Canadian protesters set up camp — politely — along Line 9 pipeline

By: Heather Smith, Grist

 

Line 9 Blockade

Line 9 Blockade

 

This morning, a group of protesters drove through the farm country of Kitchener, Ontario. They pulled up at a dirt-and-gravel-paved job site occupied by a security guard.

The guard knew the drill. While he phoned everyone who normally reported to the job site to tell them not to come in to work that day, the protesters set up camp. They posted a statement on Tumblr, inviting any interested parties to come and join them, along with guidelines for the occupation:

Here are some things to keep in mind while visiting the Dam Line 9 Action:

– We are on stolen Indigenous land. Deshkaan Ziibing (Antler River, so-called Thames River), Anishinabek territory.

– Have fun, but also remember that this is a site of struggle.

 

All summer, protesters have been appearing at job sites along the path of Line 9 — a pipeline that had lived in obscurity until the regulatory limbo surrounding the approval of Keystone XL made it famous. Enbridge, the Canadian company that owns Line 9, announced plans to expand it and to reverse its flow. Normally the pipe carries crude from Africa and the Middle East into Canada’s heart; Enbridge would like it to move oil from the Alberta tar sands to Quebec, where it could be refined and exported.

Line 9 is 38 years old, and crosses the path of every river that drains into Lake Ontario. But because it was already in the ground, it didn’t require the same standards of approval that a new pipeline would. The reversal was approved by Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) last March, after several months of contentious public hearings, which adhered to a newly developed rule that required anyone who wanted to make a public comment to submit a 10-page application for approval first.

One of the protesters, Dan Kellar, was working on a PhD in environmental impact assessment and the application of environmental laws, so he was able to navigate the application process well enough to submit a comment, along with a group called Grand River Indigenous Solidarity. The NEB, unswayed, approve the pipeline anyway.

Then something unexpected happened. In June, the NEB ruled that the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation had not been adequately consulted on the portion of Line 9 that passed through their territory, which meant that they had the right to appeal the expansion. This was one of several rulings in the last few months that have greatly expanded First Nations power over what happens on Canadian soil.

Still, while the appeal works its way through the system, the NEB has allowed the retrofit  to continue. That’s why the protests at various sites along the retrofit’s pathway have continued, too.

In this latest case, the work being stopped is a valve replacement, but most of the projects that the protesters have interrupted have been “integrity digs” — areas where Enbridge has dug up a section of the pipeline to check it for leaks.

Most of the occupations last for a few days, according to Rachel Avery, one of the protesters at the site. In this case, police told the protesters that they would be checking in on the site at 6 p.m., but gave no word as to whether they had plans to arrest anyone.

In the meantime, says Avery, there’s lots of stuff to do, like set up tents and shade structures, and install solar panels. There’s also plenty of time to  educate curious passers-by about the hydrology of the local watershed.

That’s what the call-out to visit on Tumblr was about — kind of like a consciousness-raising group, but under threat of arrest. Why not turn your site occupation into an educational opportunity? It’s just another way, says Avery, “to build a stronger movement.”

As this report went to press, the protesters had settled in for a frisbee match.

 

Line 9 Blockade

Line 9 Blockade

Canoe Journey Message: Protect Our Fragile Environment

Tracy Rector/Longhouse MediaThe Heiltsuk First Nation is hosting 31 canoes from Pacific Northwest indigenous nations. That number was provided by the manager of the Paddle to Bella Bella Facebook page. Canoes arrived July 13; the week of cultural celebration continues through July 19.

Tracy Rector/Longhouse Media
The Heiltsuk First Nation is hosting 31 canoes from Pacific Northwest indigenous nations. That number was provided by the manager of the Paddle to Bella Bella Facebook page. Canoes arrived July 13; the week of cultural celebration continues through July 19.

 

Richard Walker, Indian Country Today

 

 

 

En route to the territory of the Heiltsuk First Nation, pullers in the 2014 Canoe Journey traveled through territory so beautiful it will be impossible to forget: Rugged, forested coastlines; island-dotted straits and narrow, glacier-carved passages; through Johnstone Strait, home of the largest resident pod of orcas in the world, and along the shores of the Great Bear Rainforest, one of the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled temperate rainforest left in the world.

They also traveled waters that are increasingly polluted and under threat.

Pullers traveled the marine highways of their ancestors, past Victoria, British Columbia, which dumps filtered, untreated sewage into the Salish Sea. They traveled the routes that U.S. energy company Kinder Morgan plans to use to ship 400 tanker loads of heavy crude oil each year.

Canoes traveling from the north passed the inlets leading to Kitimat, where heavy crude from Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway pipeline would be loaded onto tankers bound for Asia, a project that Canada approved on June 17.

