Native americans And Business Leaders Pressure White House To Reject Keystone XL

Chief Tayac of the Piscataway tribe, from left, Naiche Tayac, and William of the Lakota Nation march near the White House in Washington during a rally calling on President Barack Obama to reject Keystone XL Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013.CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
Chief Tayac of the Piscataway tribe, from left, Naiche Tayac, and William of the Lakota Nation march near the White House in Washington during a rally calling on President Barack Obama to reject Keystone XL Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013.
CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

By Katie Valentine, ThinkProgress

As President Obama’s decision on Keystone XL nears, opposition from Native American tribes — many of whom have long spoken out against the pipeline — is getting louder.

Last weekend, members of South Dakota’s Rosebud Sioux tribe set up a prayer camp near Mission, SD in protest of the Keystone XL pipeline. Tribe leaders say their plan is to send a message to the White House that Native Americans won’t back down on this pipeline, which they say would run through land guaranteed by an 1868 treaty for tribal use. The tribe members plan to keep the prayer camp up until President Obama denies the pipeline or until the pipeline is approved, in which case the camp will turn into a “blockade camp.”


“We’ve been talking about the XL Pipeline. Reading about it, discussing it, having meetings, and I think reality hit today,” Oglala Sioux President Bryan Brewer said at the camp’s opening ceremony Saturday. “This is the first day that we’re actually going to try to stop it.”

Tribe members have erected nine tipis, including one that will stay occupied 24 hours a day until the White House comes out with a decision on Keystone, and surrounded the camp with hay bales. The tribe is planning to enact three more prayer camps — also called spirit camps — near the proposed route of Keystone XL.

“You can feel the power here,” Brewer said. “This will be non-violent; we will take our coup stick and count coup. This Thursday the [Oglala Sioux] tribal council is going to declare war on the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Native Americans are ramping up their opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline after vowing in February to take a last stand against the pipeline, which they’ve called the “black snake.” Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, vice-chair of the House Native American Caucus, said on MSNBC this week that Native Americans’ opposition to the pipeline — especially recently — brings a spiritual dimension to the pipeline’s opposition, and will force people to pay attention to the issue if they hadn’t been before. The Rosebud tribe is also one of several to be planning a trip to D.C. at the end of April to protest the pipeline.

But Native Americans aren’t the only ones adding their voices to the call against Keystone XL. In a letter made public Tuesday, more than 200 business owners, venture capitalists and professors — inlcuding executives at Apple, Facebook, Google and Oracle — called on Secretary of State John Kerry to reject the pipeline as not in the country’s national interest. The letter called Keystone XL the “critical linchpin” for the development of Canadian tar sands and said it “undermines our international commitments.”

“The Obama Administration has expended great time and resources toward establishing America’s leadership on global challenges including the development of clean, low-carbon energy,” the letter reads. “By approving Keystone XL, the country would instead be locking itself into the development of high cost, high carbon fuels for the foreseeable future.”

Can a Tipi Stop a Pipeline? South Dakota Tribes Stand Firm Against Keystone XL

Vimeo/Moccasins on the GroundCan a Tipi Stop a Pipeline? Many American Indians are game to find out. Above, a still from the video compiled by Moccasins on the Ground about Keystone XL resistance.

Vimeo/Moccasins on the Ground
Can a Tipi Stop a Pipeline? Many American Indians are game to find out. Above, a still from the video compiled by Moccasins on the Ground about Keystone XL resistance.

From the Oglala Lakota Sioux on the Pine Ridge Reservation to the Rosebud Sioux and others, American Indians are standing firm against the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run through or skirt their territory if approved.

The Lakota Sioux have been pushing back against TransCanada, the conglomerate that wants to run the 1,700-mile-long pipeline from the oil sands of Alberta to the Gulf Coast of Mexico, for years. Last week the Rosebud Sioux passed a unanimous resolution against the project. And a group of American Indian tribal leaders opposing the pipeline have vowed to take a “last stand” and are working together, training opponents to put up passive resistance if it comes to that.

“We see what the tar sand oil mining is causing in Canada, we see what the oil drilling in the Dakotas is doing—as they gouge her [Mother Nature] and rape her and hurt her, we know it’s all the same ecosystem that we all need to live in,” Lakota activist and Pine Ridge resident Debra White Plume told Inter Press Service News Agency last month. “For us it’s a spiritual stand—it’s our relative, it hurts us.”

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe approved a resolution on February 25 to reject outright a document that the federal government wants the tribe’s leaders to sign saying that they have been adequately consulted according to the law.

“This Programmatic Agreement for the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project has not met the standards of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, because the Rosebud Sioux Tribe has not been consulted,” said Council Representative Russell Eagle Bear in a statement from the tribe. “Additionally, the Cultural Surveys that have been conducted already are inadequate and did not cover adequate on-the-ground coverage to verify known culturally sensitive sites and areas.”

Keystone XL would wend its way through the Great Sioux Nation, including the lands of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, making them the appropriate tribe to be consulted on land within Tripp, Gregory, Lyman, Todd, and Mellette Counties in South Dakota, the statement said.

“This is a flawed document and it will not be accepted,” Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council President Cyril Scott said of the federal agreement they are being asked to sign. “It is our job as the Tribal Council to take action to protect the health and welfare of our people, and this resolution puts the federal government on notice.”

It is not the first time the government has been accused of fabricating consultation. The first draft of the environmental assessment report, released a year ago, met with resistance from tribes over what they said were inaccuracies, shoddy research and incomplete consultation, among other objections.

RELATED: Exaggerated Consultation Claims, Factual Errors in State Department’s Keystone XL Environment Report Rankle Natives

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) also came out against the conclusions in the draft environmental assessment.

RELATED: Fill Gaps in Keystone XL Draft Environment Report or Reject Pipeline, NCAI Tells Obama Administration

The U.S. Department of State is currently evaluating the final version of the environmental assessment report and accepting input from several federal agencies during a 90-day public comment period that began on January 31, when the report was issued, according to U.S. News & World Report. The State Department is also studying the consultants on the report as more and more revelations about their ties to TransCanada come to light.

RELATED: State Department Investigates Its Own Keystone XL Environmental Consultant

Nearly 400 people, many of them students, were arrested last weekend when they chained themselves to the White House fence in protest of the pipeline, the Washington Post reported.

The Native group Moccasins on the Ground has been conducting training sessions and recently hosted a conference in Rapid City, Help Save Mother Earth from the Keystone Pipeline, to teach civil disobedience tactics.

“As the process of public comment, hearings, and other aspects of an international application continue, each door is closing to protecting sacred water and our Human Right to Water,” said Debra White Plume, a Lakota activist who lives on the Pine Ridge Reservation and has been very vocal in opposing the pipeline, in a statement from Moccasins on the Ground. “Soon the only door left open will be the door to direct action.”

Below, Moccasins on the Ground leaders explain what draws them to protect the sacred water and address the question, Can a tipi stop a pipeline?





Oglala Sioux vow to stop Keystone XL on the ground if Obama won’t say no

Chief Phil Lane Jr. (left) participates in the Vancouver signing of the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred From Tar Sands Projects. Photo courtesy of Phil Lane Jr.
Chief Phil Lane Jr. (left) participates in the Vancouver signing of the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred From Tar Sands Projects. Photo courtesy of Phil Lane Jr.

By Erin Flegg, Source: Vancouver Observer

In the latest in a series of announcements escalating resistance to oil and gas development in North America, the Oglala Sioux nation and its allies have committed to stopping the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline on their territory if Obama approves the project.

In response to the US State Department’s environmental report that says Keystone wouldn’t increase the country’s carbon emissions Oglala Sioux president Bryan Brewer, along with organizations carbon emissions, Owe Aku and Protect the Sacred, released a statement declaring they will stand with the Lakota people to block the pipeline. The statement, seen by many as a significant step toward approval, sparked solidarity action across the US on Monday.

Moccasins on the Ground is a grassroots direct action training organization, and trainer Debra White Plum of the Lakota Sioux nation said the group has been working toward this moment, giving nations the skills they need to defend their land, for years now.

The training is available to anyone who invites the group onto their land, and it consists of four days of training in areas such as knowing your rights, blockading and self-defence, first aid and social media. White Plume said a large part of the impetus for offering the training is the size of the territory at risk. Tribes can be several hundred kilometres away from each other, often making quick help hard to come by.

“This way a community can do whatever they need to do when threatened and they’ll have the skills right here, and that’s really important out here where we live,” she said. “We want this non-violent, direct way that everybody engaging in across the country to be successful,” she said. “But if it’s not and if the final door is closed, then that’s why we’re doing the training.”

The organization has toured the United States and has received requests for training from several nations in Canada. She said the political process has left the people with little choice.

“Every door has been closed through this process. Court decisions have been made that favoured the corporations and there are a few cases here and there where the landowners are still asserting their rights under American law.” But if the government can’t be counted on to uphold its own laws, she said, there’s nothing to stop them violating indigenous treaty rights.

“As red nations people we have seen the federal government violate treaties clear to this day.”

The violation of the treaties—in the case of Keystone it’s primarily the Fort Laramie Treaty between the American government and the Oglala Sioux—is the key reason Phil Lane says it’s unfair to call direct action by indigenous people civil disobedience.

“It is not civil disobedience. This is simply acting out of an aboriginal legal order to stand up for what is right. It is standing up for an ancient aboriginal legal order that has never been extinguished.”

Just as the US and Canada and any other sovereign nation has the right to enter into legally binding treaties, so do First Nations. When a treaty such as the one between the Sioux and the American government is broken by one of the parties bound by it, Lane said a third legal party is required to resolve the situation. Because the governments of the United States and Canada are handling the administration of the treaties they themselves have broken, Lane said it’s impossible to expect justice from them.

What direct action resistance against Keystone looks like will ultimately be up to the Obama administration.

“What’s going to happen if he chooses to give in to the oil companies and their allies is he’s going to empower the rising of indigenous people everywhere on Mother Earth,” he said. “This will be another final violation people aren’t ready to take.”

Ottawa-based Idle No More organizer Clayton Thomas-Muller added that it’s crucial to remember that opposition to Keystone XL was initiated and pushed forward by indigenous people. And what’s more, that much of the progress made has been thanks to the indigenous peoples who have demanded recognition of their rights, namely consultation.

