New pipeline threatens way of life of Coast Salish tribes
Brad Angerman, Pyramid Communications
CHILLIWACK, British Columbia—Tribal representatives from four U.S. tribes spoke in unified opposition today against oil giant Kinder Morgan’s new proposed tar sands oil pipeline. The announcement took place in Chilliwack, a rural town of 80,000 about 50 miles (86 kilometers) east of Vancouver, B.C. Tribal elders, fishers, leaders and youth presented testimony opposing the project to Canada’s National Energy Board, which will make a recommendation on the future of the pipeline to Canada’s federal government, the ultimate decision-making body for the project.
“We can no longer allow the Salish Sea to be used as a dumping ground,” said Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby. “For more than 150 years we have lived in a pollution-based economy, and today face increased threat of an oil spill in our traditional fishing grounds on the Salish Sea—an event that would very likely lead to irreparable damage to salmon and shellfish habitat, and destroy our way of life along with it.”
The Kinder Morgan proposed oil pipeline would roughly triple the capacity of the existing pipeline, from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 per day. It would run alongside an existing pipeline that stretches from the Alberta tar sands oil fields to an oil shipping terminal in Burnaby, B.C., a suburb of Vancouver, greatly increasing the traffic of oil tankers carrying diluted tar sands bitumen through Canadian and U.S. waters.
“The proposed pipeline, if approved, will increase the risk of oil spills and cause more disruption of our fishing fleet. The Suquamish Tribe has a duty to stand up to further threats to our Salish Sea fishing grounds, which have sustained our people since time immemorial,” said Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman.
“If the pipeline is approved, there will be a massive increase in tanker loadings,” said Tulalip Board of Director Glen Gobin. “This increased traffic will directly interfere with access to traditional and treaty-protected fishing areas, and put the safety of tribal fishers at risk—not to mention drastically increase the chance of a catastrophic oil spill,” he said. “My father, Bernie Gobin, fought side by side with leaders such as Billy Frank Jr. to ensure that salmon, the very essence of who we are as Coast Salish peoples, live on from generation to generation. We fight for our past and our future.“
Canada’s Coast Salish First Nations also oppose the oil pipeline, and testified before the National Energy Board last week. Those tribes included Shxw’owhámel First Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Kwantlen First Nation, Musqueam Indian Band, Peters Band. Katzie First Nation and Hwlitsum First Nation also provided testimony.
“Like the sea, Coast Salish people acknowledge no boundaries. We are united to protect the Salish Sea,” said Chemainus First Nation member Ray Harris. “It’s a danger to the environment, a violation of aboriginal fishing rights, and a threat to all people who call this unique place home,” he said.
Coast Salish peoples are the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest, and have traditionally lived along the coasts of Oregon and Washington in the United States, and in British Columbia, Canada. The Salish Sea is a network of waterways between the southwestern tip of British Columbia and the northwestern tip of Washington State, and includes the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Haro Strait, the Strait of Georgia and the Puget Sound.
BILLINGS, Mon. — Native tribes from the U.S. and Canada signed a treaty Tuesday establishing an inter-tribal alliance to restore bison to areas of the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains where millions of the animals once roamed.
Leaders of about a dozen tribes from Montana and Alberta signed the pact during a daylong ceremony on Montana’s Blackfeet Reservation, organizers said.
It marks the first treaty among the tribes and First Nations since a series of agreements governing hunting rights in the 1800s. That was when their ancestors still roamed the border region hunting bison, also called buffalo.
The long-term aim of Tuesday’s “Buffalo Treaty” is to allow the free flow of the animals across the international border and restore the bison’s central role in the food, spirituality and economies of many American Indian tribes and First Nations — a Canadian synonym for native tribes.
Such a sweeping vision could take many years to realize, particularly in the face of potential opposition from the livestock industry. But supporters said they hope to begin immediately restoring a cultural tie with bison largely severed when the species was driven to near-extinction in the late 19th century.
“The idea is, hey, if you see buffalo in your everyday life, a whole bunch of things will come back to you,” said Leroy Little Bear, a member of southern Alberta Blood Tribe who helped lead the signing ceremony.
“Hunting practices, ceremonies, songs — those things revolved around the buffalo. Sacred societies used the buffalo as a totem. All of these things are going to be revised, revitalized, renewed with the presence of buffalo,” said Little Bear, a professor emeritus of Native American studies at the University of Lethbridge.