RELATED: First Nations Challenge Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline in Court

Canoes from the Lummi Nation near Bellingham passed Cherry Point, a sacred and environmentally sensitive area where Gateway Pacific proposes a coal train terminal; early site preparation was done without permits and desecrated ancestral burials.

RELATED: Lummi Nation Officially Opposes Coal Export Terminal in Letter to Army Corps of Engineers

Young activist Ta’kaiya Blaney of the Sliammon First Nation sang of her fears of potential environmental damage to come in her song, “Shallow Waters”:

“Come with me to the emerald sea / Where black gold spills into my ocean dreams.

“Nothing to be found, no life is around / It’s just the sound of mourning in the air.”

RELATED: Young Sliammon Actor/Singer Campaigns Against Pipeline

Canoes from Northwest indigenous nations arrived in Bella Bella, British Columbia on July 13; the gathering continues until July 19 with cultural celebrations, a rally against Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, and an indigenous economic summit. The ceremonies are being livestreamed online at Tribal Canoe Journeys 2014 :: Qatuwas Bella Bella.

Mike Williams Sr., chief of the Yupiit Nation and member of the board of First Stewards, noted that the Canoe Journey route calls attention to the fragile environment that’s at stake. First Stewards, an indigenous environmental advocacy group, will host a symposium on “Sustainability, Climate Change & Traditional Places” from July 21–23 in Washington, D.C.

“The Canoe Journey is a really big statement to us to hang onto our culture and our way of life, and to bind people together,” said Williams, who is also a well-known musher. “In the Iditarod, there are pristine places but there are also old mining towns [on the route] where we’re told not to drink the water.”

The parallels between the water issues encountered on the Iditarod and the Canoe Journey are unmistakable, he added.

“In the Canoe Journey, there are pristine waters and there are waters that contains toxic substances,” Williams said. “There’s oil and the continuous leaking of pipelines. It happens.”

Not only does it happen, but it does not go away. Prince William Sound has never totally recovered from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Williams said. Likewise, he added, if the Northern Gateway pipeline, the coal trains and increased shipping come to fruition, an environmental disaster is inevitable.

“It’s going to happen,” Williams said. “There has to be total, thoughtful conversation for everyone—consider all the possible impacts. And there has to be meaningful consultation with the tribes. They have to weigh in on that. We’ve got to make it 100 percent fail-safe or don’t do it.”

 

The Heiltsuk First Nation's hosting of the 2014 Canoe Journey included a rally against the Enbridge pipeline. Canoes arrived in Bella Bella, B.C., on July 13; the week of cultural celebration continues through July 19. (Photo: Tracy Rector/Longhouse Media)
The Heiltsuk First Nation’s hosting of the 2014 Canoe Journey included a rally against the Enbridge pipeline. Canoes arrived in Bella Bella, B.C., on July 13; the week of cultural celebration continues through July 19. (Photo: Tracy Rector/Longhouse Media)

 

State Senator John McCoy, D-Tulalip, is a citizen of the Tulalip Tribes. He is the ranking member of the Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee, which focuses on such issues as climate change, water quality, toxic chemical use reduction and cleanup, and management of storm water and wastewater.

“I think the message is, pollution is occurring everywhere,” McCoy said of the takeaway from the Canoe Journey. “It’s a worldwide problem, and it needs to be addressed. If we keep polluting our water, we’re going to be in big trouble. Water is the essence of life.”

Canoes were underway for Bella Bella on July 9 as Governor Jay Inslee announced that he wants to increase the recommended fish-consumption rate in the state from 6.5 grams to 175 grams a day—that’s good news for indigenous peoples, for whom fish is important culturally, spiritually and as a food. But for 175 grams of fish to be considered safe to eat, businesses that pollute will have to conform to tougher pollution control standards.

RELATED: New Fish Consumption Guidelines More Political Than Scientific, Northwest Tribes Say

Inslee’s plan for how toxic substances will be controlled in expected in December. It will require legislation, McCoy said.

Jewell James is coordinator of the Lummi Treaty Protection Task Force and a leader in the effort to prevent a coal train terminal from being built at Cherry Point, a sacred area for the Lummi people and an important spawning ground for herring, an important food for salmon.

James said environmental degradation is just part of a series of historical traumas set upon Indigenous Peoples: First, the diseases that came after contact; then the treaty era and the relocation to reservations; then the cultural and spiritual oppression of the boarding school era, and then the termination era.

“Yet we continue to exist,” James said. And the Canoe Journey, now in its 23rd year, has helped “revitalize and breathe new life into our cultural knowledge” given that journey gatherings are venues for the passing down of stories about how the ancestors lived in and cared for the environment that sustained them.

