Buoyed by DAPL Fight, Canadian Chiefs Launch Legal Battle Against Enbridge Pipeline

Oil pipeline will face fierce opposition in Canada as well as in the United States, where the permitting process is currently underway

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-30-2016

“Just as Indigenous Peoples are showing unwavering strength down at Standing Rock, our peoples are not afraid and are ready to do what needs to be done to stop the pipelines and protect our water and our next generations,” Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, pictured here, said after the Enbridge Line 3 expansion was announced.(Photo: Derek Nepinak/Facebook)

Buoyed by the success of Indigenous resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a coalition of Canadian First Nation chiefs have launched legal action against the Trudeau government for its recent approval of the Enbridge Line 3 expansion.

Derek Nepinak, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, wrote on Facebook Wednesday that the group’s legal team filed an appeal in federal court challenging the approval, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced late last month in tandem with the expansion of Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

Condemnation of both projects was swift, with First Nations vowing to fight back. “Just as Indigenous Peoples are showing unwavering strength down at Standing Rock, our peoples are not afraid and are ready to do what needs to be done to stop the pipelines and protect our water and our next generations,” Nepinak said at the time.

“If not stopped, the approval of the Calgary-based Enbridge Line 3 pipeline would mean the building of 1,600 kilometres of new pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, which is situated on the western tip of Lake Superior,” noted the Council of Canadians’ Brent Patterson on Thursday.

Whereas the original 390,000 barrel per day pipeline “would be decommissioned and left underground,” Patterson explained, the new expansion could soon carry “760,000 barrels of diluted bitumen per day and would have the capacity to do so for the next 50-60 years.” Enbridge has even admitted that the pipeline “would mean 19 to 26 megatonnes of upstream greenhouse gas emissions each year.”

The Chiefs’ legal action fulfills a prediction made by Patterson earlier this month that the Indigenous fight against the pipeline would “intensify,” particularly in the United States, where the project must undergo separate permitting processes before construction can begin.

As Argus Medinoted, “The main point of contention is the U.S. portion that includes a new route south of the existing line from Clearbrook, Minnesota, to Superior. Enbridge is seeking the new route because the current corridor is near communities that have become more developed since the line was built in 1968.”

However, “the proposed new route crosses grasslands in Minnesota and could threaten downstream waterways and violate treaty rights to fish, hunt and gather crops,” Argus Media continued. “Several tribes, which include Ojibwe groups, also known as Chippewa, have harvested wild rice in the region since the mid-1700s, a staple crop of significant spiritual and cultural value.”

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of protecting our sacred manoomin (wild rice) which is at the root of our cultural and spiritual ways of life with mother earth we call bimaadiziwin, living our life in a good way,” explained Ojibwe member and Honor the Earth executive director Winona LaDuke, who was recently booted out of a public meeting hosted by Enbridge in Bemidji, Minnesota for voicing opposition to the project.

“We will be trying to kill off their project every day,” vowed Frank Bibeau, also an Ojibwe member and an attorney for Honor the Earth, who added that the pipeline “will ultimately be a second corridor of toxic waste through our most precious resources.”

According to an Enbridge spokesperson, the environmental impact statement for the U.S. portion of the project got underway earlier this month and will be completed in the spring, at which time public comment will be accepted.  Enbridge hopes to have the pipeline in service by 2019.

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