Dear Al: Letter to Enbridge "..we expect you to clean up your old mess..."

Remember me?  In the multitude of people whose lives you impact, I’m sort of a small one, but here on the White Earth reservation, or Anishinaabe Akiing, and on the shore of Mni Sose at Standing Rock, little people matter too. And, we wonder, why it is that you do not answer our requests.

This is my annual letter to you, but it’s been a long time coming.

For the past two months, I have been asking you to use your influence to stop the violence on Standing Rock, and in North Dakota, but while hundreds of people were arrested and injured, Enbridge, and you, said nothing.  I think this is a very bad decision for you.

I want to give you another chance to make the right decision.  In our prophecies, there a choice spoken of.  A choice between a well-worn, scorched path, and a new path, which is green.  This scorched path is a path of violence and the new path is the path of peace.  You, Al, and the rest of the global corporate leaders need to make a decision of which path they would like to walk down.  Let’s review how this scorched path has been treating us this last year.

We have seen an unprecedented gathering in North Dakota against the Dakota Access Pipeline.  What we know is that when 10,000 people came together to defend the river, and the people, we faced our truth. The Sacred Stone, Red Warrior and Oceti Sakowin camps have effectively stalled DAPL for several months, and costs will continue to rise.  On December 4, the Army Corps of Engineers denied the essential easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross the Missouri River.  As the winter deepens, and political and economic pressures mount for the company and the incoming administration, this story remains an epic moment.  

North Dakota did not become Alabama – or the Deep North, as it is now called – overnight. Two of the poorest counties in the country are on Standing Rock, Native people comprise almost a fourth of the people in prison, Native suicide rates are ten times that of North Dakotans, infrastructure (like the fifty year old hospital with four doctors for 8,000 people, and a now blocked Highway l806, without a shoulder) is at an all time low, and people freeze to death and overdose in the shadow of the Bakken Oil fields. That’s the first layer of abuse, aside from the day to day racism, emboldened by Morton County and the incoming Trump government. It is visible for the world to see now. You have deepened the poverty.

As of November 18, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department inventoried their troops at 1,287 deputies, including police from 25 North Dakota counties, 20 North Dakota cities, and 9 states (Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming).  Over 550 people have been arrested, many of them strip searched and cavity searched for misdemeanor charges, and a number of them held overnight in dog kennels.  Now the state has fired on unarmed people who want to protect the water from contamination. After all, that’s what this is about. 

To serve the convenience of a deadline for you and your partners, the police have fired teargas canisters, water hoses, concussion grenades, rubber bullets, tasers, and bean bag rounds at unarmed people trying to protect their water supply.  When 21 year old New York resident Sophia Wilansky’s arm was blown off by a concussion grenade, Morton County Sheriff Kirchmeier suggested that the water protectors caused it.  A statement of her father, attorney Wayne Wilansky, differs:

At around 4:30am after the police hit the bridge with water cannons and rubber bullets and pepper spray, they lobbed a number of concussion grenades which are not supposed to be thrown at people directly, at protesters or protectors as they want to be called. A grenade exploded right as it hit Sophia in the left forearm taking most of the undersurface of her left arm with it. Both her radial and ulnar artery were completely destroyed. Her radius was shattered and a large piece of it is missing. Her medial nerve is missing a large section as well. All of the muscle and soft tissue between her elbow and wrist were blown away. The police did not do this by accident - it was an intentional act of throwing it directly at her. Additionally police were shooting people in the face and groin, intending to do the most possible damage."

”…This is not Afghanistan; it’s not Iraq.  We don’t throw grenades at people.” 

Another water protector, Vanessa Dundon, has had her retina severed in her right eye.  This violence needs to end.

The violence against the protectors are not the only violent acts committed by you and other industry leaders.  Let me explain some of my thinking.  First, this has been the hottest year in history, and climate change related disasters are climbing pretty drastically. That’s why those pipelines you have are a big problem.  

We did some math, and the proposed new Line 3 (after all, it’s not a replacement if you put a new pipe in a different corridor, doubling its capacity) will add approximately 125 million more metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year.  That’s going to be a problem.  I’m sure you noticed the climate related disaster when the fires raged through Ft. MacMurray.

Up there in Ft. MacMurray, you may have also noticed the decimation of the boreal forests and the contamination of the Athabasca River as part of your tar sands enterprises.  I know my First Nations relatives have noticed.  I also know my Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation relatives have noticed the contamination in the Bakkens.  Just like my friends in Michigan have still been trying to recover from your spill there.  These people have also noticed the rise of rare cancers and tumors in wildlife.  

We’re sick of this scorched path, Al, and we are demanding a different future. Protests all along your mainline are increasing.  More and more people are calling for your aging, disaster-in-waiting Line 5 to be shut down.  The Bad River Tribe, whose land Line 5 runs through are not going to renew their easement.  That tribe is joined by 25 communities, three other tribes and the  Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority in passing a resolution calling on Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette to stop the oil flowing through Enbridge’s 63-year-old Line 5 pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac.  

People have been speaking out against and shutting down your Line 9 reversal project.  Landowners in Wisconsin are suing for more insurance along Line 61.  

Those of us along your aging Line 3, and those of us along your coveted “preferred route” are not going to stop opposing you either. Even when you threaten us with arrest, like your representatives have done to me.  At a local meeting for concerned landowners, of whom I am one of, some authorities threatened me with arrest for asking a question.  You also canceled another meeting for the next day in a nearby town. 