RELATED: 10 Traditional Foods You Might Enjoy During a Canoe Journey

James hopes people on the Canoe Journey connect with and carry on those stories and values.

“There are messages in those stories,” he said. “And within those stories there are sacred symbols that mean something—that you have to be careful with what you do, and others have to be careful with what they do, to Mother Earth.”

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/07/17/canoe-journey-message-protect-our-fragile-environment-155904?page=0%2C1

Can Canada’s indigenous communities stop Prime Minister Stephen Harper from turning the country into a petrostate?

foreignpolicy.com

VANCOUVER, Canada — On Canada’s western coast, where rain-forested mountains dip into gray-blue seas, the political anger is ready to explode. The indigenous people, whose ancestors have fished, hunted, and thrived here since the last ice age, are furious about an energy policy dreamed up in Ottawa that they fear could permanently damage their land and destroy their way of life.”Opponents can mock our love of our home as sentimental, but it won’t change what we feel,” the award-winning indigenous novelist Eden Robinson wrote recently in the Globe and Mail. “[T]he mood in our base is simmering fury.”

Robinson lives in Kitamaat Village, a small community some 400 miles north of Vancouver, near where the Kitimat River meets salt water. Its 700 indigenous inhabitants belong to the Haisla nation, one of 630 such recognized “First Nations” across Canada, which has called this coastal region home for thousands of years, going back to long before European settlers first arrived in the 18th century.

Lately the Haisla have had to reckon with a new unwelcome visitor: Calgary-based Enbridge, one of the world’s largest fossil fuel transporters. If the Northern Gateway project the company has been proposing for the past decade goes forward, a pipeline pumping 525,000 barrels per day of heavy crude from Alberta’s oil sands would end within walking distance of Robinson’s home. Tensions in her community are so high, she wrote, that “people will spit at you if they think you support Enbridge.”

It’s likely they will also spit at someone they think supports Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In June, his Conservative government approved the $7.3 billion Gateway project, which would ship oil across the Rocky Mountains to the Port of Kitimat, load it onto supertankers, and sell it for a premium to Asian markets. To reach the Pacific, supertankers must first navigate the winding Douglas Channel. In 2006, a provincial ferry crashed and sank in the channel, and people living in the nearby Gitga’at Nation village of Hartley Bay fear that history will repeat itself — but on a scale of environmental and cultural damage hard to fathom. They recently stretched a 2.8-mile crocheted rope in protest of Gateway across the Douglas Channel.

“Each stitch is shaped like a teardrop,” said blockade organizer Lynne Hill, “because this is a very emotional thing for us.”

“Each stitch is shaped like a teardrop,” said blockade organizer Lynne Hill, “because this is a very emotional thing for us.”

For Harper, Gateway promises a $300 billion GDP boost and the prestige of achieving his most important foreign-policy goal, to remake Canada into a global “energy superpower.” But to many First Nations living along the pipeline’s 731-mile-long route, Gateway symbolizes “everything that people don’t want,” Robinson said.

They intend to fight the pipeline in court by arguing for legal authority over land they’ve lived on for millennia and never surrendered to the federal government. A landmark decision from Canada’s Supreme Court on June 26 may have brought groups like the Haisla one step closer to achieving that authority.

Tension between indigenous people and the pipeline project are nothing new. In 2006, Enbridge sent surveyors, chain saws in hand, into the ancient forest near Kitamaat Village to scout sites for an oil terminal. They felled 14 trees that bore living evidence of First Nations history: deep notches made by the Haisla hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, of years earlier. “We compared it to a thief breaking into your house and destroying one of your prized possessions,” Haisla Councilor Russell Ross Jr. told me in 2012.

The relationship between the Haisla First Nation and Enbridge only got worse. Five years after the tree-cutting incident, the company offered a $100,000 settlement, which was “almost an insult” in the opinion of Chief Councilor Ellis Ross, as he stated in a letter to Enbridge’s president. Even worse was Enbridge’s additional offer to make amends with a “cleansing feast.” If such a ceremony was practiced widely in Haisla culture, Ross wasn’t aware of it.

“I have never witnessed Haisla Nation Council initiate a cleansing feast and I doubt I ever will,” he wrote to the firm. “I would appreciate it if your company’s shallow understanding of our culture is kept out of our discussions.”

All along the Gateway route, Enbridge was making similar cultural flubs. These gaffes, along with a negotiating style Robinson described as heavy on “talking points” and light on listening, had by 2011 caused 130 First Nations across British Columbia and Alberta to oppose the project, many of them not even directly impacted by it. “If Enbridge has poked the hornet’s nest of aboriginal unrest,” Robinson wrote, “then the federal Conservatives, Stephen Harper’s government, has spent the last few years whacking it like a pinata.”