Bison numbered in the tens of millions across North America before the West was settled. By the 1880s, unchecked commercial hunting to feed the bison hide market reduced the population to about 325 animals in the U.S. and fewer than 1,000 in Canada, according to wildlife officials and bison trade groups in Canada. Around the same time, tribes were relocated to reservations and forced to end their nomadic traditions.
There are about 20,000 wild bison in North America today.
Ranchers and landowners near two Montana reservations over the past several years fought unsuccessfully against the relocation of dozens of Yellowstone National Park bison due to concerns about disease and bison competing with cattle for grass. The tribes involved — the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation and the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre Tribes of the Fort Belknap Reservations — were among those signing Tuesday’s treaty.
Keith Aune, a bison expert with the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the agreement has parallels with the 1855 Lame Bull Treaty, a peace deal brokered by the U.S. government that established hunting rights tribes.
“They shared a common hunting ground, and that enabled them to live in the buffalo way,” Aune said. “We’re recreating history, but this time on (the tribes’) terms.”
The treaty signatories collectively control more than 6 million acres of prairie habitat in the U.S. and Canada, an area roughly the size of Vermont, according to Aune’s group.
Among the first sites eyed for bison reintroduction is along the Rocky Mountain Front, which includes Montana’s Blackfeet Reservation bordering Glacier National Park and several smaller First Nation reserves.
A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union compares U.S. police officers’ treatment of American citizens to the U.S. military’s treatment of the country’s enemies in 800 different instances.
In its report, “War Comes Home,” the ACLU determined that police departments throughout the U.S. are growing increasingly militarized.
State and local law enforcement agencies are unnecessarily employing military-grade weapons and tactics used in war zones to police American citizens — especially in communities of color — without first obtaining public permission or implementing any sort of oversight program. This is happening even though law enforcement agencies are supposed to use the minimum amount of force necessary and not violate the civil rights of any individual.
From 2011 to 2012, 50 percent of Americans affected by unnecessary SWAT deployments were black or Latino, according to the report, while whites were only affected about 20 percent of the time.
Of all SWAT deployments in that same year, 62 percent were for drug-related searches in which heavily armed SWAT teams, which often included 20 or more officers outfitted with assault rifles and grenades, served search warrants to homes.
Officers would sometimes use dangerous equipment such as flashbang grenades to temporarily blind and deafen residents before searching a home.
SWAT teams often conducted no-knock raids if the homeowner was suspected of possessing a weapon — even a legally-owned firearm. In these no-knock raids, officers broke down doors and smashed windows in order to enter homes. They screamed at the people inside, telling them to get on the floor, while often pointing weapons at the individuals, even when there were children present.
Due to the violent nature of the SWAT teams entrances, many innocent people were seriously hurt or even killed. For example, Tarika Wilson, 26, was holding her 14-month-old son when the SWAT team broke down the front door of her home and began shooting. Wilson’s son was shot, but survived, and she was fatally wounded in the officers’ search for her boyfriend, a suspected drug dealer.
Other victims who were not suspects included Eurie Stampe, 68, who was shot and killed while watching a baseball in his pajamas when a SWAT team entered his home, and 19-month-old Bounkham Phonesavanh, who was put into a medically induced coma after a flash grenade was thrown into his crib, piercing his cheek and chest and scarring his body with third-degree burns.
Although SWAT teams were designed to apprehend school shooters, hostage takers and escaped felons, 8 in 10 SWAT raids were initiated solely for the purpose of serving a search warrant. Only about 7 percent of the SWAT raids were “for hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios.”
As the ACLU reported, “Law enforcement agencies have become equipped to carry out these SWAT missions in part by federal programs such as the Department of Defense’s 1033 Program, the Department of Homeland Security’s grants to local law enforcement agencies, and the Department of Justice’s Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program.”
In 36 percent of the SWAT raids, no contraband was found, but the ACLU noted that this figure may be closer to 65 percent, since there are incomplete police reports for a number of raids that produced nothing.
While the ACLU’s report is full of startling data proving the existence of an increasingly militarized law enforcement community throughout the U.S., the advocacy group ultimately concluded that the report was incomplete because “[d]ata collecting and reporting in the context of SWAT was at best sporadic and at worst virtually nonexistent.”
U.S. officials say they will develop a new testing protocol to detect certain contaminants in shellfish, following their meeting with the Chinese government to discuss an end to that country’s ban on importing shellfish from most of the U.S. West Coast.
