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Liidlii Kue First Nation raises serious concerns with Line 21 replacement in NWT

On March 10th, Enbridge filed an application to replace a segment of Line 21 that crosses the Mackenzie River with the NEB, and the NEB is now considering whether the application is complete or if there is any information missing before a public hearing is held. According to the NEB website, Enbridge expects to start construction in June 2017 and complete it by November.



Liidlii Kue First Nation is engaged in the public review process at the NEB and has expressed concerns that include risks to water and Indigenous sovereignty. The First Nation also decries the lack of coverage of this issue nationally.


In November, Enbridge shut down Line 21 due to soil stability concerns related to erosion where the oil pipeline crosses the Dehcho River (Mackenzie River) near Fort Simpson in NWT, on unceded Dehcho territory. Line 21 connects the Norman Wells oil field in NWT to Alberta pipeline networks.


The shutdown forced Imperial Oil, the company who operates the Norman Wells oil field, to slow its operations and finally to close them indefinitely in January, CBC reported. A few months before the incident, Imperial hinted that it was attempting to sell its Norman Wells assets, signaling a drop in interest in the operations by that time. One reason might be dropping revenues due to the fall in oil prices. Recent data shows that oil prices have reduced the revenues of this operation dropping from 102 million in 2010 to 75 million 2014 with a sharp drop down to 10 million in 2015.


In 2011, Line 21 had a major oil spill near Willlow Lake River that was originally estimated to be 4 barrels, but after investigation, it was established that between 750 and 1500 barrels of oil had leaked. One spill in a long history of spills for Enbridge, including the massive and devastating Kalamazoo River spill in 2010 that cost over 1 billion dollars to clean up.


Eighty percent of the Line 21 oil pipeline crosses unceded Dehcho territory, and Liidlii Kue never consented to the construction of the original pipeline in the 80’s. The Liidlii Kue First Nation has a population of about 1300 people that live both upstream and downstream from the crossing.


The Council of Canadians echoes the concerns of the Liidlii Kue First Nation. Pipelines inevitably spill and river crossings are particularly vulnerable to devastating and long term impacts of spills. Furthermore, the northern location of Line 21 adds a layer of complication for spill clean up because of the cold and the permafrost.


Indeed, as society transitions away from fossil fuels it seems like this is a perfect opportunity to proceed with the reclamation and decommissioning of Enbridge’s Line 21 pipeline and the Norman Well’s Imperial oil operations, which is one third owned by the Canadian government. Recent drops in revenue also provide a good incentive for the shutdown of these operations.


Find out more about the Norman Wells oil wells (CBC)