(Note: Many links provided contain maps, which are helpful in terms of identifying places, First Nations, pipeline routes, etc.)
TransCanada Corporation and the Energy East Pipeline.
TransCanada, based in Alberta, is “one of the continent’s largest providers of gas storage and related services”, with 2,150 miles of oil pipeline and many more miles of gas pipeline in North America. TransCanada is familiar to those in the US who’ve followed its eminent domain fights in TX and ND while building the Keystone XL Pipeline.
With its Energy East project, TransCanada intends to convert an existing pipeline from gas to oil transport and to build new pipelines ”in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Eastern Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick to link up with the converted pipe.” As envisioned, the Energy East pipeline will transport 1.1 million barrels of oil per day. Seventy-five communities and over 50 First Nations are “on or near the existing TransCanada Mainline, or the proposed expansion.” There is much opposition to this proposal, particularly among the First Nations.
“TransCanada has been holding consultations with communities across the country, including some 155 First Nations . . . [and have] hired Phil Fontaine, former chief of the Assembly of First Nations, to represent it” (emphasis added) in a community outreach effort. TransCanada’s CEO “expects Energy East to face a relatively easy ride through the regulatory process.”
TransCanada’s outreach efforts, have included 22 Ontario ‘open houses.’ The corporation also awarded $28,200 to Mattawa, Ontario for purchase of a rescue truck, with a proviso that the reward remain confidential, which it didn’t. Unsurprisingly, this has led to charges of “buying silence” (here and here), resulting in Mattawa’s mayor announcing removal of the silence clause from the contract.
TransCanada is “talking with the Ginoogaming First Nation to identify the potential impacts of the Project on the Ginoogaming First Nation’s exercise of its Treaty rights.” Almost a year ago, the Ginoogaming First Nation announced discussions with other Matawa First Nations about “revenue sharing from the pipeline or an equity buy-in.” Moreover, the Treaty 3 Grand Council, which includes 27 First Nations and “a vast tract of Ojibway territory in northwestern Ontario and part of eastern Manitoba,” met and agreed to proceed with TransCanada negotiations.
TransCanada’s hearts and minds approach is not universally accepted, however. The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, for example, just withdrew participation in a hearing about the Grand Rapids Pipeline, a feeder to the Energy East and the Keystone XL pipelines. Chief Allan Adam said TransCanada “consistently showed little regard to actually addressing the concerns raised . . . and were more concerned with how much it would cost to ‘buy us off.’” Unaddressed concerns include “lack of assessment or studies done on the impacts to Aboriginal and Treaty rights, impacts to hunting, fishing and trapping and the incomplete Caribou Protection plan” among others. (See infographic.) Chief Adam continued, “it is our law that we need to protect the land and the water . . .. We must do this as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the river flows. Today, we respect Dene law and for that reason we can no longer continue in this process.”
The Black Snake through Indian Country.
TransCanada wants to move crude from Hardisty, Alberta, “a pivotal petroleum industry hub,” in a southeasterly direction to Morgan, MT and on to Steele City, NE where an existing pipeline continues to Cushing, OK, and on into TX. This proposed pipeline, the Keystone XL, has been dubbed “the black snake,” recalling Native American prophecy.
Members of tribes in Idaho, Oklahoma, Montana, Nebraska and Oregon—including the Lakota Nation and the Nez Perce—are in sharp opposition to the pipeline which “cuts through . . . treaty territory, sacred sites and waterways.” To emphasize their resolve, the Oglala Sioux by unanimous consent banned not only TransCanada from their territory but also specifically banned Phil Fontaine, TransCanada’s newly-hired employee and former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations in Canada.
This past February, tribes from the Great Plains began to prepare a “Last Stand” to the Keystone XL pipeline. “While organizers said they want to keep their strategy a secret, they’re considering everything from vigils to civil disobedience to blockades to thwart the moving of construction equipment and the delivery of materials.”
Currently, Native American and environmental groups await President Barack Obama’s decision regarding the Keystone XL pipeline (see here, here and here). Just a few days ago, the NE Supreme Court announced it won’t hear oral arguments about a “crucial Keystone-related case” until “October at the earliest,” which might indicate “that the administration eventually would block the pipeline.”
Nonetheless, as Maryam Adrangi of the Council of Canadians cautions, “it really could come down to people putting their bodies on the line and people stopping the construction.”