by Marty Cobenais on Saturday, January 12, 2013

Enbridge Pipeline spill site, Deer River, MN
Enbridge Pipeline spill site, Deer River, MN

In 2009 Enbridge Energy L.P. received a Presidential Permit to construct the Alberta Clipper Pipeline (Line 67) and the Southern Lights Diluent Pipeline.

The Alberta Clipper Pipeline was completed and operational in 2010 and carries 440, 000 Barrels per day (bpd) of DilBit (Diluted Bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands).  Enbridge is currently seeking permits to increase the amount of DilBit per day to 570,000 bpd, with plans to increase it to 800,000 bpd. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MNPUC) and the US Department of State(DOS) both have to issue permits before the expansion can happen.

In 2008, the Leech Lake and Fond-du-Lac Tribes signed 20 year easements with Enbridge and received payment.

Although the Red Lake Nation has not signed any easements or agreements with Enbridge, the company trespassed, and illegally constructed and maintained pipelines on Red Lake ceded lands, near the town of Leonard, MN. The Alberta Clipper and Southern Lights Pipelines were also constructed in these ceded lands.

In 2011 this issue was brought to light and the Red Lake Tribal Council has now offered Enbridge an easement settlement in the amount of $10 million dollars.  Enbridge has counter offered Red Lake $375,000. Red Lake rejected the counter offer and then issued a cease and desist order through the BIA. Enbridge and Red Lake are now in an additional round of negotiations.

The Red Lake Nation has considered several different options, including; Land exchange, Signing an easement with a mutually agreed upon payment; charging Enbridge with trespassing; Injunctions stopping the flow of the oil in the pipelines, and; Removal of the pipelines from the ceded lands altogether.

Red Lake, Leech Lake and Fond-du-lac Tribal land and waters are or will be impacted by the pipelines and therefore the tribes should have significant input regarding the proposed expansions. They have the power to pass resolutions opposing the increase and submit these resolutions to the MNPUC , DOS, and the Department of Interior (DOI).

Stopping the expansion would be a vital link to slowing down the environmental destruction and negative health impacts to First Nations and other communities in the tar sands region of Alberta Canada.  Just last week the Canadian Government issued the results of an independent study on water pollution downstream of the tar sands. The Government and industry have always maintained that the tar sands mining and activities have not polluted surrounding waters, but this new study shows chemical pollution 2.5 times to 23 times the legal limits in waters up to 50 miles away from tar sands pollution sources.

Enbridge is currently seeking permission to reverse the flow of other pipelines across the US and building additional pipelines, in order to facilitate the transportation of tar sands oil to the East Coast and to the Gulf of Mexico for export outside the US.  So the increase in the Alberta Clipper would only act as a supplier to these lines and become an export pipeline.

When we stop this expansion project, we will deliver a severe blow to Enbridge’s long-term plans and delay the environmental destruction due to the Tar Sands in Alberta.

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