The whacks began coming after Harper’s Conservatives won their first-ever majority rule in 2011. Since then, his Conservative Party has made it easier to get oil and gas projects approved, has cut environmental protections, and has proposed contentious changes to indigenous education. “It’s felt like the Conservatives have just been hammering us with legislation,” Robinson said. Tension with the Conservatives are so widely felt among First Nations that in late 2012 there emerged a protest movement called Idle No More, whose sit-ins, rallies, and hunger strikes brought national attention to the cause of indigenous sovereignty.

This May, a United Nations envoy deemed native distrust of Harper a “continuing crisis.” On Gateway, Harper has done little to ease the problem. After the U.S. rejection in early 2012 of TransCanada’s Keystone XL, a pipeline that was supposed to link Alberta’s oil sands to Texas, the prime minister “expressed his profound disappointment” to U.S. President Barack Obama, Harper’s office said in a statement. A week later, at the World Economic Forum, Harper vowed to export oil to Asia instead. Projects like Gateway were now a “national priority,” he declared.

For Harper, the economics of the project provide good reason for its priority status. Enbridge estimates that, once completed, Gateway would boost Canada’s GDP by $300 billion over the next three decades. Ottawa alone stands to gain $36 billion in taxes and royalties. And there is the issue of Canada’s role in the world. One month after the World Economic Forum, in February 2012, Harper traveled to China, where an influential crowd of Chinese business executives that Canada is “an emerging energy superpower” eager to “sell our energy to people who want to buy our energy.”

While Harper delivered that pitch in Europe and Asia, his then-natural resources minister, Joe Oliver (now finance minister), was declaring war on Gateway opponents back at home. In an open letter, Oliver lashed out at the “environmental and other radical groups” that in their protests against the pipeline project “threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.”

It was a tactical stumble, wrote George Hoberg, a University of British Columbia professor who studies the Gateway standoff, that pushed “many moderates who were offended by the style of the attacks into strong opponents of the pipeline.” Oliver’s letter was mentioned again and again during two years of federal hearings on Gateway, for which 4,000 Canadians registered to speak.

By the time those hearings finished last December, Gateway had become one of the top political issues in Canada. Much credit for that is due to a sustained media campaign coordinated by British Columbia’s major green groups, which deliberately evoked memories of Exxon’s 1989 Valdez disaster. On the spill’s 20th anniversary in 2009, they declared a “No Tankers Day.”

“There will be a sacrifice we’re asked to make at some point, and the [ecological] damage will be permanent,” said Kai Nagata from the Dogwood Initiative, one of the leading groups in that campaign. “Nobody’s come up with a compelling argument about why we should accept those risks.”

The continual focus on Gateway’s risks — to one of North America’s vastest wildernesses and to the indigenous people living within it — allowed green groups to broker alliances with First Nations all along the pipeline route. They appeared together at joint press conferences and waged a two-front opposition to Gateway so effective that, by this June, nearly 70 percent of people in British Columbia opposed immediate federal approval of the project, according to a Bloomberg-Nanos poll.

“The reason why Gateway has become such a political albatross for Stephen Harper,” Nagata explained, “is he’s managed to find a way to align the majority of British Columbians with the majority of First Nations.” Not to mention Vancouver’s mayor, British Columbia’s premier, and Harper’s political opponents in Ottawa, all of whom have spoken out against the project.

None of that opposition has deterred the federal Conservatives, though. In mid-June Harper’s government officially approved Gateway, deeming it “in the public interest.” Within hours of the announcement, a coalition of almost 30 First Nations and tribal councils in British Columbia were vowing to “immediately go to court to vigorously pursue all lawful means to stop the Enbridge project,” and promising that “we will defend our territories whatever the costs may be.”

Unlike in the United States, where indigenous peoples were conquered and then settled on reservations, few along Gateway’s proposed route have ever surrendered territory. What power they actually wield over that territory is legally disputed. Yet a Supreme Court decision on June 26 granting land title to the Tsilhqot’in First Nation gives greater legal standing to native groups with unresolved land claims.

The consequences of that decision, as well as the autonomy it ultimately provides to indigenous people, will be decided if groups like the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, which represents eight First Nations across central British Columbia, challenge Gateway in court as unconstitutional. “What we’ll really be doing is testing our authority and our jurisdiction over the land,” said Terry Teegee, the council’s tribal chief. “It’s really hard to imagine this project going ahead.”

