The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa announced that it will not renew some of its easement agreements with Enbridge Energy Partners, a major pipeline company.
Enbridge’s Line 5 runs through norther Wisconsin and transports about 540,000 barrels per day of light crude oil and natural gas. Segments of the pipeline cross tribal lands.
In the wake of protests against the development of the Dakota Access pipeline, which galvanized national attention on issues of native land rights and clean water, the decision not to renew the easements represents yet another gesture of local opposition to the fossil fuel industry.
Enbridge was caught by surprise and its spokesperson told Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) that the company hopes to work with the tribe to find a resolution.
According to WPR, however, Bad River Tribal Spokesman Dylan Jennings explained that “No form of compensation or negotiations will change our decision. We stand pretty firm on this. It’s not about the money. It’s about the environment and what we leave behind for our next generations.”
The tribe seeks to have the pipeline removed from its land, but recognizes that the situation is uncertain and a complex legal battle may lay ahead.
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The Canadian government recently approved a proposal to expand an existing pipeline to transport bitumen from Alberta to Vancouver for export to international markets. The Trans Mountain Expansion project is spearheaded by Texas-based energy infrastructure company Kinder Morgan. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government’s approval of the project in late November.
The project will create a “twinned pipeline,” expanding capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day. It represents a significant boost to Alberta’s struggling oil industry.
But pipeline expansion will also cause increased oil tanker and barge traffic out of Vancouver. According to The Guardian, “Conservationists warn that the spike in tanker traffic would be disastrous for the resident orca whales – a genetically unique population that is already classified as endangered in both Canada and the US.”
In addition to the impact on orca whales, The Guardian reports that dozens of municipalities and First Nations communities have declared opposition to the project. The existing pipeline has operated since the 1950s and over 80 spills have been reported. The Trans Mountain runs through several populated areas.
Several lawsuits are seeking to overturn the federal government’s approval of the pipeline expansion project.
The Associated Press has a nice primer on the recently discovered rupture of the Belle Fourche pipeline in North Dakota. Among other details, the article compares the Belle Fourche to the Dakota Access pipeline, which has been the target of protest at Standing Rock and elsewhere.
The Belle Fourche is a 6-inch steel “gathering” pipeline built in the 1980s to transport oil to collection points, where it then “moves into larger pipelines or railroad tankers destined for refineries across the U.S.”
The Dakota Access is a 30-inch steel “transmission” pipeline that will carry 20 million gallons of oil daily some 1,200 miles to a shipping point in Illinois.
Debate over the Dakota Access project has centered on pipeline safety, especially risks to water supplies. Advocates argue that pipelines are safer than other transportation options, such as truck or rail.
A pipeline leak was recently discovered just a couple hours drive from a camp where protesters are challenging construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
For more details, see:
According to the report, more than 176,000 gallons of crude oil leaked from the Belle Fourche Pipeline into the Ash Coulee Creek. The leak was discovered on December 5 by a landowner near the city of Belfield and was contained soon after by Wyoming-based True Cos., the company which operates the pipeline. True Cos. operates three pipeline companies with 1,648 miles of line in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.
Electronic monitoring equipment failed to detect the Belle Fourche Pipeline leak. The 6-inch steel pipeline was built in the 1980s and is mostly underground. The spill migrated almost 6 miles from the point where leak originated.
The report states that “True Cos. has a history of oil field–related spills in North Dakota and Montana, including a January 2015 pipeline break into the Yellowstone River. The 32,000-gallon spill temporarily shut down water supplies in the downstream community of Glendive, Montana, after oil was detected in the city’s water treatment system.”
True Cos. has reported 36 spills since 2006, totaling 320,000 gallons of petroleum products.
Last week, two people chained themselves to the entrance of an Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) pipeline-construction site in Alpine, Texas, the same company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline in running through Texas, called the Trans-Pecos Pipeline, will transport natural gas into Mexico. Opponents have fought the Trans-Pecos for the past two years.
For a detailed discussion, see:
The action, inspired in part by the protest at Standing Rock, illustrates the diverse array of social and environmental conflicts along the existing and expanding network of pipeline infrastructure in the United States.
Opponent of the Trans-Pecos Pipeline. (Sasha von Oldershausen/The Nation)