Three pipeline victories in three days
Amid all the tragedy and injustice of the health, racism and climate crises of the moment, three pipeline victories this week are giving us reason to celebrate. This week we’re honouring the tireless work of Indigenous land defenders, and their legal teams and supporters, who helped bring about three major pipeline victories in the space of three days. Proof, yet again, that Indigenous-led land defense and resistance is powerful and successful!
Dakota Access Pipeline ordered emptied
On Monday, a federal judge ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline to be turned off and emptied of oil until pipeline developer Energy Transfer completes a lengthy environmental review. In 2016 tens of thousands of people gathered in North Dakota, on lands sacred to the Sioux and other Indigenous peoples, to obstruct the pipeline’s construction. The camps were eventually dismantled and Donald Trump signed an executive order green-lighting the project immediately after taking office. But the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and three other Sioux nations didn’t give up. This week a judge ruled that the expedited permit granted to the pipeline after Trump’s election violated environmental law, and ordered an environmental review, which could take years. Energy Transfer Partners plans to appeal the decision. “Today was about our planet and everything for which she provides life,” Tweeted chairman Mike Faith of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline cancelled
Even when you don’t win in court, it’s possible to stall a pipeline project through direct action and legal challenges until it eventually becomes too costly to build. This is what appears to have happened with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. This week Duke Energy and Dominion Energy announced they were cancelling 600-mile pipeline, which would have carried fracked gas from West Virginia to North Carolina across Indigenous lands and through Union Hill, Virginia, a historically Black community founded by freed slaves. Black and Indigenous community groups have been fighting the pipeline since 2014 and are now claiming a hard-won victory. “I was in a grocery store when I heard about it and I had to go outside to celebrate,” Donna Chavis, an elder and member of the Lumbee Nation, told Democracy Now. “The utility companies said lawsuits had already increased their costs by at least US $3 billion.
Keystone XL Pipeline delayed
The Keystone XL pipeline expansion, which would carry crude oil from the Alberta tar sands to Nebraska, and received a $1.5 billion from Jason Kenney’s government earlier this year, was excluded from a court ruling allowing several other pipelines to fast-track their permitting process. The US Supreme Court sided with environmental groups and said that Keystone XL still needed to go through the process of securing permits to build across bodies of water. Democratic candidate Joe Biden has promised to rescind the Keystone XL’s permit if elected in November.
While we celebrate, the fight continues: Line 3
The struggle continues over an expansion to Line 3, a pipeline which runs from the Alberta tar sands through southern Manitoba to Superior, Wisconsin. Construction is complete in Canada, with only the North Dakota and Minnesota sections remaining. Minnesota-based Indigenous group Honor the Earth has been challenging the pipeline in court. Earlier this year Enbridge, the Canadian company building the pipeline, received a key permit allowing work to go ahead in Minnesota. Honor the Earth plans to continue with legal challenges to a refinery in Superior, Wisconsin and a proposed natural gas power plant which would power the complex.
In the coming days, we’ll be sharing more information about how you can help support Honor the Earth’s resistance to Line 3 in Minnesota.
In the meantime, Indigenous activists are still behind bars for resisting the Dakota Access pipeline. Find out how you can support them here.
And if you want to read a long and harrowing story about what happened at Standing Rock and the lengths law enforcement will go to to imprison peaceful land defenders, read this article about the experience of Red Fawn Fallis.
Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition