The Alberta Clipper pipeline is already constructed. It was forged through our land in 2009, over the opposition of many people concerned about the water, air and future. Both the Leech Lake and Fond du Lac bands of Ojibwe signed agreements with Enbridge, after much discussion and in a very controversial set of decisions. At the same time, both tribal governments hoped for the best. The Leech Lake Ojibwe already have six pipelines crossing their territory and this has caused major problems already, including a not yet cleaned up Enbridge spill.
Fond du Lac does not have a spill, but the tribal council made a decision to locate the original Alberta Clipper pipeline in a place they thought was the safest for their wild rice beds and people. While both tribal governments signed agreements with Enbridge, the true threats and increased risks of expansion were not revealed. This is a problem with the expansion, as there is a very great risk of a spill, so great that a similar recent Enbridge proposal in British Columbia was rejected by that government in June. The pipelines however, are also destined for export markets.
Many Anishinaabe people and other northerners are also concerned about the tar sands themselves – as this is oil from the tar sands region – the Athabascan River system. This oil is considered to be the most destructive oil in terms of it’s impact on the environment, including the land, water, and climate change. The tar sands have no way out except, essentially, by pipeline. Rail infrastructure is, as yet, undeveloped and only moves a minor amount of oil. And the Enbridge line is the essential line, since most other proposals are being rejected (Gateway, Kinder Morgan, and now new challenges to the West East Pipeline in Canada).
For more information see: Alberta Clipper Tar Sands Pipeline Expansion - All Risk, No Reward
- At present there are 440,000 barrels per day moving through the pipeline. The Enbridge corporation seeks to expand this to 800,000 barrels per day, moving from the Alberta tar sands to the Superior refining facility. This is the same size as the very controversial and heavily opposed Keystone XL Pipeline.
- There have already been 804 Enbridge spills. 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. A recent NWF report has documented Enbridge's long history of spills.
- Oil and water don’t mix. The surface area of Superior alone is 94,000 square miles and a volume large enough to cover the lower 48 states 9.5 feet deep. Our wild rice beds, lakes and rivers are precious and our regional fisheries generate $7.2 billion annually and support 49,000 jobs.
- 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. Since water is very endangered this is a significant problem.
- 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.
- Much of the justification for pipelines that source their oil from Canada is to end dependence on oil from politically unstable countries – specifically the Middle East and Venezuela. In fact, the Koch Brothers own the refineries that would process this oil, and are the second largest privately owned company in the United States. This “certificate of need” is indeed based on a political strategy, and not on economic or geographic fact.
- As well, renown climate scientist James Hansen point to the carbon emissions of tar sands oil and refers to full exploitation as “game over” for the climate.
- At present, only 3 % of this bitumen has been extracted, yet 80% of the traditional land base of Cree and Dine peoples has been devastated, and rendered inaccessible due to extraction practices.
What tribal governments can do:
Tribal governments at Leech Lake and Fond Du Lac can oppose the certificate of need approval at the Public Utilities Commission of Minnesota, based on the facts.
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. The tribal governments were also not fully apprised of the implic
ations of the Enbridge expansion on the l855, l843 and l837 treaty rights and responsibilities of the Anishinaabe.
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 our rights through not approving the Enbridge expansion.
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.
The remaining permits are federal (Presidential Permit/Dept. of State, Army Corps of Engineers and Fish &Wildlife Service) These are federal trust decisions.
The Anishinaabe can also make a clear case that there is no certificate of need.
What our allies are doing:
The Public Utilities Commission has granted a new hearing on the certificate of need for the Enbridge line. 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 Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) as to the destruction of their traditional territory.
For more information see our resources section by clicking here.
What you can do: The Public Utilities Commission and Agencies you can Contact:
The Minnesota PUC has made a decision that the Enbridge certificate of need is not to be granted. This reverses their July decision and now has placed the jurisdiction in a “ contested case hearing. This process is underway, and several organizations like Minnesota 350.org is working on this, and Honor the Earth intends to support this work.
As well, permits are needed from 8 entities (p. 14, Cert. of Need) including: the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the Red Lake Soil and Water Conservation District, City of Floodwood, and the State Historical Preservation Office among others. They will need to hear from constituents. Their contact information is:
State and Tribal governmental entities:
DNR Central Office
500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155-4040
MPCA Detroit Lakes Office
714 Lake Ave., Suite 220
Detroit Lakes, MN 56501
Toll Free: 1-800-657-3864
Red Lake Soil and Water Conservation District
Red Lake County SWCD
2602 Wheat Drive
Red Lake Falls, MN 56750
City of Floodwood
Jess at 218-476-2751
State Historic Preservation Office
Minnesota Historical Society
345 Kellogg Blvd. W.
St. Paul, MN 55102-1903
Sample Letter (general constituent):
Dear (City, State and/or Tribal leader),
As a constituent, I request that your governmental entity should take action to stop the proposed expansion of Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper/Line 67 Pipeline in Northern Minnesota. The Alberta Clipper was forged through our land in 2009, and is now requesting a permit to expand its capacity. This proposed expansion needs to be challenged as it threatens the people, lifeways, watersheds, and wildlife of greater Minnesota.
One-fifth of the world's fresh surface water supply lies here, and it is worth protecting. Our wild rice beds, lakes, and rivers are precious and our regional fisheries generate $7.2 billion annually, and support 49,000 jobs. This is the lifeblood of the Anishinaabeg people (whose treaty area this pipeline crosses) and the lifeblood of the region. These pipelines threaten all Minnesotans.
This pipeline transports bitumen-loaded tar sands oil, which is more corrosive than oil extracted through other methods – which means much higher risk of leaks. I am also concerned about the tar sands themselves. This oil is considered to be the most destructive oil in terms of it’s impact on the environment, including the land, water, and climate change.
I oppose this pipeline, and I request my leadership to support the call to deny Enbridge the expansion permits for pipelines across the north. In July, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission decided against granting Enbridge the certificate, but has since placed the jurisdiction in a “contested case hearing”. This process is underway, and several organizations – such as the Indigenous Environmental Network, MN 350.org, and Honor the Earth are working to oppose the permits. Permits are required from 8 entities (p. 14 Cert. of Need), of which you are one.
Without your approval, the pipeline expansion will not be allowed. I encourage you to deny the request, and protect my family, community, and environment from the harm these pipelines would cause.