In December of 2011 at the annual White House Tribal Leaders Summit, indigenous leaders, including former president of the Rosebud Sioux nation Rodney Bordeaux, presented President Obama with Mother Earth Accord, a document stating indigenous opposition to Keystone XL. The document was endorsed by numerous nations from both sides of the border, NGOs, landowners and the NDP party. Thomas-Muller said it’s the only such document that was delivered into Obama’s hands directly.

“It was only through native rights-based framework being used by indigenous organizations and networks that provide that unparalleled access to the state department and White House,” he said.

He traveled to New York City on Monday night to speak at one of more than 300 actions across 44 states this week. He read a statement written by Debra White Plume and spoke on behalf of Idle No More in Canada.

So many people have been preparing for this moment, he said, and are now coming together for a final push.

“Moving forward, we have a very short timeline. Within the next couple of months we will see a variety of very direct messages like the one we heard from Bryan Brewer of Oglala Sioux nation.”

Fixing old water and gas pipelines would create far more jobs than building Keystone XL

By Brendan Smith, Kristen Sheeran and May Boeve, GRIST

In the coming months, President Obama will decide whether to approve the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport crude tar-sands oil from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. We know that the pipeline would greatly aggravate climate change, allowing massive amounts of the world’s dirtiest oil to be extracted and later burned.

The payoff, say supporters such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is a job boom in construction industries, which are currently suffering from high unemployment. Earlier this month, Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue called on the president “to put American jobs before special interest politics.”

If you believe headline-grabbing challenges such as Donohue’s, the president is painted into a corner on the KXL pipeline — trapped by a stagnant economy and an ailing environment.

The president knows KXL’s jobs promises are way overblown. In July, he explained it this way to The New York Times: “Republicans have said this would be a big jobs generator. There is no evidence that is true.” The most realistic estimates, said the president, show that KXL “might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline, which might take a year or two.” And after that, “we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in an economy of 150 million working people.”

Still, even a few thousand construction jobs can’t be dismissed out of hand, in an industry where nearly a million people are estimated to be out of work. Those jobs would put food on the table and pay mortgages. They would alleviate a lot of pain, even if only temporarily. As a country, we’re still hungry for jobs. It seems as if we’re collectively out on the street and KXL is the only offer that has come along.

But that’s not actually the case.

According to “The Keystone Pipeline Debate: An Alternative Job Creation Strategy,” a study just released by Economics for Equity and Environment and the Labor Network for Sustainability, targeted investments in our existing water and natural-gas pipeline infrastructure needs along the proposed five-state corridor of the KXL pipeline would create many more long-term jobs than Keystone XL, both in absolute terms and per unit of investment.

We can create far more jobs in the construction industry and do it right in the regions that would stand to benefit from the KXL pipeline. We can get beyond the zombie jobs-vs.-environment debate that keeps rearing its ghoulish head, putting people back to work without breaking the climate. We can do all this by tackling the national crisis of aging infrastructure — repairing things such as crumbling water mains and leaking gas lines that are critical to our communities and our economy.

The data from the report are straightforward and compelling. Meeting the $18 billion in needed water and gas line repairs would support:

–  More than 300,000 total jobs across all sectors

–  Nearly five times more jobs, and more long-term jobs, than KXL

–  156 percent of the number of direct jobs created by Keystone XL per unit of investment

All of this necessary infrastructure work can be financed, as the report describes, just by closing three federal tax breaks fossil fuel companies enjoy for drilling and refining activities.  So the tax loopholes that would help subsidize the KXL pipeline could instead fund many more longer-lasting jobs repairing existing water and gas infrastructure.

To be clear, natural gas has serious negative impacts to communities and the environment. Fracking, the now commonly used process of extracting shale gas from deep underground, releases 30 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional drilling and is poisoning water supplies across the country. But we still need to fix leaks in our existing natural-gas pipelines, which are contributing significantly to climate change. Shoring up those pipelines will also protect communities and businesses that rely on gas now, as we transition to cleaner energy.

Damage caused by leaking and unsafe gas pipelines cost governments across the country more than $450 million between 1984 and 2013. The American Society of Civil Engineers, in its latest Infrastructure Report Card, recently gave the country a D+ on energy infrastructure, and a D on drinking-water and wastewater infrastructure. If we don’t get our act together, we’re going to see more devastating explosions like the one that tore through San Bruno, Calif., a few years ago.

What’s curious is that many of the politicians and lobbying groups who have touted the KXL pipeline as a source of jobs have opposed legislation to invest in job-creating pipeline infrastructure programs. Yet when it comes to job creation, infrastructure improvements beat out KXL by a country mile. KXL has become a litmus test for being pro-job, but one that’s far detached from reality and that’s drawing attention away from effective ways to get people back to work.

Meanwhile, environmentalists, frequently excoriated as “job killers,” are becoming a strong collective voice for investment in infrastructure and other things our country really needs. They are increasingly working with organized labor to develop concrete alternatives to jobs that may destroy the environment.

If job creation is our primary goal, then politicians should pivot away from the Keystone XL pipeline and toward repairs to existing pipeline infrastructure. This is how President Obama — and the whole country — can get out of the Keystone jam.

Brendan Smith is a former construction worker and cofounder of the Labor Network for Sustainability.Kristen Sheeran is an economist and director of the E3 Network.

May Boeve is the executive director of

John Podesta, climate hawk and Keystone opponent, joins Obama team

This post has been updated at the bottom with news that Podesta will recuse himself from the Keystone XL decision.

