Our concerns about the “Enbridge Alberta Clipper Expansion”

Photo by:  Marty Cobenais

In the North, our land and water - lifeblood of the Anishinaabeg peoples - sustains and nourishes us. One-fifth of the world's fresh surface water supply lies here and it is worth protecting. But our land and water are being threatened by:

  • Enbridge pipelines transporting ever larger amounts of Tar Sands oil (and also toxic lighter “diluents”) across Minnesota.
  • Including permits sought by Calumet Refinery to ship oil on Lake Superior.

Our sacred "Wild Rice Beds,” Lakes and Rivers are precious and our Regional Fisheries generate $7.2 billion annually and support 49,000 jobs. But now Enbridge Inc., responsible for the largest on-land spill in U.S. history, wants to increase the amount of Alberta Tar Sands Diluted Bitumen (DilBit) in its Alberta Clipper pipeline to a maximum of 880,000 barrels a day. Already 1.7 million barrels of oil flow through and across Minnesota daily, but even this is not enough. Increasing the amount of Alberta Tar Sands Diluted Bitumen through Minnesota holds with it an unacceptable level of environmental risks.

Alberta Clipper Plans

The Alberta Clipper pipeline (Line 67) was built through our land in 2009, over the opposition of many concerned people. Also at the same time, Enbridge built another pipeline, a “diluent” pipeline that transports toxic lighter hydrocarbons back into Canada. The two pipelines form a loop; the Clipper moves heavy Alberta Tar Sands Diluted Bitumen mixed with diluents Southerly to Chicago, while the “diluent” line returns the proprietary diluents Northerly for reuse.

 After much discussion and in a very controversial set of decisions, both the Leech Lake and Fond-du-Lac Bands of Ojibwe signed twenty year agreements with Enbridge back in 2008, allowing both pipelines to be built through their territory. The Tribal Council routed the lines to protect wild rice beds and people. With the Alberta Clipper and the diluent line, there are now six Enbridge pipelines crossing these two territories. In addition, Enbridge’s four older pipelines have no easement across, yet they trespass on Red Lake ceded land. The Leech Lake Ojibwe have suffered through one major spill.

These agreements allow Enbridge Inc., to transport 450,000 barrels a day (bpd) of heavy Alberta Tar Sands Diluted Bitumen in the Clipper pipeline, with potential expansions up to 880,000 bpd. As for the diluent line, the initial capacity was set at 180,000 bpd, with later expansions up to 330,000 bpd. But in 2010, Enbridge Inc., experienced the largest on-land spill in the USA, spilling 850,000 gallons into a creek and river near Kalamazoo, Michigan. The National Transportation Board found the company had “pervasive organizational failures” with inadequate training of first responders and inadequate review of spill response plans by regulatory agencies.

Many Anishinaabeg peoples and other Northerners are also concerned about the growing environmental impact of extracting oil from Tar Sands which includes the Athabascan River system. Heavy Alberta Tar Sands Diluted Bitumen is considered to be the most environmentally destructive oil including a huge threat to land, water, and climate change impacts.

As well, climate scientists refer to full exploitation of the Tar Sands oil, from well to wheel as “game over” for the climate.  According to 350.org founder, Mr. Bill McKibben, only three per cent of this heavy Alberta Tar Sands Diluted Bitumen has been extracted, largely due to the remote location of the Alberta Tar Sands - in a pristine ecosystem of the Dene and Cree peoples.

The construction of new and expansion of current pipelines are essential to getting the Tar Sands oils to market; rail infrastructure is far less developed and only moves a minor amount. TransCanada’s Keystone XL and the Enbridge Albert Clipper expansion, both of which are mitigated by Canadian owned companies, are competitive projects vying to open up the Tar Sands fields to export markets worldwide.

Proposed Pipeline Plans for moving Tar Sands Oil

The Enbridge “Northern Gateway” pipeline proposal is designed to reach the Pacific Coast but has been temporarily sidetracked by Canada’s First Nation peoples and by the Provincial Government in British Columbia; it’s fate now rests with the Federal government in Ottawa.

The TransCanada “Keystone XL” proposed pipeline has encountered a huge groundswell of public resistance within North America, with the effect of delaying approval from the US Secretary of State and President Obama.  It’s been five years since the Canadian company, TransCanada Corporation, first applied for an international permit to build the project.  Plans to move heavy Alberta Tar Sands Diluted Bitumen along the proposed 1,200 mile long pipeline, ending in Steele City, Nebraska, will only help further the development of the Tar Sands, and contribute significantly to climate change with global carbon emissions, destruction of delicate ecosystems, higher pollutant levels in water and the atmosphere in which we all depend upon.  Opposition to the permit approval is growing each day.