Enbridge is still confident. “We are prepared” for legal challenges, the company’s CEO, Al Monaco, said during a recent conference call, in which he contested the notion that people like Teegee speak on behalf of all First Nations. Monaco argued that 60 percent of indigenous people living along Gateway’s route in fact want to see it built (a claim called “ridiculous” by the Coastal First Nations group). Those court battles that First Nations do bring, in Monaco’s opinion, are likely to be resolved in Enbridge’s favor over the next 12 to 15 months. Gateway’s construction could begin shortly after. “This is not necessarily an endless process,” he said.

For indigenous people like Robinson, as well as the Unist’ot’en husband and wife now living in a wood cabin built intentionally along the pipeline’s path, the fight against Enbridge stands in for a larger cultural struggle. So long as companies and governments continue to view the rights of First Nations “as an impediment to getting what they want,” Robinson said, the struggle will surely continue.

Jennifer Castro/Flickr Creative Commons

Canada OKs Oil Pipeline to the Pacific Coast

By ROB GILLIES Associated Press

Canada’s government on Tuesday approved a proposed pipeline to the Pacific Coast that would allow oil to be shipped to Asia, a major step in the country’s efforts to diversify its oil industry.

The approval Tuesday was expected. Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been a staunch supporter of Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline after the U.S. delayed a decision on TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline that would take oil from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Enbridge’s pipeline would transport 525,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta’s oil sands to the Pacific to deliver oil to Asia, mainly energy-hungry China.

There is fierce environmental and aboriginal opposition to the project and legal challenges are expected. About 220 large oil tankers a year would visit the Pacific coast town of Kitamat and opponents fear pipeline leaks and a potential disaster on the pristine Pacific coast.

Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford said in a statement that Enbridge must meet the 209 conditions Canada’s regulator imposed on the pipeline. The company has previously said it would.

“The proponent clearly has more work to do in order to fulfill the public commitment it has made to engage with Aboriginal groups and local communities along the route,” he said in a statement.

The Keystone XL pipeline and the Northern Gateway project are critical to Canada, which needs infrastructure in place to export its growing oil sands production. The northern Alberta region has the world’s third largest oil reserves, with 170 billion barrels of proven reserves.

Harper has said Canada’s national interest makes the pipelines essential. He was “profoundly disappointed” that U.S. President Barack Obama delayed a decision on the Texas Keystone XL option, and spoke of the need to diversify Canada’s oil industry. Ninety-seven percent of Canadian oil exports now go to the U.S.

Take action against Enbridge’s Line 9

Photo: Adam Carter/CBC

Photo: Adam Carter/CBC

 

Source: Reclaim Turtle Island

#Line9IndustrialGenocide

Without surprise, the National Energy Board has approved the reversal of the Line 9 pipeline. This pipeline crosses every single tributary that flows into Lake Ontario, and cuts up the north shore of the St. Lawrence river….

It was anticipated that this information be released on March. 19th. Instead the rubber-stamping came early.

Indigenous peoples whose territories are being attacked by this project have been silenced throughout this process. It is our communities, and other communities of colour, who primarily live fenceline with the tar sands, its mining, infrastructure and refineries. It is our Sacred sites that are being desecrated by the shady movements of corporate imperialists and colonial-capitalists.

Line 9 shows us exactly what environmental racism looks like, from Aamjiwnaang to Jane & Finch – telling us that bodies of colour and Indigenous bodies are expendable for the larger project of profit. Line 9 is but expanded infrastructure to move the Athabasca tar sands eastward – it is an embodiment of the slow industrial genocide that is being committed by TransCanada, Enbridge, Suncor, and the Government of Canada, to name a few.

This deep rooted social disconnection from the land is fostered by the occupation of our Nations’ territories. The attack on Indigenous bodies and bodies of colour are but a glimpse into the functions of this White supremacist, settler-colonial death culture that seeks to consume, corrupt and conquer.

On March 19th, let us keep close the truth of the violence that is this pipeline: an apparatus of tar sands destruction that seeks to poison that which sustains us and those faces not yet born. On this day we will be connected with each other in struggle as we fill our hearts with love for the wild and carry inside us a hunger for justice. March 19th Take Action Against Line 9!

 We are requesting solidarity actions by friends in struggle who share Enbridge as a common enemy – from the West to the East, Enbridge’s toxic tendrils are an affront on Indigenous Sovereignty and the health of all of Creation.


Only you, your community and your affinity groups know what action is best to take in your area. Get in touch with us if you want to confirm an action. #Line9IndustrialGenocide

Be safe, be strong!

Keep your ear to the ground, because there are more battles ahead. Stop the beast! #NoLine9 #NoEnergyEast

Note: For more background on Enbridge’s Line 9 tar sands pipeline and the recent approval it received by Canadian regulators, click here.