By Lisa Hymas, Grist

President Obama is getting a new high-level adviser who cares a lot about climate change and doesn’t care much at all for the Keystone XL pipeline.

John Podesta is no stranger to the White House; he served as chief of staff to President Clinton. And he’s no stranger to the Obama team; he led the president’s transition into office after the 2008 election. Since then, he’s served as an “outside adviser,” The New York Times reports, and “has occasionally criticized the administration, if gently, from his perch as the founder and former president of the Center for American Progress, a center-left public policy research group that has provided personnel and policy ideas to the administration.”

For the coming year, he’ll be advising from the inside. He will help out on health care and “will focus in particular on climate change issues, a personal priority of Mr. Podesta’s,” according to the Times. Podesta is expected to encourage Obama to take action through his executive authority, as Congress is unwilling and unable to pass legislation on climate change or much else. “Podesta has been urging Obama for three years to use the full extent of his authority as president to go around Congress,” Politico reports.

Podesta is also an outspoken opponent of Keystone, and his move to the White House is making some Keystone boosters nervous, National Journal reports.

InsideClimate News has more:

His arrival comes just as the decision on TransCanada’s proposal to build a controversial pipeline to deliver tar sands crude from Alberta across the midsection of the United States approaches a critical turning point: the completion of a final environmental impact statement by the State Department. That will be followed by a crucial 90-day period in which Obama must decide whether the pipeline is in the U.S. national interest. …

Podesta has allied himself closely with some of [the environmentalists opposing the pipeline], including the wealthy investor Tom Steyer, who has been mobilizing opposition to the project. They appeared together at CAP’s conference to celebrate its 10th anniversary this fall.

Just last week, CAP co-sponsored a daylong conference with Steyer’s team in Georgetown to argue that the pipeline could not pass the litmus test Obama set back in June — that the Keystone could only be approved if it didn’t significantly exacerbate greenhouse gas emissions. …

[A]s the various interests in the Keystone decision make their final arguments at the White House, Podesta could not be better positioned as a particularly close adviser to voice his own views — and to debunk the arguments of those who favor the tar sands pipeline.

Will Podesta make the difference on Keystone? Don’t count on it. There are already plenty of people in the administration on both sides of the issue. Ultimately, the call is Obama’s alone.

But Podesta could make the difference on UFO issues

UPDATE, from The New Yorker:

A White House aide emailed late Tuesday that Podesta would recuse himself from working on the Keystone Pipeline decision.

“In discussions with Denis,” the aide said, speaking of White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, “John suggested that he not work on the Keystone Pipeline issue, in review at the State Department, given that the review is far along in the process and John’s views on this are well known. Denis agreed that was the best course of action.” Podesta’s climate change portfolio will therefore be limited largely to overseeing implementation of E.P.A. regulations, which are already moving along, and not the far more controversial and politically sensitive decision about the pipeline.

Still, Podesta is on record strongly opposing the pipeline. If Obama approves the project, he will have to do so knowing he is contradicting the assessment of his new climate-change adviser.

Full disclosure: Grist periodically reprints posts from ClimateProgress, a Center for American Progress blog.

Lisa Hymas is senior editor at Grist. You can follow her on Twitter and Google+.

Three Horseback Journeys Trace Paths of Imminent Pipeline Destruction

Suze LeonHorseback riders traveled along three proposed pipeline routes to show the terrain they would traverse and the lives they'd put at risk.
Suze Leon
Horseback riders traveled along three proposed pipeline routes to show the terrain they would traverse and the lives they’d put at risk.

Winona LaDuke, Indian Country Today Media Network

There’s a beauty in the breath of horses, fall mornings’ breath seen in the air, and the smell and sound of horses. We rode horses from the Headwaters of the Mississippi along the proposed route of a new oil pipeline that would cross the reservation. It was the third of a series of rides on oil pipeline routes.

RELATED: Anishinaabe and Lakota Riders Protest Pipelines, on Horseback

The rides were sponsored by Honor the Earth, along with the Horse Spirit Society, Owe Aku and the White Earth Land Recovery Project. Those rides took us on the Alberta Clipper proposed expansion route (from Superior, Wisconsin, to the Red Lake Reservation), and to the proposed Keystone XL route in the Dakotas, where riders from White Earth Reservation joined with the Lakota to ride between Wanbli and Takini or Bridger on the Cheyenne River Reservation. Then we came home, to our own reservation, where a new pipeline is proposed to cut near our largest wild rice lake.

“We are not protesters, we’re protectors,” said Michael Dahl, leader of the third ride. That is true.

Michael Dahl, leader of the third ride. (Photo: Suze Leon)
Michael Dahl, leader of the third ride. (Photo: Suze Leon)

We called this the triple crown of pipeline rides. What’s at stake is a lot of water and a lot of risk. In the Dakotas it is a land without a single pipeline across it and one large aquifer, the Oglala.

“We can buy bottled water, and drink it, “ Percy White Plume pointed out. “The buffalo and horses cannot.”

This is a good point. So it was that 15 riders braved some harrowing terrain, a land littered with 100,000 dead cattle from a freak September blizzard, (frozen dead on the sides of roads, gullies and the like) and rode the proposed Keystone XL route.

