve it. As the Post reports, the project still needs the approval of the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC). It just so happens the PSC had scheduled a key vote on Keystone XL for Monday.
Activists are citing today’s spill as one more reason to reject Keystone XL.
The approval [by Trump] followed years of intense debate over the pipeline amid hefty opposition from environmental groups, who argued the pipeline supports the extraction of crude oil from oil sands, which pumps about 17% more greenhouse gases than standard crude oil extraction. Environmentalists also opposed the pipeline because it would cut across the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground deposits of fresh water.
Tar sands oil is much thicker and stickier than traditional oil, significantly complicating cleanup efforts. The fact it’s thicker also means it needs to be combined with other hazardous materials to allow it to be transported in pipelines.
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.