Monday, January 30, 2012

Saving the land: indigenous resistance to the Enbridge Gateway Pipeline

Warner Naziel and Freda Hudson two members of the Wet'suwet'en tribe in British Columbia, came to Auraria last Thursday to speak about the Keystone XL Pipeline, temporarily stopped by Obama but still a threat to cut across the United States, and an equally great threat, the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline in Canada. Before, though I support the campaign, I had not heard of the latter...

Above a table of food, there were twinned photographs of the pristine wilderness, the mountains soaring above the Athabasca River, and the wreck, worsened by the sludge of tar sands, at the same place. The indigenous territory that the pipelines and the Canadian government seek to destroy is, as Glenn Morris of UCD mentions below, larger than the size of England.

Their people, Warner reported, had pursued a court case, and the Canadian supreme court had ruled in their favor. There is a declaration against the pipeline signed by 61 indigenous tribes in this territory (below).

Hearing of the covert attempts of mining companies to survey and begin to wreck the land, Warner and Freda each had to drive, on three separate occasions, with a small number of others, to block them. Confronting the Company representatives, they told them firmly to get all their equipment off two days later, and the Companies had had to do so (in one case, the workers applauded…Not everyone dreams to be an instrument of ecological destruction…).

Warner and Freda were very glad to be in Denver, and to speak before an audience of over a hundred (provided food by the one native American restaurant in Denver), mainly of native american, black and chicano students.

I talked with Freda and Warner afterwards for a while, and they told me of going to a meeting with Pacific Trails Pipeline and some bought off First Nation leaders who did not have title two the land where they were the only two to stand up. And how good the courage to do so felt...

But there are 61 tribes in the movement, defending the earth.

Each was both a quiet and fiery speaker, every word worth taking in. They began and ended with two songs (this, too, is part of indigenous cultures…). See here.

The organizers showed the film Petropolis, without sound, which contrasted the scenes of the wilderness and river with the environment desecrated by the tar sands. I just listened to the two speakers…

Warner's clan has a creation story in which a woman is the last survivor of a tribe destroyed in war. She lives in the forest for two years, but is terribly lonely. One cloudy day, she decides to take her life. She is lying on the ground, contemplating death. But the sky opens up, light comes through, and a voice from the heavens, asks her to join him, saying she will never be alone. She goes to the heavens, and has several children. But lonely for home, she brings them back, people of the sky, of the sun, to the forests...

Against all the crimes of the Canadian administration against indigenous people (the crimes of stealing and starving children among the greatest), they are strongly here. For these are the first nations, each with a sense of ancestors going back thousands of years (think of what most Americans and Canadians recall about heritage...).

Warner also described poor people today, cut off from urban jobs, who live by fishing in the one lake not polluted, hunting for moose on Wet'suwet'en lands. Both Freda and Warner told of how some waters were poisoned, some fish with two mouths. Those who catch them toss these fish aside, but often eat ones with the poisons inside…Warner is an anthropologist and ethnographer in first people studies. He spoke of a young student who has a rare form of cancer (not so rare, however, wherever tar sands production emerges). We heard of another case, fortunately cured at least for a time, from someone in the audience…

They had learned, each said, the importance of standing up for the land. The declaration below speaks of an Enbridge spill in Michigan in 2009 into the Kalamazoo River (see also Greg Palast's commentary on pipeline "safety" below). They spoke of how the companies/government were determinedly pushing the pipeline (the government is a puppet of the companies with a deal promised to the Chinese for tar sands production, what they had wanted to put the pipeline through the United States for; the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would have poisoned the Ogallala Acquifer in Nebraska, which provides water to 9 states, including Colorado; it would also have pushed climate change far beyond what is even now likely - James Hansen, the government climatologist, has said that putting the tar sands into production is “game over” for preventing New York being under water, and was among the 1500 arrested for doing civil disobedience in front of the White House).

Warner also spoke respectfully of Barack Obama for rejecting the crazed efforts of the Republicans and Hilary Clinton’s State Department for the pipeline. See the earth cries out here on the AIM protest at Metro led by Tom Poor Bear from Pine Ridge who interrupted Obama’s speech and forced him to confront the issue. But this is no permanent victory – and University of Colorado at Denver AIM, led by Scott and Tessa, also reported on a future demonstration in Commerce City, and education to prevent a renewed application for the Keystone pipeline.