Your scorched path is not only publicly unpopular, it's not really making a lot of economic sense.  We all know that you thought in buying 28% of the Dakota Access Pipeline, you had made a good decision, sort of hedging your bets.   I assume you made this decision because we in the Great Lakes had been very vigilant about the folly of your Sandpiper project.  In fact, your pipes sit in piles, still.  This past year,  you have had to paint them white as a sort of anti-corrosion measure, which, frankly,  seems to be a bit flimsy to most of us.   We have been looking at them as they sit there, and I think we are all wondering what you are going to do with those 300 miles of pipeline.

The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis with Sightline Institute just released a new report on the shaky finances of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The report, “The High-Risk Financing Behind the Dakota Access Pipeline: A Stranded Asset in the Making in the Bakken Region of North Dakota,” is an interesting read, disclosing the fact that there is no real need for DAPL.  Furthermore,  come January 1st, Energy Transfer Partners will have missed their contractually obligated deadline, and may have to re-negotiate shipper agreements.  Since these agreements were originally signed in 2014, when the Bakken looked like a never-ending cash-cow.

In the interest of protecting their investors and shareholders, these companies may well renegotiate terms, seeking concessions on contracted volumes, prices, or contract duration…. Global oil prices began to collapse just a few months after shippers committed to using DAPL, and consensus market forecasts see no recovery for at least a decade….

Let me now describe this new path, since you seem to not understand the concepts behind it so well.   For North Dakota, we figured that if you oil guys with the stranded asset of a pipeline in a bottomed out oil field, invested in renewable energy instead, things would go a lot better for all of us.   If we spent the $3.9 billion price tag of the Dakota Excess Pipeline on renewable energy; we would have 5 kw per house of residential solar (about half the needs) for 64,629 houses,  323 two megawatt  wind power plants, enough to power most of North Dakota,  and 161,000 retrofits worth about $8000 apiece for individual homes; saving some homeowners about $300 a year in heating costs. If we spent just what North Dakota is spending on militarizing and stripping people down, that would be enough for most of the folks on Standing Rock.   Now that’s energy independence.

And those pipes sitting there, disintegrating in the sun?  We think that those pipes should be retooled and sent to someplace like Flint, Michigan, which really wants some pipes, for their water.  And here, Al, lays an incredible potential for Enbridge, a self-proclaimed “infrastructure company”.  As we all shift and prepare for the post-carbon future, there is a lot of retooling that needs to be done to our public infrastructures.  Water mains all across the United States need to be replaced, sewer lines need to be upgraded and storm drains removed from the systems, bridges need to be repaired and the infrastructure for a sustainable future need to be installed.  You have the opportunity to be on the right side of history with us, Al.  Stand by your word, and get Enbridge out of fossil fuels.  Retool your lobbying structure towards renewable energy, hire environmental engineers that can help you clean up your messes and design new, sustainable systems.   For once, be an actual capitalist and listen to what the market wants (renewable energy and a safe future for our children).   

Dear_Al_Letter3.jpgAl, this new path isn’t just about clean jobs, or clean environments, it’s about governing structures and market structures that respect all of us, even the little people.  I know your company has given some lip service to Indigenous Inclusion, but it seems like that isn’t really going so well for you.  Turns out you like to try and buy support, and how has that gone for you?   Not so well.  Early in the year, the Haida Nation stripped two traditional chiefs of their titles for consorting with your company over the Northern Gateway pipeline.  As I understand this is the first time in the memory of people, this has happened. 

When the Trudeau administration announced the rejection of the Gateway Pipeline, you knew it was coming, after all, it was sort of a preposterous project, crossing hundreds of rivers, First Nations, the Spirit Bear Sanctuary, and dumping oil into a treacherous waterway in the heart of fishing territory. That must have been expensive.

Looks like your “Indigenous People Policy” hasn’t been working to well for you in Ontario, either.   While you may have thought reversing you aging Line 9 to bring your dirty tar sands east for refining and shipping, the communities it runs through don’t seem to agree.  Not only have they repeatedly shut the line down, walking against the line, but the Chippewas of the Thames is bringing a Supreme Court challenge regarding the handling of this reversal.  The Chippewas of the Thames is supported by the the Chiefs of Ontario (representing 133 First Nations). That’s a lot of pissed off First Nations.  

Dear_Al_Letter4.jpgAnd while you may have gotten NEB and Canadian governmental approval for your Line 3 through Canada, the movement against it has seen an unprecedented pan-continental treaty alliance form to stop it (and all future tar sands development).  

This past year, you announced the cancellation of the proposed Sandpiper 640,000 barrel a day pipeline through our territory. I want to thank you for that.  The proposal to create a new corridor through our pristine territory grieved us greatly, and I know that the cumbersome nature of addressing the environmental and health concerns would be expensive.  

I know you were hedging your bets by investing in DAPL, but I also know from my friend Linda Coady in your office, whom we refer to as the Indian Listener, I understand that you have not yet sent that $.1.3 billion to Energy Transfer Partners.  Frankly, if I was you, I would not.

Back in October this year  I took about 30 of my best friends and their horses to your Tioga Facility, to talk about the Dakota Excess Pipeline.  You, however were not there. I sort of missed you. I think you might have been preparing for your Canadian Thanksgiving dinner up there in Calgary, but I was ready to visit.  Here’s a little video I did , which you can watch at your leisure. It was really from me to you, and I am telling you, there’s a much better way

Here in Anishinaabe Akiing, we expect you to clean up your old mess.  That would be those fifty year old pipelines which threaten the greatest of our lakes, from our sacred wild rice lakes to the Straits of Mackinac.  

We are not going anywhere.  Miigwech for reading my note.

Winona LaDuke

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