-The GJEP Team

Video: Tar Sands Protesters Commandeer Public Meeting, Energy Officials Run for the Door

By Dylan Ruiz and Joseph Smooke,  22 October 2013 , Source: The Real News Network

First Nations and environmental activists interrupt Enbridge’s pipeline plans.

TRANSCRIPT:

DYAN RUIZ, REPORTER: Hundreds gathered in the cold Toronto rain to oppose the proposal for the oil pipeline called Line 9B operated by energy company Enbridge. Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) has been asked to approve Enbridge’s project that would enable them to bring oil from Alberta’s tar sands to 600 kilometers of pipeline running through Ontario and Quebec.

The protest was supposed to coincide with the final day of the board’s hearings in Toronto, which heard public testimony about the Line 9 proposal. But Enbridge decided not to go forward with their final arguments the day of the protest, citing security concerns.

After the public testimony the day before given by Amanda Lickers of the grassroots collective Rising Tide Toronto and Six Nations of the Grand River First Nations, the spectators erupted in a chant, rose to their feet, and began round-dancing. NEB representatives promptly left the room, bringing cheers from the crowd.

AMANDA LICKERS, RISING TIDE TORONTO AND SIX NATIONS OF THE GRAND RIVER: I think that Enbridge is just trying to buy time because they were really intimidated by my presentation. You know. I mean, they need to formulate their arguments. And I think it’s completely ludicrous that they can just violate the terms of the entire process and just ask for time due to security concerns. I mean you’ve seen this rally. It’s being led by indigenous people, drummers, by traditional people, by women. There’s children here. You know, it’s not a confrontational rally. It’s a celebratory time to come together, and show, and have our voices heard.

RUIZ: One of the speakers of the protest was Canadian singer Sarah Harmer, who has been an outspoken activist against Line 9, which runs through her family’s farm.

SARAH HARMER, SINGER-SONGWRITER, AFFECTED LANDHOLDER:Thank you to everyone who’s come from across the province today, who got onto buses in Kingston and Hamilton and Waterloo, wherever you came from.

RUIZ: The 40-year-old pipeline runs from Sarnia, at Ontario’s border with Michigan, through the heavily populated Toronto area, to Montreal, where the oil will be refined. Approval of the proposal would allow Enbridge to use this pipeline to carry more than the light crude it currently transports. Line 9 would be transporting the controversial diluted bitumen, or “dilbit”, a heavy crude coming from the Alberta tar sands.

Another part of the proposal includes increasing the amount Enbridge would be licensed to transport by almost 30 percent to 300,000 barrels per day.

People at the rally who spoke out against the Line 9 proposal have said it poses huge environmental risks, especially from the transportation of dilbit from the tar sands.

AMARA POSSIAN, RISING TIDE TORONTO: The pipeline isn’t built for tar sands oil, and it’s a really old piece of infrastructure, so the risk is higher for spills. It’s basically like sandy peanut butter going through the pipeline, corroding the inside. And when it does inevitably spill, it’s very difficult to clean up.

RUIZ: A similar Enbridge pipeline, Line 6B, failed near Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 2010, spilling diluted Alberta tar-sands bitumen. It was the largest surface spill in U.S. history and spewed 3.3 million litres of oil into the Kalamazoo River. The spill came close to contaminating Lake Michigan, the drinking water for over 12 million people. Three years later, the widespread environmental damage has not been fully assessed and Enbridge is still cleaning it up.

Enbridge spokesperson Graham White said to The Toronto Star, “Enbridge’s goal is zero incidents, and no spill is acceptable to us … Line 9 has been a safe and well-performing line for the past 38 years, and we are taking all necessary measures to ensure that remains the case for the people of Ontario and Toronto.”

Protesters are concerned that a spill like the one that happened in Michigan could happen along areas of Line 9 that crosses rivers such as the Credit, Humber, and Rouge that flow directly into Lake Ontario.

Contamination of the rivers that flow into Lake Ontario would be disastrous. Four-point-five million people in the Greater Toronto area rely on Lake Ontario for their drinking water. This is a concern not only of the protesters, but of the city of Toronto as well in the hearings this week. The city attorney also outlined concerns about the lack of specific plans for sites directly above Line 9. This includes schools, parks, apartment buildings, and a retirement home and subway station.

When it was built nearly 40 years ago, the pipeline tracked through remote areas, but now directly threatens heavily populated neighborhoods in and around Canada’s largest city. At Toronto’s Finch Subway Station that sees over 100,000 riders riders on a typical weekday, the pipeline runs less than two metres below the sidewalk and 60 centimetres above the subway structure.

The Finch corridor is a neglected part of Toronto. This resident of the northern Toronto neighborhood Jane and Finch was at the protest. He said the risks associated with Line 9 are an unwelcome addition to what the neighborhood already has to deal with, such as poor government investment in essential services like education and transit.