The Enbridge “Sandpiper” proposed pipeline estimated to be 610 miles in length from Beaver Lodge Station, just south of Tioga, ND, to Superior, Wisconsin.  According to the Indigenous Environmental Network, the proposed Sandpiper Southern route is proposed to follow the Minnesota Pipelines from Clearbrook to Park Rapids, MN.  This route would go to the South of the Fond-du-Lac Reservation, a route that would invade several established tribal areas that provide tribal members hunting and gathering right from the 1854 Treaty.  Enbridge states, “a minimum of 24-inch diameter” pipeline in its proposal, however a 36-inch or larger pipeline could occur instead citing the development boom of the Bakken Oil play in North Dakota.  This proposal is currently in the works and Enbridge is promoting it across Minnesota, it will carry an estimated 375,000 barrels a day from Clearbrook, MN to Superior, Wisconsin.  We believe based on evidence of spill history and lack of effective clean-up that Enbridge first address the public’s growing concerns over their failure of protecting our lands, rather than been given approval for another pipeline project.

How to Take Action, what you can do to help

Support Honor the Earth’s Ride For Mother Earth, along the pipeline route of the Line 67 expansion.

Build a grassroots movement to oppose this Enbridge pipeline. Learn about it, then tell others, talk to people along the pipeline and in every Minnesota County. Request a speaker from Minnesota 350 (MN350) or Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN).

Hold public protests, write letters to your local newspaper editor opposing these developments.

If you live along Enbridge pipelines, call your County Commissioner and say “NO” to this latest increase – designed for EXPORT, not Minnesota.

When the regulatory agencies have open comment periods, write comments and attend public hearings. Minnesota Public Utilities Commission – hearings expected in winter 2013/2014.

Research these pipelines on the internet. Use “Google" and search term under: Kalmazoo, Mayflower, and AK pipeline spills.

Use less fuel – our Minnesota fuel is drawn from these pipelines.

In Minnesota, MN350, IEN and the Sierra Club are working on this, and Honor the Earth intends to support this work.

Please get involved, join with any of these groups.

The Public Utilities Commission and Agencies you can Contact 

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved the first of two expansions to the Alberta Clipper in July, 2013. The second and larger expansion (from 570,000 barrels a day to the full loaded capacity of 880,000 barrels a day) has now been side tracked into a “Contested Case Hearing,” due to local citizen outcry and written comments contesting facts presented by Enbridge during their application to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

There will be public hearings during the second expansion, and an open written comment period in winter; please participate - watch for the announcement in your local paper or check back here in November for the dates. Sign up with our eBulletin for updates and action alerts and we will notify you of the estimated hearing dates.

Several other Minnesota entities, the Department of Natural Resources, the Pollution Control Agency, and the State Historical Preservation Office also will have to approve this Alberta Clipper expansion. Take note of their contact information below:

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

DNR Central Office

500 Lafayette Road

St. Paul, MN 55155-4040

Phone:  651-296-6157, Toll Free: 888-646-6367


TTY 651-296-5484 and 1-800-657-3929

 Pollution Control Agency520 Lafayette Road NorthSaint Paul, Minnesota55115Phone:  Metro: 651-296-6300 Greater MN: 1-800-657-3864

Website:  http://www.pca.state.mn.us  citizensboard.pca@state.mn.us

State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)

Minnesota Historical Society

345 Kellogg Blvd. W.

St. Paul, MN 55102-1903

Phone:  651-259-3450

Fax:  651-282-2374


Also, the Red Lake Soil and Water Conservation District and the City of Floodwood will have to give their permission for the expansion to go through. They will need to hear from constituents.  Please contact:

Red Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District

2602 Wheat Drive

Red Lake Falls, MN 56750

Phone:  218-253-2593

Red Lake Soil and Water Conservation District Manager


City of Floodwood

City Council

111 West 8th Ave.

PO Box 348

Floodwood, MN 55736

Phone:  218-476-2751

City of Floodwood Administrator, Jess Rich


At the federal level, there are permits needed from the President, the Department of State, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Fish &Wildlife Service.  These are federal trust decisions.

U.S. Department of State

www.state.gov (please visit their website)

Click below to write and comment directly


Sample Letter to use when submitting to those Agencies: 






Re:  Protect Minnesota Lands and Waters from Tar Sands pipelines

I, the undersigned, do hereby submit my comments and concerns regarding new developments and expansions of existing pipelines in the State of Minnesota.