Representatives of the two countries’ governments met in Beijing last week for their first face-to-face discussion of China’s shellfish ban. China banned shellfish imports in December after officials there said they found high levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning in a geoduck clam from Alaska and high levels of inorganic arsenic in a geoduck from southern Puget Sound.
U.S. officials said during a briefing with reporters Friday that the Chinese are satisfied with U.S. testing methods for paralytic shellfish poisoning but they’re still concerned about arsenic. High concentrations of inorganic arsenic, a carcinogen, were found in the skin of geoduck harvested near Tacoma, Wash., last fall.
Americans don’t eat the skin. But the Chinese often do.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Paul Doremus said the U.S. will develop a new testing protocol for inorganic arsenic in shellfish.
“Ultimately it is up to China to decide whether they are satisfied that our testing mechanisms and overall protocols meets their standards,” he said.
Doremus said it was impossible to say when the ban might be lifted.
U.S. officials will meet within a week to put together the new testing protocols.
The ban has been in effect since November of 2013, costing the industry hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Representatives from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will be in Beijing March 21 to discuss China’s remaining concerns about shellfish imports. China instituted the ban when officials found high levels of arsenic and a naturally occurring biotoxin in two samples of geoduck.
The shellfish with high levels of biotoxin came from Ketchikan, Alaska.
The shellfish contaminated with arsenic were harvested near a site in Tacoma where a copper smelter operated along southern Puget Sound.
The smelter was in operation for 100 years and shellfish beds nearby were closed until 2007.
The state Department of Health did some follow-up testing on geoduck from the area and says the shellfish are safe to eat.
Native farmers’ business should receive a nice boost in the near future, thanks to a recent grant and certificate of obligation given to the Acoma Business Enterprise, LLC to develop a business plan for a food hub.
USDA Rural Development State Director Terry Brunner presented the certificate to the Acoma Business Enterprise during the ceremony held at the Southern Pueblos Council monthly meeting.
“The Obama Administration is working hard to create economic opportunities in rural tribal communities,” Brunner said. “This strategic investment will help Native farmers find new markets for their products and offers a path to sustainable farming in the 21st century.”
The $75,000 grant for this project was made available through the Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program (RBEG), which promotes development of small and emerging businesses in rural areas. Specifically the RBEG funding will be used to develop a comprehensive business plan and marketing study to create a Native Food Hub, which will be the first of its kind in the nation.
The need to develop a marketing plan came about because the Native American farmers found at the end of the growing season they usually had an abundance of produce that was not being sold or utilized. A food hub will ideally offer a location where native producers can deliver their goods for processing and distribution to market.
The Acoma Business Enterprises was requested by the 10 Southern Pueblo Council to apply for the funding because of the company’s capacity to create the plan and administer the implementation of the marketing of the produce grown in the 10 pueblos.
The RBEG program may also be used to help fund distance learning networks and employment-related adult education programs. Eligible applicants for the program include public bodies, nonprofit corporations and federally recognized Indian Tribes. Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, the RBEG program has helped create or save more than 73,000 rural jobs, provided over copy70.9 million in economic development assistance, improved manufacturing capability, and expanded health care and educational facilities, and has either expanded or helped establish almost 41,070 rural businesses and community projects.
President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.
The governors of eight Northeastern states are fed up with the air pollution that blows their way from states to their west.
In the latest high-profile move to crush the antiquated practice of burning coal in the U.S., the governors filed a petition with the EPA today that seeks more stringent air quality regulations on coal-burning states such as Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan. That’s because pollution from those states’ coal-fired power plants reaches the Atlantic coastline, sickening residents there. From The New York Times:
[There is] growing anger of East Coast officials against the Appalachian states that mine coal and the Rust Belt states that burn it to fuel their power plants and factories. Coal emissions are the chief cause of global warming and are linked to many health risks, including asthma and lung disease.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut, who is leading the effort by East Coast governors to crack down on out-of-state pollution, called it a “front-burner issue” for his administration. …
Mr. Malloy said that more than half the pollution in Connecticut was from outside the state and that it was lowering the life expectancy of Connecticut residents with heart disease or asthma. “They’re getting away with murder,” Mr. Malloy said of the Rust Belt and Appalachia. “Only it’s in our state, not theirs.”