RELATED: Entombed in Snow: Up to 100,000 Cattle Perished Where They Stood in Rogue South Dakota Blizzard

In Minnesota it is wild rice, water and oil. The Enbridge pipeline corporation is proposing to both expand a present oil sands pipeline, the Alberta Clipper, doubling its capacity and making it the largest tar sands pipeline in the U.S. That has its own risks—such as those of carrying dilbit, a highly corrosive substance, in a pipeline that is monitored remotely from Edmonton, Alberta. Enbridge also wants to construct a  610-mile pipeline from near Tioga , North Dakota, to Superior, Wisconsin. This is the same oil as the 800,000 gallons that devastated a Tioga farm field in North Dakota in early October. That pipeline was six inches in diameter; the proposed pipeline is 30. The proposed Sandpiper pipeline would carry 375,000 barrels of oil and cross through the White Earth reservation and the 1855 treaty area.

Enbridge is facing some obstacles.

“This is land that has been in my family for decades. It is prime Red River valley agriculture land. It was handed down to me by my mother and father when they passed away, and I’m intending to hand it down to my children when I pass away…. My wife and I have … told our children that we will pass this on. Of course, if 225,000 barrels of oil bursts through this thing, that certainly is the end of this family legacy. —James Botsford, North Dakota landowner and Winnebago Supreme Court Judge in Enbridge Sandpiper right of way

The Enbridge North Dakota company asked Botsford if they could survey his land.

“I told Enbridge … I am not going to give you permission,” Botsford said. “You are going to have to take it.”

So Enbridge filed a restraining order against Botsford, “denying me the private use of my own land,” he said. In fact, Enbridge told the court, “Unless defendant is restrained and enjoined from preventing or interfering with access to the property … Enbridge will be irreparably harmed.”

Enbridge told Botsford that the company’s rights trumped his rights.  Enbridge seems pretty comfortable with that position, particularly ever since the Canadian corporation magically became a North Dakota utility. This metamorphosis allows the corporation to have eminent domain rights within the state. That occurred a decade ago and has served Enbridge well.

The company, however, has not been so lucky everywhere. In June 2013 the British Columbia government denied Enbridge permits for the Northern Gateway pipeline, citing environmental, safety and economic concerns about the corporation. That was in addition to massive opposition by First Nations. In Minnesota, Enbridge needs to get 2,000 rights of way for its pipeline proposal, and a certificate of need approved at the Public Utilities Commission. Those are all being challenged.

RELATED: British Columbia’s Enbridge Pipeline Rejection Could Raise Keystone XL Questions


“Farmer Steven Jensen said the smell of sweet light crude oil wafted on his (rural Tioga) farm for four days before he discovered the leak, leading to questions about why the spill wasn’t detected sooner.” —Reuters on the 865,000-gallon spill in North Dakota in October 2013

Right now most of the oil moving in this country, from the Bakken fields, basically the Ft. Berthold reservation, goes by rail. That’s up to 380,000 rail cars projected to move this year. That is perhaps why Warren Buffett purchased the Burlington Northern Railroad; because he saw that the money was in the landlocked oil. The problem is that the oil is moving faster than regulation, with safety especially lagging as companies seek to extract as quickly as possible, before rules are imposed.

This past summer, four square blocks of the town of Lac Megantic, Quebec, blew up as a train’s braking systems failed. The train was carrying Bakken oil. Forty-three people were virtually vaporized in an explosion that baffled Canadian authorities. They had never seen anything like it.

RELATED: Exploded Quebec Oil Train Was Bringing Crude From North Dakota’s Bakken to New Brunswick Refineries

Lac-Mégantic Rail Tragedy Resonates in Quinault Nation as Victims Are Memorialized

Bakken oil, the stuff they want to put in the Sandpiper line, seems to be very volatile, sort of like a bomb in a pipeline. Which seems a bit worrisome. It’s even more worrisome given that the North Dakota accident (the 835,000-gallon spill) was attributed to lightning. Now, I’m not sure, but I think that lightning and an extremely volatile substance may be a very bad idea in a pipeline. That is the Sandpiper line.

The Sandpiper pipeline proposal.
The Sandpiper pipeline proposal.

The other Minnesota line—the Alberta Clipper—holds 440,000 barrels per day of tar sands oil. The Enbridge proposed expansion to 880,000 barrels per day would make that the largest tar sands pipeline.

Tar sands oil is both controversial for its origin and controversial for its transport and increased risk. Meanwhile the Keystone XL pipeline is facing huge opposition from farmers, ranchers, environmentalists and the Lakota Nation. In mid-November, Cheyenne River reservation leaders sent TransCanada’s representatives off the reservation, in an abrupt meeting.

Enter the Pig

Enbridge’s pipelines are largely monitored by the company. That is, if you don’t count the 135 federal inspectors who are responsible for 2.5 million miles of pipeline. Those inspectors, working for the U.S. Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHSMA), were on furlough when the 835,000-gallon Tioga spill happened, but it didn’t matter because remediation was in company hands.

It turns out there’s a piece of equipment called a “pig” (a pipeline inspection gauge actually), which goes through the lines to check them for structural problems. Sort of like a pipeline colonoscopy. This pig hasn’t worked out too well, it seems.

