May. 19, 2017 09:03PM EST
Enbridge Energy Partners' aging Line 5 pipeline, which runs through the heart of the Great Lakes, has spilled more than 1 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids in at least 29 incidents since 1968, according to data from the federal Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration obtained by the National Wildlife Federation.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved the deal without requiring the merged firm to divest a single inch of its 38,000-mile oil and gas pipeline network. The company will be able to exert market power to reduce output and raise prices on consumers. As with other industries, this mega-merger only benefits company shareholders, not communities.
The Trump administration is quickly fulfilling the fossil fuel industry's wish list. The American people will pay the price for gargantuan gas giveaways—higher prices, a dirtier environment and climate chaos. Approving this deal is a bad omen for future antitrust enforcement. It seems as though the White House has pulled the cops off the antitrust beat entirely, much to Wall Street's delight.
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that the Canadian government would approve two major tar sands pipeline projects, including expansion of the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.
"Our duty is to permit infrastructure so Canada's resources get to market in a more environmentally responsible way, creating jobs and a thriving economy," Trudeau said at a press conference.
The Kinder Morgan pipeline has come under fire from activists and aboriginal groups.
"Apparently Justin Trudeau's sunny ways mean dark days ahead for climate action and Indigenous reconciliation in Canada," Greenpeace Canada spokesperson Mike Hudema said.
"In approving this ecosystem-destroying pipeline, Canada's leaders have ignored the threats to the Salish Sea, its marine species, and its 8 million people, including 29 Tribes and First Nations," Marcie Keever, Friends of the Earth's oceans and vessels program director, exclaimed.
Speaking of Keystone, senior Trump transition adviser Kellyanne Conway will reportedly tour the tar sands region in Alberta a week before the president-elect's inauguration, which may signal that the incoming administration will prioritize the pipeline's approval.
"Today's announcement may as well have said that Canada is pulling out of the Paris climate agreement," Aurore Fauret, tar sands campaign coordinator for 350.org, said. "By approving the Kinder Morgan and Line 3 pipelines, there is no way Canada can meet those commitments. Justin Trudeau has broken his promises for real climate leadership, and broken his promise to respect the rights of Indigenous peoples."
Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders rallied last week in Vancouver to oppose the mega-project. Watch here:
For a deeper dive:
Commentary: Vancouver Sun, Karen Mahon op-ed
Enbridge and the North Dakota Pipeline Company submitted a Petition Thursday to Withdraw their Public Utilities Commission application for the Sandpiper Pipeline Project. As no party is expected to object, this decision is likely the end for the proposed fracked oil pipeline.
Enbridge and the North Dakota Pipeline Company submitted a Petition to Withdraw their Public Utilities Commision application for the "Sandpiper Pipeline Project."
"The end of the proposed Sandpiper pipeline is a crucial victory for the tens of thousands of Americans who have fought to protect their communities, their health and the climate from the threat of fossil fuel infrastructure expansion," Sierra Club Beyond Dirty Fuels director Lena Moffitt said.
This announcement comes as Enbridge has invested in the Dakota Access pipeline, which has been widely protested by the Standing Rock Sioux, who would see the pipeline cross the Missouri River, less than a mile upstream from the Tribe's drinking water supply. The Standing Rock Sioux have been joined by tribes from around the country, environmental groups and thousands of activists who stand in firm opposition to the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure.
"As far too many communities throughout the Great Lakes region can attest to, when it comes to pipelines—especially an Enbridge operated pipeline—it's never a question of if it will spill, but rather a question of when," Moffitt continued. "This is a risk no community should face and thanks to today's announcement, thousands of people will remain safe from the dangers of the Sandpiper pipeline."
"Rather than continuing to expand our reliance on fossil fuels, we must continue to transition to clean, renewable energy and leave dirty fuels in the ground, where they belong," she concluded.
Energy giant Kinder Morgan was recently called insensitive for pointing out that “Pipeline spills can have both positive and negative effects on local and regional economies, both in the short- and long-term.” The company wants to triple its shipping capacity from the Alberta tar sands to Burnaby, in part by twinning its current pipeline. Its National Energy Board submission states, “Spill response and cleanup creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions and cleanup service providers."
It may seem insensitive, but it’s true. And that’s the problem. Destroying the environment is bad for the planet and all the life it supports, including us. But it’s often good for business. The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico added billions to the U.S. gross domestic product! Even if a spill never occurred (a big “if”, considering the records of Kinder Morgan and other pipeline companies), increasing capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels a day would go hand-in-hand with rapid tar sands expansion and more wasteful, destructive burning of fossil fuels—as would approval of Enbridge Northern Gateway and other pipeline projects, as well as increased oil shipments by rail.
