FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
On November l2, 2014, Honor the Earth joined with the White Earth Nation, the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Indigenous Environmental Network in a lawsuit against the US State Department. The suit challenges the State Department’s intent to issue a permit to the Enbridge Company to bring tar sands oil into the US prior to completion of an Environmental Impact Statement. The pipeline proposal -- a switch of line between the new Alberta Clipper pipeline the sixty year-old line Three causes what plaintiffs call a “mockery of federal law” by allowing the company to bypass regulation and use an older line to move the oil.
While most national attention has been on the proposed Keystone Pipeline, the Alberta Clipper line is the largest tar sands pipeline crossing into the US border, and is not able to be at full capacity because the State Department announced in 2012 that it would prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. No EIS has been completed.
The Alberta tar sands are an example of what is termed “extreme oil” derived from a very complex, and ecologically destructive process which has had devastating impacts on the First Nations of the Athabascan Chipewayan, Cree and Dene people of the north. Dramatic increases in cancer and major health problems are attributed to their villages and their hunting and fishing territories being devastated by tar sands extractions. Tar sands oil uses 3.1 barrels of fresh water for every barrel of oil produced, and has created the largest lake of toxic water in the world, and is considered the most damaging oil in climate change. Because of the highly controversial expansion of tar sands oil, the campaign to oppose the Alberta Clipper expansion has grown significantly in the Great Lakes Region. In fact, with Keystone XL still delayed, Alberta Clipper is widely seen as the most important and immediate pipeline battle, and thus much of the U.S. tar sands campaign has been shifting its focus to this project. With the mid term elections, it is likely that both pipelines will be on the front burner.
The expansion of the Alberta Clipper pipeline would allow land-locked oil to get to Superior, the furthest inland port in the US, and to refineries and markets. Lack of pipelines has delayed some of the largest mining expansions in the tar sands, and in late September, the second major proposed tar sands mine in Alberta was cancelled, due in part to the lack of export pipelines.
Here in Anishinaabe Akiing, the north country, the Anishinaabeg have opposed primarily the newly proposed Sandpiper( Bakken oil) line, but in this case, the White Earth Band has joined with Honor the Earth noting that the Clipper impacts the l855 area of the Anishinaabe and the Great Lakes region, home to a fifth of the world’s fresh water. In addition, since this pipeline crosses an international border, the US State Department is required to have nation-to-nation consultations with Native first nations on the impact of their decisions, as has been the case in the Keystone XL pipeline proposal, but no consultation has taken place.
Instead, on June 16, 2014, Enbridge informed the State Department that due to “the unforeseen Line 67 Project permitting delay at the Department of over a year,” it had a proposal to immediately increase the capacity of Alberta Clipper before the State Department finished its NEPA review. Enbridge proposed to build interconnections between Line 67 and the adjacent Line 3 pipeline on both sides of the border; transferring Alberta Clipper’s flow to Line 3 just before the U.S.-Canada border where it would cross the border; and then back to Alberta Clipper once inside the U.S. Line 3 is an aging pipeline built in 1968, which never underwent any NEPA review, and which Enbridge claims does not have a capacity limitation in its permit as Alberta Clipper and most other pipelines do. Enbridge claims that because the State Department only has jurisdiction over the actual border crossing, it can execute this plan without the Department’s permission. The State Department has refused to provide the public with the key document that would show whether Line 3 does have a capacity limitation. The Minnesota Chippewa Treaties are unique in their application and are currently being evoked by tribes to ensure protection of their rights as tribal members.
Safety Remains a Concern for the Ojibwe
There have already been 804 Enbridge spills. Tar sands oil is 15-20 times more acidic than conventional oil and up to seven times as viscous (thicker). Tar sands oil is sixteen times more likely to breach a pipeline than regular crude oil. A spill in the Alberta Clipper Line, if operating at capacity could result in 25, 667 gallons per minute of oil spilling into Anishinaabe Akiing- whether the land of the Red Lake, Leech Lake or Fond du Lac reservations (all crossed by the Clipper), or the l855 treaty area.
Canada’s National Energy Board has stated that Enbridge is not complying with safety standards at 117 of its pumping stations. In their recent letter to Enbridge they requested compliance. The lawsuit points to these concerns, and the need for a full Environmental Impact Statement before issuance of any permit. “Nations should follow their own laws”, Joe Plumer of the White Earth General Counsel explained to the press.