What if we looked at our fight against pipelines and for clean water and public safety like the way some of us look at football?
First, huge congratulations to the clean water advocates, landowners and tribes that won the big Keystone XL game last week. TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, was heavily favored to win, but with a tough defense and some key substitutions at President and Prime Minister, the pipeline fighters pulled off a stunning victory.
Minnesota still has three main pipeline battles. Combined, these proposed pipelines would carry more tar sands oil than the rejected Keystone XL. Here’s my personal “half time” report
Also known as Line 67, this is the newest pipeline in Enbridge’s mainline corridor across northern Minnesota, and carries primarily diluted tar sands bitumen from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin. From Superior, the product goes either south or east to refineries.
This game was supposed to be about Enbridge trying to double the capacity of this line and the people trying to be involved and stop it. Instead, Enbridge pulled a blatantly illegal stunt and the State Department “refs” just watched. Enbridge tried to avoid federal permitting by switching from one line to another at the Canada/US border. That means increased oil crosses the border on an older pipeline. The tar sands oil is now flowing at double the capacity. But native tribes and clean water advocates threw out the challenge flag on that ruling; they’ve sued the State Department to ensure that Enbridge plays by the rules and ships only the oil it was allowed to.
Both sides have scored some points. Obama’s rejection of Keystone XL could, and should, lead to a rejection of the illegal Enbridge border scheme.
Half time score: Clean water advocates 13, Evil corporations 13.
Line 3 is also in Enbridge’s mainline corridor from Alberta to Superior. Line 3 cannot at this time carry tar sands bitumen because the pipeline is old and leaky and the added pressure of diluted bitumen would make its problems even worse. Enbridge wants to build an all-new pipeline and leave the old one in the ground. They call this a “replacement”.
From Clearbrook in northwestern Minnesota all the way to Superior, Enbridge wants to, umm, “replace” Line 3 in a completely new corridor, running way to the south across the heart of Minnesota’s lake country. This new corridor would also be the route of the proposed Sandpiper pipeline.
This game is about a brand new corridor of pipeline risk across northern Minnesota. It’s also like having two football games on the same field at the same time, the Line 3 game and the Sandpiper game. Whatever happens in one game affects the other. At halftime, Line 3 is under its own environmental review at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Half time score: All tied up.
Sandpiper is a planned all-American pipeline that would carry fracked oil from the Bakken Formation to Superior, Wisconsin. For most of its route across northern Minnesota, it would create a new pipeline corridor. The proposed corridor cuts across the heart of the Minnesota lake country. The proposed pipeline route has significant opposition, with the MPCA and even Congressman Rick Nolan calling for another option that avoids the precious lakes.
The Sandpiper game and the Line 3 game are happening on the same field at the same time, and it’s hard to tell who is doing what. In this game, some citizens might win by simply moving the pipeline out of the lake country. Others might win by rejecting the pipeline altogether.
In September, the state appeals court reversed a big chunk of the environmental permitting Sandpiper had already checked off, most particularly the “Certificate of Need” they got without full environmental review. It’s like they gave Enbridge a couple of 15 yard penalties all at the same time. It’s right before half-time in this game, and Enbridge has a fourth down with 40 yards to go. Looks like Enbridge is going for the Hail Mary pass by appealing to the Supreme Court. For the moment, the clean water advocates are winning.
Minnesota’s clean water advocates are ready for the second half of these pipeline fights. The pipeline fighters are drawing deep inspiration from the huge victory at the Keystone XL “game.” As French dramatist Alexandre Dumas put it, “Nothing succeeds like success.”