OSMAN ANWER, RESIDENT OF JANE AND FINCH: Jane and Finch is an example of bad mid-century public policy planning. They overbuilt a lot of public housing units and basically left them to rot. So Line 9 is just more–another topping on the shit sandwich we already have.

RUIZ: Marginalized communities and indigenous people carry some of the worst repercussions of resource extraction, transport, and processing.

Many First Nations and other indigenous people from the Idle No More movement were present at this protest. They say the NEB hearings do not fulfill the legal requirement for the federal government to consult with First Nations on the pipeline project. Only the federal government can consult with the First Nations on the proposal, not Enbridge or the NEB. They say the adequate consultations were not done when the pipeline was built and is not happening now.

HEATHER MILTON LIGHTENING, INDIGENOUS TAR SANDS CAMPAIGN: When it comes to each community, each one of them is a sovereign nation. And under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People it talks about “free, prior and informed consent”, and that means the right to say no, the right to have consultation in our own languages in a way that makes sense for our own people, and to be informed of both the negative and the positive.

RUIZ: To Heather, like many First Nations, the answer to Line 9 is no because the dangers are too high. The protestors at this rally emphasized that action against the Line 9 pipeline is a growing movement that doesn’t end with this protest or this week’s hearings.

SYED HUSSAN, COMMUNITY ORGANIZER: They can try and flip that switch, they can try and push that dilbit, but we will swamp them at every turn.

RUIZ: One of the lead organizers of the protest outlined what’s coming up.

SAKURA SAUNDERS, RISING TIDE TORONTO: This process of community organizing–you know, we’re going to use this power that we’ve developed to both push for a provincial environmental assessment, and if that fails also, you know, swamp Enbridge, you know, wherever they are in terms of physically defending the land and stopping this project from happening.

RUIZ: The Board has already approved Enbridge’s proposal for one part of the pipeline last year, Line 9A, which runs from a pumping station near Sarnia to close to city of Hamilton. The National Energy Board plans to make their decision about Line 9B by this January.

This is Dyan Ruiz for The Real News Network.

Dakota oil could add risks to rail transport

Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON — Crude oil shipped by railroad from North Dakota is drawing fresh scrutiny from regulators concerned that the cargo is adding environmental and safety hazards, something that analysts say could raise costs.

The Federal Railroad Administration is investigating whether chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing are corroding rail tank cars and increasing risks. Separately, three pipeline companies including Enbridge Inc. warned regulators that North Dakota oil with too much hydrogen sulfide, which is toxic and flammable, was reaching terminals and putting workers at risk.

Until last month, safety advocates’ chief worry was spills in derailments. After tank cars blew up July 6 on a train in Quebec, investigators in Canada are considering whether the composition of the crude, which normally doesn’t explode, may have played a role in the accident that killed 47 people. The oil was from North Dakota’s Bakken shale.

“Crude historically has not been considered in the highest category of hazmat,” said Anthony Hatch, an independent analyst in New York who has tracked railroad companies for almost three decades. “The risks have been considered to be environmental, not to humans. Perhaps Bakken crude should be considered in a higher category.”

The cost of added safety measures, such as tighter rail-car specifications that would make obsolete some current models, may become an issue if oil prices fall, according to Kevin Book, managing director at ClearView Energy Partners, a Washington-based policy-analysis firm.

“The solution to rail safety issues looks like unanticipated costs, whether, it be rail car investments or new safety protocols,” Book said.

Such costs are less likely to slow production when is oil trading for $100 or more per barrel, Book said. “At $75 per barrel, it could be a big deal,” he said. Crude oil futures have traded higher than $100 a barrel since July, and are more than $90 a barrel since late April.

North Dakota is the nation’s second-biggest oil-producing state, with more than 790,000 barrels a day this year up from from about 150,000 barrels in 2008. Railroads move 75 percent of the state’s crude, including the load of more than 70 cars that derailed and exploded last month in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

Canadian regulators are testing the composition of crude from the wrecked Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway Ltd. freight train. A question they say they’re asking is why the derailment led to such an intense inferno, which regulators have called “abnormal.” They visited North Dakota as part of their review, said Chris Krepski, a spokesman for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

“We did take samples from the tank cars to get a better understanding of what was actually carried in them and verifying that against the shipping documents,” Krepski said. “It’s safe to say we’re looking at everything.

Montreal, Maine & Atlantic said last week it was forced to file for bankruptcy because of potential liability in the crash.