Specifically, the Enbridge Alberta Clipper Pipeline, known as Line 67.  I hereby oppose and aim to draw attention to the expansion proposal put forth by Enbridge, which would make it the largest Tar Sands pipeline of current pipelines.  The expansion is under consideration at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, and Enbridge is asking Minnesota Agencies and tribal governments to approve this expansion.

The Line 67 pipeline already impacts the Leech Lake and Fond-du-Lac communities.  Leech Lake alone has had five documented leaks within its boundaries over the last 11 years.  Any further expansionary planning would increase the risk of a likely rupture or spill.  Tar Sands is heavy diluted bitumen and is highly acidic, toxic and corrosive even to existing let alone, new pipelines.

I hereby oppose the expansion of Line 67 offered by Enbridge Limited Partnership, including the proposed Sandpiper pipeline, both of which will have a negative environmental effect on our valuable ecosystem within the State of Minnesota.


[Insert full name]

Sign and join our Petition against Line 67 expansion

You may also sign a Petition opposing the expansion of Line 67 here in Minnesota, thereby letting our public representative along with President Obama and the Secretary of State, that any new expansion to the existing Alberta Clipper pipeline through Minnesota is a bad idea.   Click here to sign now.

The Risk Increases

 The Alberta Clipper contains increasing amounts of dilbit, a mixture of bitumen (a thick oil substance) from the Tar Sands, diluted with toxic unknown light hydrocarbons, like benzene and napthazene, just so it will flow through a pipeline. The diluent return line will also be transporting larger amounts of the very toxic, cancer causing diluents. A spill from this pipeline would cause serious respiratory problems.

2010 accident

Since the Alberta Clipper was built, Enbridge experienced our nation’s worst on-land pipeline accident, in 2010, on another of its lines in Michigan. That rupture, which went undetected for hours, spilled 20,000 barrels of Tar Sands dilbit into Talmage creek, which flowed into the Kalamazoo river. Clean-up costs have exceeded 1 billion dollars, with the heavy tar sands oil sunk to the bottom of the river. As a result of this, 2,300 lawsuits are pending against Enbridge.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated that because the Tar Sands diluted bitumen is different than conventional oil in water, it “may require different response actions or equipment”. In Mayflower, Arkansas, in May of 2013, most people had no idea there was a pipeline nearby until it ruptured. The actual response strategy was to use “absorbent pads,” but the oil reached the nearby lake nonetheless.

Certificate of Need or Certificate of Greed?

Much of Enbridge’s justification, and indeed the justification for pipelines from the Tar Sands is to replace imports of oil from “politically unstable countries”, like Venezuela and Nigeria oil with Canadian oil. http://www.therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=9633

But imports of oil are dropping fast as domestic oil production is at its highest since 1989. http://www.gasandoil.com/news/n_america/e09669fbfc74a01ab78ded43ae8847f3?b_start=0

It also has a great deal to do with the Koch brothers and the refineries they control in Texas

Canadian oil has historically sold at a discount to these other imported oils, and there’s big money to be made for oil refineries. But Midwest drivers have not historically benefitted from the cheaper source of refinery feedstock.

Most of our nation’s refinery capacity is on the Gulf Coast, where refined products will be sold to the world’s highest bidders.

People are concerned about increased risk from an expansion.

Since Tar Sands oil is a sludgy form of oil, it needs to be mixed with multiple chemicals in order to move it through the line.  This makes it  more corrosive, especially at high temperatures and this means there is a concern about pipeline breakage.  There have already been 804 Enbridge spills (worldwide gas and oil combined). In Minnesota, nearly 1.5 million gallons of oil have spilled out of Enbridge/Lakehead pipelines over the past 30 years. Tar sands oil is 15-20 times more acidic than conventional oil and up to 7 times as viscous (thicker). Tar Sands oil is 16 times more likely to breach a pipeline than regular crude oil; yet Enbridge is determined to expand their capacity and their chances of risking more oil spills.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, they noted:

“Many remember the Kalamazoo spill in 2010.  An Enbridge pipeline erupted and spilled 840,000 gallons of tar sands oil into a wetland that leaked into the Kalamazoo River during a planned shutdown.  The environmental damage to the wetlands, Kalamazoo River, and Talmadge Creek continues and will likely never fully be erased.  Enbridge is still funding clean-up.  In March (over two years after the spill), the EPA ordered river dredging as the river is still contaminated.”  Thus far the total clean-up cost has exceeded one-billion-dollars. 