The company will make money, the government will reap some tax and royalty benefits and a relatively small number of jobs will be created. But the massive costs of dealing with a pipeline or tanker spill and the resulting climate change consequences will far outweigh the benefits. Of course, under our current economic paradigm, even the costs of responding to global warming impacts show as positive growth in the GDP—the tool we use to measure what passes for progress in this strange worldview.
And so it’s full speed ahead and damn the consequences. Everything is measured in money. B.C.’s economy seems sluggish? Well, obviously, the solution is to get fracking and sell the gas to Asian markets. Never mind that a recent study, commissioned by the Canadian government, concludes we don’t know enough about the practice to say it’s safe, the federal government has virtually no regulations surrounding it and provincial rules “are not based on strong science and remain untested.” Never mind that the more infrastructure we build for polluting, climate-disrupting fossil fuels, the longer it will take us to move away from them. There’s easy money to be had—for someone.
We need to do more than just get off fossil fuels, although that’s a priority. We need to conserve, cut back and switch to cleaner energy sources. In Canada, we need a national energy strategy. And guess what? That will create lasting jobs! But we must also find better ways to run our societies than relying on rampant consumption, planned obsolescence, excessive and often-pointless work and an economic system that depends on damaging ways and an absurd measurement to convince us it somehow all amounts to progress.
It’s not about going back to the Dark Ages. It’s about realizing that a good life doesn’t depend on owning more stuff, scoring the latest gadgets or driving bigger, faster cars. Our connections with family, friends, community and nature are vastly more important.
Yes, we need oil and gas, and will for some time. Having built our cities and infrastructure to accommodate cars rather than people, we can’t turn around overnight. But we can stop wasting our precious resources. By conserving and switching to cleaner energy, we can ensure we still have oil and gas long into the future, perhaps long enough to learn to appreciate the potential of what’s essentially energy from the sun, stored and compressed over millions of years. If we dig it up and sell it so it can be burned around the world, we consign ourselves to a polluted planet ravaged by global warming, with nothing to fall back on when fossil fuels are gone.
Scientists around the world have been warning us for decades about the consequences of our wasteful lifestyles, and evidence for the ever-increasing damage caused by pollution and climate change continues to grow. But we have to do more than just wean ourselves off fossil fuels. We must also look to economic systems, progress measurements and ways of living that don’t depend on destroying everything the planet provides to keep us healthy and alive.
Written with Contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.
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The sky was gray, the temp was just below freezing, the wind was whistling and sleet was pelting down on Kellogg Park in downtown St. Paul, MN, last week …
… but that wasn’t enough to stop more than 300 of us from across the Midwest who came to rally and march against the proposed expansion of the Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline. With songs, speeches and buoyant enthusiasm, we gathered to say "No" to tar sands expansion and "Yes" to a future free of carbon emissions and oil spills.
The Alberta Clipper is an existing Enbridge pipeline that runs from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, WI, across much of northern Minnesota. Built in 2010 to carry tar sands oil, it is currently under consideration for expansion from its present 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 800,000 bpd, which would make it almost as large as Keystone XL. Expanding it would be a similar disaster for the climate and would increase the risk of spills into the Mississippi River and Lake Superior.
We’re opposing the expansion at the state level right now in Minnesota through a contested case hearing process at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which is very much like putting the pipeline on trial: there’s a judge and both sides get to make their arguments. The contested case also ensures there are public hearings where anyone can give testimony. It’s an almost-all-volunteer effort—while we have a lawyer, his funds were raised primarily by volunteers who wanted to make sure we had a voice in the process.
We gathered in St. Paul last Thursday from all across the region so we could show up in force to the final public hearing. We marched through downtown to the Public Utilities Commission, led by a group of drummers and a giant paper maché pipeline, turning heads and bringing officeworkers to windows to look down at us.
The PUC hearing was packed, which was the best and worst part of the day because it made a huge impression and they were so unprepared for the crowd. The official police count was 1,000 people (many of our supporters had gone directly to the hearing so they could sign up and testify early, and there were also some pipeline contractors who came to testify in favor of the expansion). Only about 200 people could fit into the hearing room and official overflow room combined.
We brought our big rally sound system indoors and jury-rigged a set of extension speakers in an empty room so more people could listen, but the crowds were still overflowing. I wish more people had been able to actually be part of the hearing, but it was fabulous to see all the interest. One of the officials at the hearing said she’d never seen anything else like this.
There are only a few days left to submitted a public comment yet against the Alberta Clipper pipeline—the public comment period closes on April 14.
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