And there’s more big air pollution news this week. From the Times:
The petition comes the day before the Supreme Court is to hear arguments to determine the fate of a related E.P.A. regulation known as the “good neighbor” rule. The regulation, officially called the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, would force states with coal pollution that wafts across state lines to rein in soot and smog, either by installing costly pollution control technology or by shutting the power plants.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments over reviving an EPA rule that would limit sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions in 28 states whose pollution blows into neighboring jurisdictions. All are in the eastern two-thirds of the country.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the rule. It said the regulation was too strict and that EPA didn’t give states a chance to put in place their own pollution-reduction plans before imposing a nationwide standard. The Obama administration and environmental groups are appealing.
Some energy companies have been powering down their coal-fired stations, citing financial losses, but plenty of coal-burning plants are still pumping out pollutants. In October, Wisconsin Energy Corp. sought permission to shutter its 407-megawatt Presque Isle coal-fired power plant in Michigan. The request was denied by the regional grid operator, which said the region couldn’t manage without the power plant’s electricity supply. The grid operator is now in talks over compensation, to help the energy company continue operating the plant at a loss.
The Supreme Court case could decide the fate of Presque Isle and many other coal plants, so it’s one to watch. Another air-pollution case is also being argued tomorrow, this one in the D.C. Circuit Court over the EPA’s mercury rules. “This is the biggest day for clean air in American courts — ever,” John Walke of the Natural Resources Defense Council told Bloomberg.
Harper’s pro-oil, anti-science policies have been the target vocal, widespread opposition, including recent sweeping mobilizations by Indigenous communities like the Elsipogtog First Nation fighting fracking exploration in New Brunswick.
“It means taking every drop of hydrocarbon out of the ground, whether it’s shale gas in New Brunswick or tar sands in Alberta and trying to destroy the environment as fast as possible, with barely a question raised about what the world will look like as a result,” Chomsky told the British paper, referring to Harper’s energy policies.
Yet there is resistance, he said, and “it is pretty ironic that the so-called ‘least advanced’ people are the ones taking the lead in trying to protect all of us, while the richest and most powerful among us are the ones who are trying to drive the society to destruction.”
His comments echo those he wrote this spring in a piece for TomDispatch entitled “Humanity Imperiled: The Path to Disaster.” He wrote: “[A]t one extreme you have indigenous, tribal societies trying to stem the race to disaster. At the other extreme, the richest, most powerful societies in world history, like the United States and Canada, are racing full-speed ahead to destroy the environment as quickly as possible.”
To organize around climate change, Chomsky told the Guardian that progressives should not frame it as a “prophecy of doom,” but rather “a call to action” that can be “energizing.”
As the country continues what David Suzuki called a “systematic attack on science and democracy” and “we are facing an irreversible climate catastrophe like the tar sands,” Canada’s race to disaster shows no signs of abating.
Flooding an area with a new reservoir to produce hydropower would seldom, if ever, be a popular idea with environmentalists. But what about the thousands of existing reservoirs that serve other purposes in America — the ones that control floods, entertain boaters, and store drinking water?
Funneling water from those reservoirs over newly installed turbines could be a relatively benign way of boosting zero-carbon hydroelectric power supplies.
The AP reports that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued 25 hydropower operating permits last year — the most since 2005. And it issued 125 preliminary permits last year, up from 95 the year before. There are 60,000 megawatts worth of preliminary permits and projects awaiting approval nationwide.
“I’ve never seen those kinds of numbers before,” said Linda Church Ciocci, executive director of the National Hydropower Association. “We’re seeing a significant change in attitude.” From the AP article:
The Department of Energy concluded last year that the U.S. could boost its hydropower capability by 15 percent by fitting nearly 600 existing dams with generators.
Most of the potential is concentrated in 100 dams largely owned by the federal government and operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. Many are navigation locks on the Ohio, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas rivers or their major tributaries.
The state with the most hydropower potential is Illinois, followed by Kentucky, Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania. Rounding out the top 10 are Texas, Missouri, Indiana, and Iowa, the study concluded.
The AP reports that it costs more to build a hydropower plant than a natural gas-fired facility, but unlike natural gas, the kinetic energy in the flowing water that fuels a hydropower plant is basically free.
