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Barlow expresses solidarity with #NoDAPL water protectors arrested defending the Mississippi River

A protest in Iowa at the Mississippi River against the Dakota Access Pipeline on September 13. Twitter photo by 350.org.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow says “Solidarity!” to the 15 people arrested in Iowa yesterday in a protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is being built by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners and Calgary-based Enbridge Inc., which owns a US$1.5 billion share in the pipeline. The 1,900-kilometre long pipeline could carry up to 570,000 barrels per day of fracked oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois. It would cross 200 waterways along the way. The pipeline route crosses the Missouri River in North Dakota (which is upstream of Lake Oahe, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s main source of drinking water), as well as the Mississippi River.

CBC reports, “Saturday’s peaceful protest was organized by a 35-year-old Des Moines woman, Jessica Reznicek, who has been camped just outside the work site after getting arrested twice for blocking its entrance last month. …Protester Carolyn Scherf of Dubuque said she’s concerned the finished pipe could leak or break and contaminate rivers. Scherf says protesters successfully stopped work on the pipeline on Saturday. ‘There’s precedent for oil pipelines leaking or breaking’, Scherf told the Dubuque Telegraph Herald. ‘If that were to occur under the Mississippi River, we would be in trouble.'”

On September 9, federal officials in the United States ordered a temporary halt to construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land around and underneath Lake Oahe, and federal agencies asked the company for a “voluntary pause” on work 32 kilometres on either side of Lake Oahe. But on September 13, the company’s CEO said the company is committed to completing the pipeline and that “concerns about the pipeline’s impact on the local water supply are unfounded”. Twenty people were arrested later that week when they blocked a construction site for the pipeline about 100 kilometres northwest of the main protest site.

In terms of an overall timeline, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the construction of the pipeline on July 25, construction began on August 10, and the water protection protests began on August 15.

On August 19, The Council of Canadians first expressed its solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in this campaign blog. On September 5, our Chilliwack chapter participated in a solidarity rally against the pipeline as noted here. On September 9, I was at a rally outside the US Embassy in Ottawa to oppose the pipeline. On September 12, Vancouver-based organizers Harjap Grewal and AJ Klein along with water campaigner Emma Lui were at Indigenous-led actions to draw attention to TD Securities investments in the pipeline as noted here. And on September 16, our Regina chapter joined with Colonialism No More for a protest against the Dakota Access and Energy East pipelines, more on that here.

It is now being widely speculated that the Trudeau government is likely to approve the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to the port city of Burnaby (near Vancouver) in British Columbia.

The Trans Mountain pipeline was built in 1953 and has mostly been used to transport conventional oil. Texas-based Kinder Morgan bought the pipeline in 2005 and has been increasingly using it to transport diluted bitumen from the tar sands. Now the company wants to twin the existing pipeline and increase the amount of oil being transported from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day and make the marine terminal a major tar sands oil export facility with 400 export tankers a year. The local Tsleil-Waututh Nation and the Squamish Nation have both clearly stated their opposition to this pipeline and terminal on their traditional territories.

If the Trans Mountain pipeline is approved by the government on December 19, we will likely see the same kind of court challenges and direct action against it as we are now seeing against the Dakota Access Pipeline in the United States.

The Council of Canadians has endorsed the Leap Manifesto which calls for respecting the inherent rights and title of Indigenous peoples, and for no new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future.