Last year, Wisconsin had its own, much smaller, spill in Grand Marsh (Adams County).  According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the rupture spilled an estimated 50,000 gallons of oil and contaminated 17,000 tons of soil.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) is the Federal Agency responsible for monitoring pipeline safety. They cover 2.5 million miles of present pipelines, with a scant 110 inspectors.   Enbridge itself presently has 50,000 miles of pipelines, according to Becky Hass, of Enbridge in Minnesota.   Enbridge’s headquarters for monitoring the pipeline is in Edmonton, where sophisticated equipment tracks the pipelines, and pumping stations.  In turn, pipeline developers, like Enbridge are getting exemptions for areas not categorized as “high consequence.” These are structural exemptions in the integrity of the pipeline operation. 

In the Keystone pipeline case, the PHMSA granted a special permit to TransCanada. The waiver allows the proposed pipeline to operate at 80 per cent of the minimum yield strength of the pipe, rather than the maximum of 72 percent  required by federal regulations.

PHMSA approved an exemption for areas not considered “high consequence areas.” “High consequence areas” in PHMSA’s evaluation include shallow aquifers, prime farmland, wetlands and wildlife habitats, according to testimony submitted to the State Department on this pipeline. This may be the case in Northern Minnesota.

After the Grand Marsh spill, and multiple other failures, the United States Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHSMA) ordered Enbridge to submit plans to improve the safety of the entire Lakeland System.  Also, Canada’s National Energy Board has stated that Enbridge is not complying with safety standards at 117 of its pumping stations and is analyzing the concerns and solutions. In their recent letter to Enbridge they requested compliance. 

What tribal governments can do

Tribal governments at Leech Lake and Fond-du-Lac can oppose the application for a Certificate of Need at the Public Utilities Commission of Minnesota (Docket 13-153), based on the facts, during the open comment period. The public can also attend hearings in Northern Minnesota when they are scheduled (both expected November 2013). The public has also requested a public hearing in the Twin Cities area.

Tribal governments, although signatories to present agreements with Enbridge were not apprised of the increased risk of pipeline leakage, as the agreements were signed prior to the largest land based oil spill in American history.  These tribal governments were also not fully apprised of the implications of the Enbridge expansion on the l855, l843 and l837 treaty rights and responsibilities of the Anishinaabeg. 

The Leech Lake and Fond-du-Lac tribal governments, and the l855 and l837 treaty signatories should request that the Environmental Protection Agency and Federal government protect their rights by not approving the Enbridge expansion of Line 67.

Two Minnesota entities: the Department of Natural Resources and the Pollution Control Agency, have yet to complete their permitting process.  Tribal governments should request that these entities, as well as their own tribal agencies take action to challenge the expansion.  See contact information in the previous paragraphs.

The remaining permits are federal (Presidential Permit/Dept. of State, Army Corps of Engineers and Fish &Wildlife Service). 

Your local Army Corps of Engineers can be reached here by writing your concerns to Mr. William A. Baer.  U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bemidji Office  William.A.Baer@usace.army.mil

The Anishinaabeg Tribal governments can also make a clear case that there is no need for this pipeline increase.

What 350.org is doing 

The Public Utilities Commission has granted a contested case hearing on the latest Alberta Clipper increase. Minnesota 350 (MN350) will argue that a majority of the new oil moving on the expanded pipeline won’t benefit Minnesota or neighboring states. Attorney Paul Blackburn, who has represented MN350, said the contested case could take six to 10 months. “We can make a much stronger case than was possible in 2007,” said Blackburn.

The pipeline brings heavy oil from western Canada, where output is growing. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers in June projected that crude oil production in the Alberta oil sands region will nearly double to 5.2 million barrels per day by 2030. That is if they have an export market, and are able to overcome substantial challenges by the Beaver Lake Cree First Nation as to the destruction of their traditional territory. Currently their case will be heard by Canada’s highest Court, the Supreme Court of Canada, on the cumulative effects of Tar Sands development in relation to their Constitutionally protected Aboriginal and Treaty rights.

In Closing

Oil coming from the Alberta Tar Sands area is considered the dirtiest oil on the face of the Earth, and the Tar Sands extraction is the single largest industrial project in the history of the world.

We hope you will join us in this fight that will surely be the most difficult fight of our time and for our Mother Earth.  By walking beside us and our partners and allies, we can speak as one voice on behalf our children’s future.  We can also speak on behalf of our relatives, whether they have fins, hooves, wings or claws, and for those who do not have a voice, we believe it is incumbent upon us as relatives to speak in favor of a future we can all work towards. 

On behalf of Honor The Earth, we welcome you to join us.  


Winona LaDuke

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