Last Thursday, an intriguing press release from “Monsanto Global” was sent out to to the email inboxes of media organizations all over the world. According to the press release, Monsanto had received approval from Mexico’s SAGARPA (Secretariat of Agriculture) to plant a quarter of a million hectares of GMO corn in Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Durango. This was coupled with the announcement of two new Monsanto-funded institutions: a seed bank preserving Mexico’s 246 native strains of corn, and a museum of Mexican culture, to be established such that “[n]ever again will the wealth of this region’s culture be lost as social conditions change.”
This was certainly interesting, and indeed, the SAGARPA was in fact considering a permit to allow Monsanto to plant the corn. Still, it seemed fishy, and totally unlike Monsanto to admit (even obliquely) that their corporate practices could possibly change Mexican culture and wipe out indigenous corn strains.
Within hours, the domain name linked to in the press release (monsantoglobal.com) was no longer available, and a second Monsanto-branded press release denouncing the earlier announcement went out. This one, sent from an email at a different domain name (monsanto-media.com), claimed that the Monsanto Global press release was the work of an activist group called Sin Maíz No Hay Vida.
The highlights of the strongly-worded message included the following:
“The action of the group is fundamentally misleading,” said Janet M. Holloway, Chief of Community Relations for Monsanto. “The initiatives they put forth are unfeasible, and their list of demands is peppered with hyperbolic buzzwords like ‘sustainability,’ ‘culture,’ and ‘biodiversity.’”
“Only ecologists prioritize biodiversity over real-world concerns,” said Dr. Robert T. Fraley, who oversees Monsanto’s integrated crop and seed agribusiness technology and research worldwide. “Commercial farmers know that biodiversity means having to battle weeds and insects. That means human labor, and human labor means costs and time that could be spent otherwise.”
Later that day, a post on Monsanto’s blog denied that they had sent a press release about Mexico of any kind that day, stating that “Information on this hoax web site and its related communication properties has been turned over to the appropriate authorities to further investigate the matter.”
I reached out to a spokesperson for Sin Maíz No Hay Vida to find out more about the motivations behind the hoax.
PolicyMic (PM): Can you tell me about Sin Maíz No Hay Vida, who they are, and what their mission is?
SM: Sin Maíz No Hay Vida (Without Corn, there is No Life) is a coalition of activists, students, and artists from Mexico, the United States, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Uganda, Venezuela, Spain, and Argentina.We are fighting to preserve biological and cultural diversity in Mesoamerica and around the world.
PM: What was the goal of the fake press release?
SM: We wanted to demonstrate the importance of corn (in terms of biodiversity, sustainability, and cultures in Mexico) and to show what is at stake if companies like Monsanto manage to privatize this staple crop. It’s not an exaggeration to say that in Mexico and around the world, there is no life without corn.
We also hoped to raise consciousness about Monsanto’s current application to seed genetically modified corn on a commercial scale in three states in Mexico, a huge expansion of their current projects in Mexico. We wanted remind the Mexican officials at SAGARPA, who have the power to make this decision, that activists are paying attention. We urge them not to grant Monsanto the permit to seed commercially. Finally, we hoped to work in solidarity with other activist groups fighting Monsanto.
PM: What do you believe should be the alternative to growing GMO corn?
SM: I think that question “What’s the alternative to growing GM corn?” assumes that genetically modified corn is a necessity, and it’s not. Monsanto and other producers of GMOs want us to believe that these crops are necessary to sustain a growing population, but in fact, Monsanto is just trying to grow their bottom line by privatizing staple crops around the world. This hurts all of us: farmers, the environment, and just about everyone who eats food. To paraphrase Irina Dunn and Gloria Steinem, we need GM corn like a fish needs a bicycle, and a rusty, blood-thirsty bicycle at that. Have you ever ridden a blood-thirsty bicycle? It’s a terrible experience.
PM: Do you have any info on the website coming down?
SM: Unfortunately, I don’t have any information about why monsantoglobal.com was taken down. We’re working to get it back up. In the meantime, you can visit our website for more information about the action.
PM: What do you think of Monsanto’s response?
SM: It’s interesting that Monsanto was frightened enough by activists paying attention to their actions that they quickly denounced us online and on social media. I think I’d be happier, though, if they had withdrawn their petition to seed commercially in Mexico. I expect them to do so any minute now.
PM: What are some resources you can recommend for everyone reading who wants to get involved?
SM: We’re compiling resources for activists on our blog, especially links to activist groups in Mexico and the United States who are have been fighting Monsanto. If you want to help mobilize against Monsanto or to suggest a group that we should link to, please visit our blog.