According to Enbridge’s company data, between 1999 and 2010, across all of the company’s operations, there were 804 oil spills that released 161,475 barrels (approximately 6.8 million gallons) of hydrocarbons into the environment. This amounts to approximately half of the oil that spilled from the oil tanker Exxon Valdez after it struck a rock in Prince William Sound, Alaska, in 1988. The single largest pipeline oil spill in U.S. history was the Kalamazoo spill, which was an Enbridge line.

“Federal regulators are investigating the 2010 rupture of Line 6B, part of the Enbridge-operated Lakehead pipeline system,” Michigan lawmakers testified. “The National Transportation Safety Board found Enbridge knew of a defect on the pipeline five years before it burst open and spilled around 20,000 barrels of oil into southern Michigan waters.”

So maybe the pig was mute. I don’t know. What I do know is that there are a lot of pipelines, and no one seems to be monitoring them.

In 2012 the PHSMA ordered Enbridge to submit plans to improve the safety of the entire Lakeland System. Meanwhile, Canada’s National Energy Board has stated that Enbridge is not complying with safety standards at 117 of its pumping stations. The board is analyzing concerns and solutions.

New Project/New Plan

Enbridge's pipeline wish list, some of it granted.
Enbridge’s pipeline wish list, some of it granted.

Pipeline safety is increasingly under scrutiny, even as it becomes more mechanized. The pipeline safety system itself, however, is not local.

“This line—the Sandpiper line—the plan is that it will be operated from the control center in Estevan, Saskatchewan, … northwest of Minot, across the Canadian border,” Greg Sheline of Enbridge explained. From there, “that information gets reported back to the control center, so that the operators can monitor the operation.”

This of course does not sit well with those whose lives depend on the vigilance of this remote, robotic system.

“We don’t know if any of those lines will hold, and Enbridge has not proven itself to be a safe part of our environment,” said Dahl. “Our lakes and wild rice beds will be here forever, but if there’s an oil spill they will be destroyed, and Enbridge will not be here. They are a 50-year-old Canadian corporation, and we are a people who have lived here for ten thousand years.”

Enbridge’s expansions are intended to feed into a set of pipelines in the Great Lakes region. The Minnesota lines are intended to snake through and around tribal reservations and wild rice beds to a refinery in Superior, Wisconsin. From there Enbridge hopes to ship forth that oil, through pipelines, to a proposed 17 refinery expansions.

Many of these pipelines are more than 50 years old, including a precarious link in the straights of Mackinac. That link in particular is making a lot of people nervous. An underwater spill in the straights would, according to scientists, spill a million gallons before it could be stopped.

The Certificate of Need, or Was It Greed?

The expansion is predicated on “need,” or a certificate of need. In Enbridge’s application before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, access to a stable supply of oil is the primary measure of need.

Need is subjective. It turns out that the world’s largest oil reserves are in the western hemisphere, in Venezuela—followed by Saudi Arabia—and then the Alberta tar sands. Venezuela is a country that has demanded a fair price for oil and has used that oil to develop its infrastructure. If there were such thing as an example of “fair trade” oil, this would be it.

In fact, a good chunk of Venezuelan crude has historically come back to tribal reservations. More than 223 of them have benefited from Venezuelan petroleum company Citgo’s largesse in communities that suffer from fuel poverty. As that country’s exports to the U.S. decline, this will likely be affected. In turn American corporations, driven by some hostile historic foreign policy, do not, it seems, want to pay a fair price for oil from that country. Hugo Chavez should rest in peace.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, in February 2013 Venezuelan crude oil and byproduct shipments to the U.S. dropped by 33 percent from 2012 levels. These sales had been paid in cash, so the loss deprives Venezuela of cash flow.

The interests of greed are large. The Koch brothers (two of the wealthiest Americans, worth $36 billion apiece) make much of their money on the oil market (a.k.a. derivatives) and have some very large interests in the Keystone XL pipeline. The brothers also own Minnesota’s Flint Hills refinery, which processes 25 percent of Canada’s tar sands oil in the U.S. They may profit considerably if a certificate of need is awarded for all these pipelines. Or as investigative reporter Greg Palast explains, “Koch brothers could save two billion dollars a year if they can replace Venezuelan heavy crude with Canadian tar sands—one of the dirtiest sources of carbon emissions on the planet.”

This past fall Venezuela faced serious economic woes from a loss of oil exports. Instead of developing a country, it seems that Suncor, Exxon, Mobil, Tesoro and Enbridge are facilitating the long-term destruction of Native territories from the Upper Missouri to the Athabasca River. There is, in short, no shortage of western hemispheric oil. There is only the greed-driven destruction of territories and communities whose people will neither benefit, nor control the process.

I’m done riding pipelines for the winter, I think. And I, like my fellow Mississippi Band of Anishinaabe members, intend to stay here, in our homeland at the headwaters. I am pretty sure we aren’t interested in sharing that with an oil company.

I’m off the horse, but I’m not done talking about pipelines. In the meantime, our horses are going to hope there’s water to drink and that their hooves will touch land not tainted with oil.

RELATED: The Pipeline for the One Percent



Obama approves major border-crossing fracked gas pipeline used to dilute tar sands

By Steve Horn. November 26, 2013. Source: DeSmog Blog

Although TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has received the lion’s share of media attention, another key border-crossing pipeline benefitting tar sands producers was approved on November 19 by the U.S. State Department.