Someone in the audience asked if perhaps in 400 years, Keystone-Enbridge-the Canadian government-the US government could be made to repair the damage...The person had not perhaps listened, quite. What Warner and Freda spoke to is that there will not be clean earth for two more generations without a fight (this is true of the tar sands and nuclear energy – see here). The poisoning of the earth means a rapid decline of human life. Perhaps companies can sell fancy bottled water (full of chemicals) to those who can still buy it. In Cochabamba, Bolivia several years ago, there was a fight of poor people against the privatization and rationing of water (Palast has a chapter on this in The Best Democracy Money can Buy) This will also be the century of water wars…See here. We must – the two speakers were on fire to do so – stand up for the earth.

Despite the corruption – the dimwittedness of the 1% (global warming will leave them, for a time places to go, but not really so long) in North America (even Obama knows about the climate and has done little) – a movement from below can stop this.

Warner and Freda spoke of the NGOs who had sold them out to the companies, not even told them of meetings, and about young anarchists who had come out beside them to fight against Enbridge and Keystone (it was a remarkable tribute to these anarchists and one that participants in Occupy might want to listen to…). Occupy can certainly move in this direction (along with 360 and others organizations, some of whose participants were at the meeting). But as with American wars, the time to stop the destruction is now.


Here is a note from Glenn Morris announcing the meeting:

"The American Indian Student Educational Progams & Outreach office at UC Denver is hosting two First Nations guest speakers, Warner Naziel and Freda Hudson for a Tar Sands Pipeline Awareness Project night, this Thursday, January 26th from 7-9pm. Join us for a discussion on the Canadian Tar Sands, the Northern Gateway Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline."

"As most of you know, the Tar/Oil Sands Project is the largest industrial development on earth, with plans to devastate an area of indigenous peoples' territories in northern Alberta, Canada the size of England. Although the Obama administration has denied the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline for the time being, the Canadian government has vowed to pump that same oil across First Nations' territories in Alberta and British Columbia -- destined for China and Japan via the Northern Gateway Pipeline. First Nations in Canada have pledged to stop the Northern Gateway Pipeline from crossing their territories, which implicate all of British Columbia. See their declaration: here. "

"Warner and Freda hail from Wetsuwetan, an Indigenous territory located in British Columbia. These two First Nation warriors have been fighting courageously against the Tar Sands Project and the Northern Gateway Pipeline, that is planned to cross their homeland territory. American Indian students from UC Denver protested the Keystone XL Pipeline during a campaign visit from President Obama this past fall; we decided that an information night on campus about the tar sands/pipelines was necessary."

For Immediate Release: Dec. 2, 2010

Enbridge plans dead in the water: 61 Indigenous Nations say “NO” to
pipeline in Fraser River watershed

“...this project isn't going anywhere.”

VANCOUVER (Coast Salish Territory) – Sixty-one Indigenous Nations have come together in a historic alliance to protect the Fraser River watershed and to declare their opposition to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. Signed in Williams Lake last week, and published in a full page ad in the Globe and Mail today, the “Save the Fraser Gathering of Nations” declaration is based on Indigenous law and authority, and it states:

We will not allow the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, or similar Tar Sands projects, to cross our lands, territories and watersheds, or the ocean migration routes of Fraser River salmon.

The declaration is the second major First Nations declaration banning tar sands pipelines from BC this year, and it makes clear the nations see the federal review process for the project as a violation of their laws and rights under international law, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada signed last month.

“The Enbridge pipeline would risk an oil spill into our rivers and lands that would destroy our food supply, our livelihoods and our cultures,” said Chief Larry Nooski of Nadleh Whut’en First Nation, part of the Yinka Dene Alliance opposed to the Enbridge project. “Our laws do not permit crude oil pipelines into our territories. This project isn’t going anywhere.”

From the headwaters of the Fraser, to its mouth at the Pacific ocean, nations along the watershed say critical salmon runs would be threatened by a proposed 700,000 barrels per day of crude oil and toxic hydrocarbons crossing the top of the Fraser watershed as proposed.

