Photo: Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper Pipeline by John W. Murray
Conservation and tribal groups filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. State Department’s secretive approval of a plan to allow Canadian oil giant Enbridge to nearly double the amount of tar sands oil in the Alberta Clipper pipeline. The approval this summer happened without public notice and without a legally required review that’s meant to protect air, water, wildlife, and public health, in spite of a previous State Department decision that any expansion of Alberta Clipper would require a federal permit.
The pipeline transports tar sands oil from Alberta through Minnesota, with a terminus in Superior, Wisc. From the Canadian border, the pipeline runs 327 miles through North Dakota and Minnesota to Wisconsin, passing through three Native American reservations, as well as the Northern Divide, the Mississippi River, Chippewa National Forest and Leech Lake.
The scheme to nearly double Alberta Clipper’s capacity would put the pipeline on par with the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and significantly increase the amount of toxic, highly polluting tar sands crude being moved into the U.S. without any public oversight or accountability. It also represents a violation of U.S. environmental laws designed to protect the public from pollution of our air and water.
“This lawsuit challenges the State Department’s illegal approval of Enbridge’s tar sands expansion plans,” Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes told reporters on a press call this afternoon. “Rather than stick to its ongoing review process that the National Environmental Policy Act requires, the State Department green-lighted the expansion before the process is complete.”
Today’s suit was filed in federal court in Minneapolis by a diverse coalition of groups including the White Earth Nation, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Honor the Earth, the National Wildlife Federation, the Minnesota Conservation Federation, the Indigenous Environmental Network, and MN350, being represented by the Vermont Law School Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic. The suit aims to force Secretary of State John Kerry and the State Department to reverse its approval and ensure that a full environmental review takes place before any expansion of Alberta Clipper occurs.
“To establish the U.S. as a real international leader in tackling the climate crisis, the State Department must stop turning a blind eye to Big Oil schemes to bypass U.S. laws and nearly double the amount of corrosive, carbon-intensive tar sands crude it brings into our country,” said Sierra Club Deputy National Program Director Michael Bosse. “Enbridge has been allowed to play by their own rules for too long at the expense of our water, air, and climate, and the Sierra Club is taking legal action to stop this abuse.”
“The only thing worse than dirty oil is dirty oil backed by dirty tricks. This is the fossil fuel equivalent of money laundering,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Obama administration should be ashamed of itself for letting Enbridge illegally pump more dirty tar sands oil into the United States.”
“Honor the Earth represents Anishinaabeg people and the earth. We believe that nations should abide by their agreements, treaties, and laws. The Anishinaabeg continue to harvest and live the life the Creator gave us, within the north country, and within the treaty areas, protected and recognized under federal law, including the 1837, 1854, 1855 and 1867 treaties,” said Winona LaDuke, program director for Honor the Earth and a member of the White Earth Nation. “We know that new oil pipelines will not bode well for the fish, the wild rice, and the medicines of this Akiing, this land. We also know that the U.S., through the State Department, should uphold its own laws and regulations, and not issue permits under the pressure of oil interests, over the interests of our country, people, and land. Federal law requires environmental impact assessments, and the U.S. must uphold its own laws. New pipelines by the Enbridge Company and this illegal switching of lines do not serve our state or our country. We ask the U.S. State Department to uphold the law.”