Enter Cochin, Kinder Morgan’s 1,900-mile proposed pipeline to transport gas produced via the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of the Eagle Ford Shale basin in Texas north through Kankakee, Illinois, and eventually into Alberta, Canada, the home of the tar sands.

Like Keystone XL, the pipeline proposal requires U.S. State Department approval because it crosses the U.S.-Canada border. Unlike Keystone XL – which would carry diluted tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) south to the Gulf Coast – Kinder Morgan’s Cochin pipeline would carry the gas condensate (diluent) used to dilute the bitumen north to the tar sands.

“The decision allows Kinder Morgan Cochin LLC to proceed with a $260 million plan to reverse and expand an existing pipeline to carry an initial 95,000 barrels a day of condensate,” the Financial Post wrote.

“The extra-thick oil is typically cut with 30% condensate so it can move in pipelines. By 2035, producers could require 893,000 barrels a day of the ultra-light oil, with imports making up 786,000 barrels of the total.”

Increased demand for diluent among Alberta’s tar sands producers has created a growing market for U.S. producers of natural gas liquids, particularly for fracked gas producers.

“Total US natural gasoline exports reached a record volume of 179,000 barrels per day in February as Canada’s thirst for oil sand diluent ramped up,” explained a May 2013 article appearing in Platts. ”US natural gasoline production is forecast to increase to roughly 450,000 b/d by 2020.”

Before Eagle Ford, Kinder Morgan Targeted Marcellus

Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale basin was Kinder Morgan’s first choice pick for sourcing tar sands diluent for export to Alberta. It wasn’t until that plan failed that the Eagle Ford Shale basin in Texas became Plan B.

Known then as the Kinder Morgan Cochin Marcellus Lateral Project proposal, the project fell by the wayside in February 2012.

“The company’s Cochin Marcellus Lateral Pipeline would have started in Marshall County, West Virginia, and transported natural gas liquids from the Marcellus producing region of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio,” wrote the Mount Vernon News of the canned project. [It] would [then] carry the [natural gas] liquids to processing plants and other petrochemical facilities in Illinois and Canada.”

“Kinder Magic”: More to Come?

Industry market trends publication RBN Energy described Kinder Morgan’s dominance of the tar sands diluent market as “Kinder Magic” in a January 2013 article.

“These are still early days for the developing condensate business in the Gulf Coast region,” RBN Energy’s Sandy Fielden wrote. “Plains All American and Kinder Morgan are developing the potential to deliver at least 170,000 barrels per day of Eagle Ford condensate as diluent to the Canadian tar sand fields in Alberta by the middle of 2014.”

Fielden explained we could see many more of these projects arise in the coming years.

“We have a sense that before too long there will be many more condensate infrastructure projects showing up like ‘magic’ in midstream company presentations.”

While the industry press coverage sounds optimistic, it doesn’t account for the concurrent rise of public opposition to dirty energy pipelines and expansion plans in the fracking and tar sands arenas, so only time will tell the fate of Cochin and its kin.

Southern Leg of Keystone XL Near Completion as Opponents Lose Last Legal Battle in Texas

By Carol Berry, Indian Country Today Media Network

American Indians and others who oppose the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline have lost their last legal battle, enabling TransCanada to finish the project by year’s end.

While the northern part of the Keystone XL pipeline has been held up by controversy, the protests against the southern portion, known as the Gulf Coast Pipeline, have been to no avail. On October 9 a split federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s refusal to stop the pipeline’s construction because an injunction to stop construction, which is what the opponents sought, “would cost [TransCanada] at least hundreds of thousands of dollars per day,” the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals said in its ruling.

RELATED: Actress Daryl Hannah Arrested Protesting Keystone XL in Texas

New York Times Journalists Threatened With Arrest While Reporting on Keystone XL Opposition

TransCanada has already spent at least $500 million on the 485-mile pipeline, which is expected to transport 700,000 gallons of crude oil daily from Cushing, in central Oklahoma, to Gulf Coast refineries.

The controversial Keystone XL extends through Sac and Fox territory. Other Oklahoma tribes that have spoken out about the pipeline’s impact on tribal patrimony include the Caddo, Choctaw, Southern Ponca and Pawnee, though none is party to the lawsuit.

The southern XL extension was formerly part of the full TransCanada XL pipeline, traversing some 1,700 miles of western and Midwestern states in its transnational route from Canadian tar sands, but vigorous opposition from Indian people, especially in northern areas, has delayed approval of the full section. The northern part must be approved by the U.S. Department of State, because it crosses an international line between Canada and the United States. The southern leg, purely domestic, was able to go ahead, despite a lack of thorough environmental reviews.

The Sierra Club and other plaintiffs had sought an injunction against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which had signed off on numerous permits so that TransCanada could move ahead. TransCanada proceeded even though the Corps had to issue 2,227 permits for water crossings, with minimal environmental review.

“Considering the number of permits issued by the Corps relative to the overall size of the Gulf Coast Pipeline, it is patently ludicrous for appellees to characterize the Corps’ involvement in the subject project as minimal, or to maintain that the Corps’ permitting involves only a ‘link’ in the Gulf Coast Pipeline,” said dissenting District Judge William Martinez in the October 9 Tenth Circuit ruling.

But the other two members of the three-justice panel in the federal appeals court, Circuit Judges Paul Kelly and Jerome Holmes, both said that financial harm can be weighed against environmental harm and in certain circumstances outweigh it.

