North Dakota Pipeline Company LLC Challenges MN Public Utilities Commission's August Decision to Require Enbridge to Investigate Alternate Routes
The North Dakota Pipeline Company recently petitioned for reconsideration of the Public Utilities Commission of Minnesota's decision earlier this fall to force Enbridge to investigate other pipeline routes before any routes would be considered for approval for the proposed Sandpiper Pipeline. The proceedings for Certificate of Need and Routing Permit were divorced by the PUC earlier this year, and rules require these to be pursued separately. The NDPC is petitioning to have those processes rejoined.
Read Honor the Earth's response here.Read more
I wanted to write a story about strength and resilience. I wanted to write a story about the singers, the horse people, and the earth lodge builders of the Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara peoples, the squash and corn, the heartland of agricultural wealth in the Northern Plains. That’s the story I have been wanting to write. But that story is next. The story today is about folly, greed, confusion, unspeakable intergenerational trauma and terrifying consequences, all in a moment in time. That time is now.
For me, this story began at Lake Superior, a place that is sacred to the Anishinaabeg, the source of a fifth of the world’s fresh water. I rode my horse with my family, my community and our allies, from that place, Rice Lake Refuge, to Rice Lake, on my own reservation. Those two lakes are the mother lode of the world’s wild rice. Those two lakes—in fact, the entire region—are threatened by a newly proposed pipeline of fracked oil from what is known as the Bakken Oil Fields of North Dakota, from the homeland of those Arikara people. The pipeline proposed is called the Sandpiper. We rode, but we did not stop. Driven to go to the source, we traveled to North Dakota. That is this story.
RELATED:Three Horseback Journeys Trace Paths of Imminent Pipeline Destruction
Video: A Pipeline and a Promise to the Land
Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara territory lies along the northern Missouri River, a land of gentle rolling hills, immense prairie diversity and the memory of 50 million buffalo. It is today called the Ft. Berthold reservation, and it is known as the sweet spot for Bakken crude oil. About 20 percent of North Dakota’s oil production is coming from this reservation, in a state with 19,000 wells. Lynn Helms, ND Director of Mines, speaks from a panel, telling us that there are 193 drilling rigs in North Dakota—one-sixth of them, or 28, on the Ft. Berthold reservation, 14 on trust lands and l4 on fee lands. There are 1,250 active and producing wells on the reservation, with 2,150 leased and ready to drill. Then, Helms explains, these wells will be in the “harvest phase of production,” soon. Everywhere, it is lit up, as if theLord of the Rings’ Eye of Sauron is sweeping its piercing, deadly gaze across the land.
That is what we see. What we also see is that there’s a huge change in wealth on the reservation.In fact, things have been going so well that the tribal council—which five years ago was facing a $200 million debt—is now well into the black. The tribal chairman (who just lost a primary election), Tex “Chief Red Tipped Arrow” Hall, is rumored to be a millionaire. The tribal council purchased a yacht, a 149-passenger yacht. That is a yacht to take Senators like Heidi Heidkamp and oil company executives out and about on the lake that drowned their culture, and to enjoy the beauty and opulence that many oil rich countries are accustomed to. The yacht sits quietly on a dock by the casino. No fanfare today.
So let us talk about poverty and how North Dakota and the U.S. have treated the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara people historically.It may be true of all Native people in the region. They were the poorest for many years, an unspeakable poverty of loss… intergenerational trauma and the meanness of America… all manifest during the Indian wars and in the smallpox epidemics that wiped out 90 percent of their people. That was crowned by the deepest of destruction—the 1954 Garrison Diversion project, which submerged a people under Lake Sakakawea, taking 152,000 acres of their best land. The dams drowned their villages, drowned their agricultural wealth, drowned their history and rewrote it in America’s manual of agricultural progress. The sense of despair was in some ways manifest in the landmark Dana Deegan case, in which Deegan abandoned and allowed to die her newborn infant, an unspeakable horror. For this she was sentenced to a decade in prison, in a highly controversial federal court decision. (Similar cases involving non-Native women resulted in supervised probation and reduced sentences.)
“The law needs to be changed, and Indians need to be treated the same as their non-Indian neighbors,” Judge Myron Bright, dissenting judge on the federal appeals court, said of the verdict. Bright pointed to the historic trauma and abuse in the Deegan case as the basis for his dissent (SeeFree Dana Deegan). In the end, there is no grief that I can imagine is deeper. Except perhaps the grief that is to come. That is unimaginable. And that grief could either be prevented by tribal leaders, or inherited by their children.
That is part of the question to be asked here. How much does the tribal leadership know about what is going on? And how much do the people know?