Much of North Dakota’s production relies on hydraulic fracturing or fracking, a technique in which millions of gallons of chemically treated water and sand are forced underground to shatter rock and free trapped oil. Highly corrosive hydrochloric acid is widely used to extract oil in the state, according to a 2011 report from the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

In a July 29 letter to the American Petroleum Institute, a Washington-based lobbying and standards-setting group for the oil and gas industry, the railway administration said it found increasing cases of damage to tanker cars’ interior surfaces. A possible cause is contamination of crude by materials used in fracking, according to the letter.

“If the hydrochloric acid is carried with the oil into rail cars, corrosion can be an issue,” said Andy Lipow, president of Houston-based Lipow Oil Associates.

Shippers need to know the properties of the oil to ensure that it’s transported in tankers equipped to handle the cargo, according to the rail agency’s letter. Because information provided to railroads on the properties of oil is not gathered from tests, the agency said it “can only speculate” as to the number of cars in violation of hazardous-materials regulations.

Investigating whether the chemical composition of Bakken oil makes it more likely to corrode tank cars is reasonable, said Peter Goelz, a former National Transportation Safety Board managing director who’s now a senior vice president with O’Neill and Associates in Washington.

The Quebec accident also revived a debate over the type of cars used to haul oil. For years, regulators and watchdogs have sought improvements to a common car design shown to be susceptible to rupture when derailed. The NTSB estimates that 69 percent of today’s rail tank-car fleet has “a high incidence of tank failure during accidents,” Chairman Deborah Hersman wrote last year. The agency recommendeds thicker shells and other modifications to strengthen the cars.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., this week called on U.S. regulators to phase out the older cars, known as DOT-111s, saying they’ve contributed to spills of hazardous materials.

“The DOT-111 tank car has proven particularly prone to spills, tears and fires in the event of a derailment, and it’s simply unacceptable for New York’s communities along the rail lines to face that risk when we know thicker, tougher cars could keep us safer,” Schumer said.

The rail industry is fighting a proposal to retrofit existing cars, saying it could cost as much as $1 billion.

Shippers also must account for hydrogen sulfide, a highly flammable toxic gas that at some wells is a byproduct of oil, to properly classify oil for transport. The Bakken oil field generally produces lighter oil with little or no hydrogen sulfide, though at times, crudes with different grades are mixed for shipping, said John Harju, associate director for research at the University of North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center, and co-author of the Society of Petroleum Engineers report on the Bakken reservoir.

“You see little blender facilities popping up all over the place along pipelines and rails,” Harju said.

In June, Enbridge won an emergency order to reject oil with high hydrogen-sulfide levels from its system after telling the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that it found dangerous levels of the compound at a rail terminal in Berthold, N.D. In addition to being highly flammable, hydrogen sulfide in the air is an irritant and a chemical asphyxiant that can alter both oxygen utilization and the central nervous system, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“We did discover that some of the crude coming into the system had much higher levels of hydrogen sulfide than we felt was safe for our employees,” said Katie Haarsager, an Enbridge spokeswoman. “Some blending may not have been up to levels in the past.”

Enbridge won FERC’s permission to refuse delivery of any oil with hydrogen sulfide that exceeded 5 parts per million, half the minimum exposure recommended by federal regulators. In a May 5 test, Calgary-based Enbridge, which owns and operates a 970-mile pipeline from Plentywood, Montana, to Clearbrook, Minn., found levels as high as 1,200 parts per million at its Berthold terminal “that could cause death, or serious injuries,” according to the company’s FERC filing.

Two other pipeline operators, Tesoro Corp. and the closely held True companies, which operates the Belle Fourche and Bridger pipelines in North Dakota, also found high levels of hydrogen sulfide in crude shipments. The FERC approved Tesoro’s request to reject oil with hydrogen sulfide at more than 5 parts per million effective Jan. 1. True companies was allowed to turn away crude with more than 10 parts per million of hydrogen sulfide effective April 1

True, based in Casper, Wyo., sent a notice to its Belle Fourche and Bridger customers in January warning that high levels of hydrogen sulfide “materially affected the common stream and created safety hazards at certain delivery locations.

North Dakota regulators say hydrogen sulfide is prevalent in oil wells in some areas and field inspectors are required to carry hydrogen-sulfide monitors.

“The fact that there were explosions, and crude oil is not supposed to explode, raises a lot of suspicions as to whether there were other chemicals and so on added to oil in the process before the shipment,” said Edward Burkhardt, chief executive officer of Rail World Inc., which owns the Montreal and Maine railway.

While derailments of trains hauling crude can create environmental messes, oil doesn’t usually ignite unless exposed to extreme heat, said Lloyd Burton, professor of environmental policy at the University of Colorado in Denver. Gasoline, refined from crude oil, is more more volatile.

“Crude oil doesn’t usually explode and burn with the ferocity that this train did,” Burton said.