“St'át'imc territories are downstream of the proposed pipeline, putting our communities at risk,” said Chief Art Adolph of Xaxli’p, a community of the St'át'imc nation whose territories cover the middle and southern parts of the Fraser watershed. “An oil spill into the Fraser River could be devastating for our people. Since time immemorial the river provides for us, and we have an obligation to protect it.”

“Oil spills from the Enbridge pipelines would be inevitable,” said Chief Jackie Thomas of Saik’uz First Nation. “That risk to our livelihoods is unacceptable. Enbridge has spills all over North America, including the big Michigan spill earlier this year. We refuse to be next.”

For more information:
Chief Larry Nooski, Nadleh Whut’en First Nation, 250-613-7102,
Chief Art Adolph, Xaxli’p First Nation – St'át'imc Nation, 250-256-4800
Chief Jackie Thomas, Saik’uz First Nation, 250-570-7392

And here is some reporting, a little speciesist though the acronym for petroleum inspection gauge invites it, from Greg Palast underlining the cover-ups - and premeditated murderousness - of oil company "safety":

The Pig in the XL Pipeline
Insider reveals concealed "error" in pipeline safety equipment that could blow away the GOP's XL pipe dream

For Firedoglake

by Greg Palast

"They threatened me. Last night I got a call and they threatened me. If I talked."

"Pig Man #2," a pipeline industry insider, had a good reason to be afraid. He was about to blow the whistle on a fraud, information that could blow away the XL Keystone Pipeline project.

His information: The software for the crucial piece of pipeline safety equipment, the "Smart PIG," has a flaw known to the industry but concealed from regulators.

The flaw allows cracks, leaks and corrosion to go undetected - and that saves the industry billions of dollars in pipe replacements. But there's a catch. Pipes with cracks and leaks can explode - and kill.

Federal law requires the oil and gas industry to run a PIG, a Pipeline Inspection Gauge, through big oil and gas pipelines. The robot porker, tethered to a GPS, beeps and boops as it rolls through, electronically squealing when it finds dangers.

But whistleblowers told us at Channel 4 Dispatches (the "60 Minutes" of Britain) that the software is deliberately calibrated to ignore or minimize deadly problems. They know because they themselves worked on the software design team.

This week, President Obama refused to issue a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, but invited its owner, Trans-Canada, to re-apply. The GOP has gone wild over Obama's hesitation, screeching that slowing the Canada-to-Houston pipe for a full safety review is a jobs killer.

But it's the Pipeline that's the killer. Here's what Pig Man #2 told me, on camera, his face in shadow:

When his team found the life-threatening flaw in the program, they immediately created a software patch to fix it. But then their supervisor ordered them to bury the fix and conceal the problem.

With the PIG calibrated to the danger sensitivity required by law, oil and gas companies would have to dig up, inspect and replace pipe at a cost of millions per mile. That's not what the oil companies wanted from their contractor that designed the PIG program.

The programmers' bosses took no chances. "We had to sign nondisclosure agreements." They were required to conceal "any problems of this sort or the nature of the software we worked." It could not "be made public at all. Under threat of lawsuit." Nice.

With the error left in place, he said, "People die."

Pig Man #2 was shaking a bit when he said it. On September 9, 2010, a gas pipeline exploded, incinerating 13-year-old Janessa Greig, her mom and six others.

A PIG - an honest PIG - would have caught the bad welds in the old pipe.

Trans-Canada says that Keystone XL won't contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer, the Plains states' crucial water source. Keystone's permit application boasts that we can rely on XL's "full pigging capability."

Sure. Last summer, an ExxonMobil pipeline burst and poisoned parts of the Yellowstone River - only months after it had been "pigged."

The danger of a muzzled PIG goes beyond Keystone XL. New gas fields opened by hydraulic fracking will require over 100,000 miles of new transmission pipe.

This week, Newt Gingrich called Obama's temporary block on the XL Pipeline, "stunningly stupid"; and Mitt Romney said Obama's decision threatened America's "energy independence." (Mitt, the oil is from, uh, Canada.)

But the real question is, can we trust these pigs? And not just the ones in the pipeline.

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