Kandi Mossett, a tribal member, along with many other community members like Theodora and Joletta Birdbear, have been fighting it all. They have been trying to protect their community for a decade from new threats and ongoing destruction. This includes the huge Basin Electric coal generation facilities, burning the dirtiest coal in America, just upwind from their villages; oil refinery proposals that have been accelerated through federal processes (when no new oil refineries have been built for decades in the U.S., but tribal sovereignty could shield this one and expedite its process), and then the fracking, the eye of Sauron. The women’s Facebook page,This is Mandaree, contains a wealth of information. They are not alone, but the MHA tribal council has great influence, and money is power.
Known and Unknown
In the Anishinaabe universe there are eight layers of the world—the world in which we live, and those above and below. Most of us live in the world we can see. What we do, however, may intersect with those other worlds.
Fracking oil is a new technology. Despite industry claims, it is a big experiment, made possible because of a perfect storm: an entire lack of federal, state or tribal regulation, and unlimited access to water and air, into which everything is dumped.
The 2005 Energy Policy Act had something in it called the Halliburton Amendment. That amendment exempted the oil and gas industry from most major environmental laws. This includes special exemptions from: the Superfund Act (CERCLA); the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA, which manages hazardous waste); the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act, which maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation's waters; the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Clean Air Act. For the Clean Air Act, the exemptions involve emissions from any oil or gas exploration or production well (with its associated equipment) and emissions from any pipeline compressor or pump. The exemptions have worked out pretty well for industry and, one might argue, for the short-term leaseholder and for royalties. Not so for those trying to protect the environment.
Fort Berthold Reservation Environmental Director Edmund Baker has been a bit challenged in his regulation of the fracking industry. On July 8, what was known as the Crestwood spill was discovered. About a million gallons of radioactive and highly saline water was found leaking from a pipe and headed to a stream and Lake Sakakawea. Industry officials, joined by Hall, talked about how, fortuitously, all had been saved by three beaver dams.Let’s just say that Leave it to Beavermay be a bit of a simplistic environmental protection plan.
RELATED:A Million Gallons of Salty Wastewater Leaks Near Fort Berthold Water Supply
The spill was found. Always a problem, because when something is found, it has usually gone on for quite a while. (After all, the 800,000 gallon oil spill which occurred last year in the Bakken was discovered about two months after it had started seeping out of a quarter size hole in a pipe.) The Crestwood spill is estimated to be well over a million gallons of highly saline and radioactive water. Environmental Director Edmund Baker has not been able to review any of the spill data. It is held by the Tribal Council.
“My officers had asked if they could get copies of the samples….my officers were denied,” Baker said. “I don’t have the data, I don’t have any solid numbers… I never received anything.
RELATED:North Dakota Briny Wastewater Spill Questions Still Unanswered a Month Later
Baker’s job is already difficult, seeing as there are 1,200 or so wells on the reservation and twice as many underway, not to mention a pretty substantial waste stream generated by the fracking industry. Those wastes are not just water, or airborne, but are also radioactive.
RELATED:More Briny Wastewater Spills into Fort Berthold Soil
Death by Lethal Injection
Let’s start with the problem of water. Fracking involves the use of immense amounts of water—hundreds of millions of gallons per well. One company (Southwest Energy Resources) told reporters that what’s involved in fracking is basic chemicals you could find in your house. That would be true, it seems, if you were running a meth lab. Water used by fracking companies is laced with more than 600 toxins and carcinogens. Those chemicals are considered trade secrets and are not subject to scrutiny. This has become a bit of a problem.
Much of that water is being pumped into deep underground caverns, by the trillions of gallons. In Colorado, there is one injection well that holds more than a trillion gallons. Injected. The data from North Dakota are hard to come by, though it is emerging. Colorado’s data, however, has been probed by a host of concerned citizens.
A report released in June by Abrahm Lustgarten of ProPublica found that “Over the past several decades, U.S. industries have injected more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic liquid deep into the earth, using broad expanses of the nation’s geology as an invisible dumping ground.”
During its investigation of the EPA’s oversight of the nation’s injection wells, ProPublica found that the agency was unable to provide basic information to its journalists, such as how many disposal wells fail and how often such failures occur. The investigative news organization also reported that the EPA “has not counted the number of cases of waste migration or contamination in more than 20 years,” and that “the agency often accepts reports from state injection regulators that are partly blank, contain conflicting figures or are missing data.”
Shane Davis directs a Colorado organization called Fractivist, and he traveled with us on our trip. Colorado is a few years down the road in fracking. That is, there are 54,000 wells presently in Colorado, and in Weld County, where Shane lived, there were 22,000 wells, some 75 of them within a mile radius from his house. Shane got sick from the wells. At least, he described a set of serious rashes, going blind for a week, serious gastrointestinal problems, and a year and a half of bloody noses. Then he got angry.
