Leech Lake and Fond du Lac sign on for Enbridge Pipeline

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The Leech Lake Ojibwe and Fond du Lac Ojibwe tribal governments have each accepted payment from Enbridge Pipeline for the right of way through their reservations. Recent negotiations taking place with Fond du Lac have settled for a rumored $17 million, while Leech Lake signed for  $l0 million.

We all know that tribal funds are low, so taking money is not a surprise. The question now might be if the Fond Du Lac Tribal allottees have any rights to their lands, which will be crossed by the pipeline.

Across Indian Country allottees have slowed down or stopped projects (coal strip mining at Northern Cheyenne, toxic waste dumps in Rosebud, S.D.) and at times, have done the exact opposite – proposed environmentally destructive projects.

But what affects do the pipelines have on Native communities? Ft. McMurray, a reserve in northern Alberta, Canada is bombarded with Tar Sands workers, the communities are bombarded with “boom town workers”, along with the rise in social problems from the outsiders, and a forced transition from a traditional way of life. The health of the community is also being destroyed – as the meat from the bush is now contaminated. Arsenic levels in downstream sites from the tar sands are 453 times the acceptable risk level.

In Ft. Chipeweyan, Alberta, Canada and other Native communities, cholangiocarcinoma, a very rare cancer of the bile duct is appearing (the national rate is l- l00,000). Colorectal and gastrointestinal cancers are also increasing.

In January 2010, a 3000 gallon spill of Alberta Tarsands oil was discovered near Pembina, North Dakota. There is still no official report on the cause of the spill. Oil pipelines have spills and this will likely be the first of many. Pipelines usually weaken at weld points and there are a lot of them on this pipeline. And in 2007, US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) granted TransCanada a special permit that allows portions of the Keystone Pipeline Project to be operated at a higher maximum operating pressure than would otherwise be required by current federal regulations.

The waiver allows portions of the proposed pipeline to be operated at 80 percent of the minimum yield strength of the pipe, rather than the maximum of 72 percent currently required by federal regulations. That exemption applies in most of the pipeline, particularly rural areas. In other words, the chances of a pipeline fracture are going to be greater in the reservation and rural areas. As of now, Enbridge averages some 7350 barrels a year in spills, most of them in Canada. That’s enough oil to fill 20,000 bathtubs.

In the upcoming months, more Native Nations, in Montana, the Dakotas, and Oklahoma, will be asked to open their right of ways to the pipeline.

Tar Sands are ecologically considered the most destructive projects on the earth. The impact is devastating in northern Alberta and the Native nations. The pipelines will not only link our region to an unsustainable set of projects, but threaten the ground water in our region.

Between 1992 and January 2008, this pipeline, under various names like Enbridge, Clipper and Keystone, has dumped a reported 478,000 gallons of spilled oil, with minimal clean up having taken place.

In 2003, the Enbridge pipeline spilled 100,000 gallons of oil into a tributary of Lake Superior. In 2007, a spill of 235 barrels of oil in Clearbrook, MN resulted in a fire and explosion causing the deaths of two repair crewmembers. In 2007, less than 100 miles from Leech Lake, the Koch pipeline spilled 134,000+ gallons of oil on to 10 acres of seasonal wetland. In 2002, the Enbridge spill released 48,000 gallons of crude oil at the Cass Lake, MN pumping station. That still does not have a clean up, yet tribal communities are asked to take new money for the next pipeline.   
Nothing about the pipeline makes sense.  One barrel of tar sands oil requires between 2 and 4.5 barrels of water, and the addition of two tons of tar sands (scraped from below the surface of the boreal forest), and creates two barrels of toxic waste and one barrel of oil. Tar sands production is licensed to use more water than Alberta’s two major cities, Calgary and Edmonton, combined.

That water becomes laced with chemical sludge. The tailings pond for Syncrude (one of the corporations) is the largest dam project on earth and can be seen from space by a naked eye.
The processing of this tar sands oil requires immense amounts of natural gas. Daily, tar sands producers burn 600 million cubic feet of natural gas to produce tar sands oil, enough natural gas to heat three million homes.

An area the size of Florida is slated for strip mining and in-situ drilling for tar sands. At present, the Province of Alberta has leased over 65,000 square kilometers of land for tar sands development without environmental assessment. Regulations in Canada are very lax in some provinces, leaving only minimal recourse.

The project is presently producing the most greenhouse gases in Canada, the equivalent to the emissions of the Czech Republic, while destroying the boreal forest, part of the worlds’ most important storehouse of climate regulating carbon and oxygen of Canada. The Tar Sands project itself adds an estimated 6.5 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

Enbridge is seeking expansion of this project by initially transporting 450,000 barrels per day (bpd), with ultimate capacity of up to 800,000 bpd available. The proposed Enbridge pipeline will pass from Alberta through Saskatchewan and Manitoba into Minnesota, ending in Superior, Wisconsin. Separate pipelines (Keystone) go through South Dakota and into Oklahoma, and others move across Canada.

Other tribes continue to oppose the pipeline, including Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate and the Yankton Sioux, who filed suit against the Keystone pipeline to stop construction in South and North Dakota. The Tribes argue their treaty rights are being violated by not requiring proper consultation and review as required by Executive Order.

In Canada, First Nations and grassroots organizations have been opposing the Northern Gateway Twin Pipeline, a proposal which would ship oil to a tanker port in British Columbia, destined for Asia. That $4.5 billion proposal would move 525,000 barrels daily.

Pipelines are the veins of the project, without them the tar sands could not be a reality. The Pembina Institute in Canada recommends that “no further steps be taken to develop the Enbridge oil sands pipelines until policies are in place to fully address the environmental issues associated with oil sands development….” That would seem to be a fair approach.