The Sierra Club had alleged violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Clean Water Act and Administrative Procedures Act and contend that the pipeline constitutes a “major federal act” that requires NEPA analysis leading to a “hard look” at possible impacts.

RELATED: Welcome to Fearless Summer: Protesters Block Keystone XL Construction



State Department contractor lied Transcanada ties, another fatal flaw of Keystone environmental review

By Steve Horn, DeSmog Blog

The contractor the Obama U.S. State Department hired for the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) of the northern half of TransCanada’s Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands export pipeline overtly lied on its conflict-of-interest disclosure form that it signed and handed to State in June 2012.

A major research dossier unfurled today by Friends of the Earth-U.S. (FOE-U.S.) and The Checks & Balances Project (CBP) shows that Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group) played “Pinocchio” in explaining its ties – or as they say, lack thereof – to Big Oil, tar sands and TransCanada in particular on its conflict-of-interest form.

The two groups dug deep and revealed State’s contractor ERM and its subsidiary Oasis Environmental both have ongoing contractual relationships with the Alaska Gas Project – now known as the South Central LNG Project – co-owned by TransCanada, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and BP. Further, ERM’s Socioeconomic Advisor Mark Jennings served as a “Consultant to ExxonMobil Development Company for the Alaska Pipeline Project, according to his now-scrubbed LinkedIn profile.

ERM’s own documents – FOE-U.S. and CBP further explain – also reveal the multinational firm has business ties with over a dozen companies active in the Alberta tar sands, including Exxon, Shell, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Total and Syncrude.

On its conflict-of-interest form, ERM said it had no “direct or indirect relationship … with any business entity that could be affected in any way by the proposed work.” Clearly, that’s far from the case.

In March, ERM Group – a City of London-based dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute (API) with a history of rubber-stamping ecologically hazardous oil and gas infrastructure projects – said KXL’s northern half “is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development” of the tar sands in its SEIS. Thus, it will also have little impact on climate change, according to ERM’s SEIS, contracted out by TransCanada on behalf of the State Department.

FOE-U.S. says these most recent developments further call the entire SEIS into question, and that doesn’t include the fact that State recently revealed it’s clueless as to the exact route of the Keystone XL.

“From the beginning, the State Department’s review of Keystone has been plagued by influence peddling and conflicts of interest,” said FOE-U.S.’s Ross Hammond in a press statement.

“This is more serious: If ERM lied about its relationship with TransCanada, how can Secretary Kerry, President Obama or the American people believe anything the company says about the pipeline’s environmental impact?”

As PLATFORM London explains, ERM Group – also a dues-paying member of fracking industry lobbying force Marcellus Shale Coalition up until Oct. 2011 – is part of the “Carbon Web.” That’s shorthand for “the network of relationships between oil and gas companies and the government departments, regulators, cultural institutions, banks and other institutions that surround them.”

Given the state of play, both FOE-U.S. and CBP have called for State’s Office of the Inspector General to conduct a thorough investigation, examining how and why ERM was chosen. They’ve also called for a complete halt in the KXL review process until that transpires.

“Secretary Kerry must halt this flawed review process and direct the State Department to conduct a full, unbiased review of the Keystone XL pipeline’s impact,” Gabe Elsner, director of CBP said in a press statement.

“In addition, the State Department Inspector General should pursue a full investigation into how a contractor with clear conflicts of interest was allowed to write the U.S. government’s assessment of Keystone XL and why the State Department failed to bring those conflicts of interest to light. Finally, the State Department should determine appropriate disciplinary actions for ERM to discourage contractors from lying to the federal government in the future.”

Friends of the Earth U.S. has set up an action page where concerned citizens can send letters to State Secretary John Kerry calling for an investigation into the many conflicts of interest scandals within the environmental review process.

Government doesn’t know exact route of Keystone XL

John Upton, Grist

You might think that one would need to know the precise route of a huge planned pipeline in order to assess its environmental impacts. But the State Department apparently disagrees.

Thomas Bachand has been trying to find out the precise route of Keystone XL for his Keystone Mapping Project. When he submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the State Department, which is responsible for assessing Keystone, it responded with a big shrug of the shoulders. From the department’s June 24 letter to Bachand:

[T]he Department does not have copies of records responsive to your request because the Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone pipeline project was created by Cardno ENTRIX under a contract financed by TransCanada Keystone Pipeline LP, and not the U.S. government.

Neither Cardno ENTRIX nor TransCanada ever submitted GIS information to the Department of State, nor was either corporation required to do so. The information that you request, if it exists, is therefore neither physically nor constructively under the control of the Department of State and we are therefore unable to comply with your FOIA request.

DeSmogBlog lists some of the important questions left unanswered because we lack the specific route info:

Where will KXL intersect rivers or cross ponds that provide drinking water? What prized hunting grounds and fishing holes might be ruined by a spill? How can communities prepare for possible incidents?

This isn’t the first time Bachand has been blocked in his efforts to map the proposed pipeline. From his blog:

Last year when I requested the data from TransCanada, I was told that releasing it would be a “national security risk.” Despite this, TransCanada only carries $200 million in third party liability insurance. By contrast, cleanup costs for the 2010 pipeline spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan are $1 billion and climbing.

How very thoughtful of TransCanada to be concerned about risks.