“I conducted an investigative study using un-redacted, official COGCC spill/release reports and found that 43 percent of all oil and gas related spills resulted in groundwater contamination with chemicals like benzene, toluene, xylene, ethyl-benzene and many more in Weld County, Colorado,” he said
Simply stated, once water has been used in fracking, it is no longer living water. It is dead, and it is lethal. A biologist by training, Davis got his findings confirmed by Colorado agencies in 2013.
“Colorado’s largest aquifer was also contaminated by thermogenic methane and toluene in 2009,” he explained to me. “The aquifer was never cleaned, the oil and gas operator was fined $46,200 and the public was never informed by the state about this atrocity. Citizens drank benzene contaminated water, people’s homes have abandoned oil and gas wells in their back yards and they do not know about them, homes have been built on top of abandoned wells which leaked gases that subsequently exploded and sent the occupants to the burn center. Billions and billions of gallons of toxic, endocrine disrupting chemicals have been discharged in Colorado’s rivers, lands and airways for years with no end in sight…”
An interesting question was asked by reporters Joel Dyer and Jefferson Dodge in the Boulder Weekly: “With more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic waste having been injected into the inner Earth, what happens if our belief that what goes down can’t come up is wrong?”
Next:Bakken Gas Flares Away, as Nationwide Propane Shortage Kills With Hypothermia
I came to New York to join 300, 000 people on the streets of Manhattan demanding climate justice. We came from White Earth, and our Anishinaabe Akiing, to repeat our messages: Love Water not Oil – no pipelines, tankers or fracking. Nothing should come to our Great Lakes, the heartland of North America, and the source of one-fifth of the world’s water. We know what it is that we are doing at home. We know that we are working hard to defeat the Enbridge Sandpiper proposal, and other proposals which would result in up to 4 million barrels of oil a day crossing our Anishinaabe Akiing, our northern Minnesota territory. We know that policy makers are here in New York City, and we know our allies are here. So we are as well.
My sons and I, along with other Anishinaabe people came to New York and walked with the 300, 000+ people that took to the streets yesterday. We joined with and listened to women from the Blackfeet reservation, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Territory, and Mic Mac territory in New Brunswick, Canada, tell the stories of fracking – or of the battle against fracking. It is heartbreaking. It is heartbreaking to see our Mother Earth become filled with over 600 toxic chemicals, and explosions under ground for extreme oil. It is heartbreaking to see our peoples’ rights signed away to corporations, and it is heart breaking to see 300 armed RCMP officers in Canada surround a Native woman opposing fracking, holding only an eagle feather, and kneeling on the ground.
We heard Ella Maja Tailfeathers’ story from the Blood Reserve in Canada, where half of their reserve was signed away to fracking by a corrupt and unaccountable first nation government. We heard her story of an arrest, by tribal police, lateral oppression, gender oppression and destruction of land. We heard and joined with Kandi Mossett from the Mandan, Arikara and Hidatsa Nation in North Dakota, to talk about the destruction of land and people, and the sex trafficking and radioactivity coming to that territory. We heard, and we vowed to continue our struggle with these people, and these communities. Our pipeline opposition is joined now with the opposition to fracking.
Honor the Earth’s work on the proposed Enbridge Sandpiper line is directly related to the front lines of the fracking struggles, as the oil proposed to move in the line is from the fracking zones. We went to North Dakota and Mandan territory last month to stand with the Hunkpapa Lakota people to create a moratorium and ban on proposed fracking in their territory, and we came to Ft. Berthold to begin laying the ground work for environmental research and remediation, as well as to change the balance of power in that community. Recent tribal elections have begun that change at a political level, and we will work on the ground with the people.
We came to New York to feel the power of a citizen’s movement, and to see Indigenous people joining together, flanked by celebrities, at the front of a 300,000 people climate march – leading a voice for climate action and climate justice. We know that our voices must be heard, in a national forum, an international forum, and in our own territories. We are thankful for the courage of all of our people, and we are thankful that we are here, and will continue our work. Miigwech (thank you) for your support.Read more
Fort Chipewyan to Move Forward on First Solar Project
Fort Chipewyan, Alberta – Fort Chipewyan, which lies downstream from tar sands development, has started to move forward on a different type of energy source this time from the sun. From September 16th to September 22nd solar panels will be installed on the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Elder and Youth Lodge with an official ribbon cutting ceremony to take place on September 19th.
The installation will be the first of many projects that will be constructed in the region. Keepers of the Athabasca who hope this project will be an example; especially to other tar sands impacted First Nation communities, of the benefits solar can bring to communities supported the solar initiative.
What: Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for first solar installation project.
Where: Fort Chipewyan, Alberta.
When: September 19th, 12:00 p.m.
Who: Member of ACFN, son and father solar installers Sid and Jerry Paschen and supporters.
