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Groups Sue U.S. State Dept. to Stop Alberta Clipper Tar Sands Pipeline

Climate

Yesterday the Washington Spectator ran an investigative piece tearing the veil of secrecy from the Alberta Clipper pipeline project, a plan by Canadian mining company Enbridge to build a pipeline nearly equal in length and capacity to the Keystone XL to transport tar sands crude oil to the Gulf of Mexico for refining and exporting. With the U.S. State Department's cooperation, Enbridge found a loophole to circumvent the legal approval process needed to cross the international Canadian/U.S. border. And, by keeping a low profile, it managed to avoid the public outcry that has stalled Keystone XL for six years.

The lawsuit against the secretive process used to Enbridge to get approval for its tar sands pipeline will likely bring it exactly the type of attention it doesn't want.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

That period of operating off the public radar may be coming to an end. Today a coalition of eight environmental, conservation and indigenous groups announced that they have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. State Department and Secretary of State John Kerry in a Minneapolis federal court. The suit charges that approval was granted despite lack of public notice or the legally required review of environmental and public health impacts. The groups filing the lawsuit include White Earth Nation, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Honor the Earth, National Wildlife Federation, Minnesota Conservation Federation, Indigenous Environmental Network and MN350, being represented by the Vermont Law School Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic. Their intention is intended to force the State Department to reverse its approval and ensure that a full environmental review takes place.

“This lawsuit challenges the State Department's illegal approval of Enbridge’s tar sands expansion plans,” said Sierra Club staff attorney Doug Hayes. “Rather than stick to its ongoing review process that the National Environmental Policy Act requires, the State Department green-lighted the expansion before the process is complete.”

The publicity from the Washington Spectator piece and lawsuit will most likely awaken a host of activists and organizations who have worked tirelessly to oppose Keystone XL and its plan to extract, refine and ship the carbon-intensive tar sands oil, a prime driver of climate change. And publicity is most likely precisely what Enbridge doesn't want.

"The only thing worse than dirty oil is dirty oil backed by dirty tricks,"said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "This is the fossil fuel equivalent of money laundering. The Obama administration should be ashamed of itself for letting Enbridge illegally pump more dirty tar sands oil into the United States.”

The approval allows Enbridge to upgrade its cross-border connecting pipeline between two already existing pipeline by calling it "maintenance," even though it lets them change the product that flows through the pipeline from light to heavy tar sands oil and double its capacity to 800,000 barrels a day—nearly equivalent to the amount that would be carried by Keystone XL. The company said it intends to have the pipeline ready to ship tar sands oil to the U.S. by the middle of next year.

“To establish the U.S. as a real international leader in tackling the climate crisis, the State Department must stop turning a blind eye to Big Oil schemes to bypass U.S. laws and nearly double the amount of corrosive, carbon-intensive tar sands crude it brings into our country,” said Sierra Club deputy national program director Michael Bosse. “Enbridge has been allowed to play by their own rules for too long at the expense of our water, air and climate, and the Sierra Club is taking legal action to stop this abuse.”

Among  other things the pipeline would pass through three Native American Reservations.

“Honor the Earth represents Anishinaabeg people and the earth," said Winona LaDuke, program director for Honor the Earth and a member of the White Earth Nation.

"We believe that nations should abide by their agreements, treaties, and laws. The Anishinaabeg continue to harvest and live the life the Creator gave us, within the north country and within the treaty areas, protected and recognized under federal law, including the 1837, 1854, 1855 and 1867 treaties. We know that new oil pipelines will not bode well for the fish, the wild rice and the medicines of this Akiing, this land. We also know that the U.S., through the State Department, should uphold its own laws and regulations, and not issue permits under the pressure of oil interests, over the interests of our country, people and land. Federal law requires environmental impact assessments, and the U.S. must uphold its own laws. New pipelines by the Enbridge Company and this illegal switching of lines do not serve our state or our country. We ask the U.S. State Department to uphold the law.”

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