“While we continue to stand-up for the rights and health of our members we must also be actively seeking solutions,” said Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. “We are proud to help lead the way and hopefully this is only one of many solar projects we hope to bring to our community and the province.”
“The possibilities for solar in Alberta are almost endless,” said Jesse Cardinal with Keepers of the Athabasca. “First Nation communities especially ones that are isolated and reliant on diesel for power stand to benefit the most from a transition. These panels are an example of the type of solutions our communities should be implementing ones that create jobs, lower energy costs and don’t hurt the environment to do it.”
For More Information Contact:
Greg Adams, ACFN Housing and Special Projects: 780-838-6405
Jesse Cardinal, Keepers of the Athabasca: 780-404-5053Read more
Honor the Earth rallies at Enbridge offices; Group opposed to proposed Sandpiper pipeline
By Zach Kayser on Aug 29, 2014 at 12:01 a.m.
BEMIDJI -- An environmental group opposed to the future Sandpiper oil pipeline held a rally Thursday... at the Bemidji offices of the energy company planning to operate the pipeline.
Honor the Earth, opposed to the multi-billion dollar pipeline proposed by Calgary-based Enbridge Energy, held a rally/press event just outside Enbridge's offices in the city's industrial park.Read more
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
3:00 PM Press Conference Thursday, August 28th
@ Enbridge Energy Bemidji Area Office
1129 Industrial Park Dr SE, Bemidji, MN
BEMIDJI, MINNESOTA – Wednesday, August 27th, Winona LaDuke, Executive Director of Honor the Earth, successfully completes 200 mile horse ride against the proposed Enbridge Sandpiper fracking oil pipeline. Partnering with the leadership for the campaign is Shane Davis, Executive Director Fractivist.org, an oil and gas analyst from Colorado.
LaDuke and her team will be holding a press conference this Thursday, August 28th, at 3PM CST at the Enbridge headquarters, 1129 Industrial Park Drive SE, Bemidji, MN56601.
The epic horseback journey traversed SandyLake and RiceLake watersheds, the mother lode for wild rice in Minnesota. The proposed pipeline would divide the traditional wild rice beds from East to West.
Michael Dahl, Anishinaabe spiritual leader and rider explained, “This is the same path our ancestors walked. Now we are riding in those same footsteps. We are here to protect this land for future generations.”
LaDuke says “Enbridge chose a bad path. The people of Minnesota love their water more than oil and they are standing up against the pipeline. A single leak in the pipeline could discharge 20,000 gallons of fracking oil per minute. This could lead to an environmental catastrophe.”
Honor the Earth is gathering at the Bemidji headquarters of Enbridge to say no to any pipelines going through their lands. LaDuke will be onsite for questions and answers and invites all landowners that would be affected by the fracking oil pipeline, grassroots organizations, general public and all media outlets to attend.
This event is to inform the communities, and affected landowners, about the organization’s recent and upcoming activity for the STOP the Sandpiper campaign. All communities, grassroots organizations, affected landowners, and Enbridge are invited to attend.
(612) 385 - 1557
Miigwech (thank you)Read more
Love our land, people and all that we are.
Riding the proposed pipeline route again today.. This herd of about 200 horses was along our way late last week. They came to see our horses, and I remembered how the horse nation is so powerful. The sound of their hooves heals and resonates with our Mother Earth. I remember something Chief Frank Fools Crow said, " The saddest thing is not an Indian who is not free, the saddest thing is an Indian who does not remember when he was free." or some words like that. I heard another woman say talk about ecological amnesia. When we forget that we had rice there, or when we forget that the frogs used to sing, or when we forget that there were tall trees there. We cannot forget, and we need to reaffirm those beings, and keep them strong and in our lives.. all around us. That is what this is about. The rights of life, of Mother Earth to continue an existence unencumbered by corporate greed. FTP.. By the way. And have a good day. Prayers for the people the rice, Mother Earth and the horses.. and the water.
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By Winona LaDuke
Lorraine Little of the Enbridge Co. keeps telling regulators and the public that 96 percent of the landowners along the proposed route of the Sandpiper Bakken oil pipeline are friendly and supportive. I don’t believe it.
That might be because of comments submitted to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission: Some 459 opposed the pipeline route, while 37 were proponents of the route. Of those opponents, 387 expressed environmental concerns, 131 expressed concerns about the tribal impact and 347 wanted an alternative route, outside of the lakes. (Remember Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., came out opposing the pipeline a couple of weeks ago, and some 20 state representatives expressed deep concerns about the pipeline process at the PUC.)
BEMIDJI, Minn. -- An environmental group took to the water Friday to protest a proposed oil pipeline in northern Minnesota. About 20 members of Honor the Earth, an environmental advocacy group, hosted a "Paddle Against the Sandpiper" canoe and press event Friday on and near Lake Bemidji.Read more