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First Nations Escalating Opposition to Strategic Oil Pipeline Through Their Land

Enbridge's pipeline would send oil sands crude to the coast for shipment to China, but recent pipeline ruptures cloud safety record

By Stacy Feldman

Sep 14, 2010

First Nations in western Canada have a message for energy giant : Keep oil sands off our lands and waters.

They've been taking the warning to the streets in recent weeks, demonstrating against Enbridge's plan to pipe crude 730 miles from the Alberta oil sands to a proposed supertanker terminal in the British Columbia port town of Kitimat.

The would ship 525,000 barrels of bitumen per day across territories claimed by 50 First Nations. Much of it would head overseas to feed fuel-hungry China and other Asian markets.

Last week, about 400 protesters gathered in Prince George, the largest city in northern B.C. Others — some dressed as oil spill clean-up workers — rallied in Kitimat weeks prior.

The stepped-up pressure comes as Calgary-based Enbridge finds itself in the hot seat after a spate of ruptured pipelines. 

The area's Native Canadians are angry because the $5.5 billion pair of pipelines follows a route that would cross 1,000 streams, rivers and some important salmon-breeding streams. 

"Eventually pipelines breach, and potentially they could be breaking in our territories and damaging our watersheds," Terry Teegee, vice tribal chief of the , told SolveClimate News.

Teegee and others say it's another oil disaster waiting to happen.

"There's going to be an accident. It's just a matter of time," said Gerald Amos, president of the and counselor with the , which represents the of B.C.

Five weeks ago, an Enbridge oil sands line busted in Kalamazoo Mich., releasing thousands of gallons of crude into state waterways. Last week, the firm found a leak in a pipeline outside of Chicago. On Monday, a third line near Buffalo was shut down after it was damaged during maintenance work.

First Nations are latching on to the accidents as an opportunity to gain backing for their opposition.

"We're not dealing with rocket science here. The evidence is all around us," Amos told SolveClimate News. "Exxon, the Gulf of Mexico, Kalamazoo. They're all telling us [that] this is what's in store ... The risks are very real."

Enbridge spokesman Alan Roth told SolveClimate News that its safety record is better than most in the industry.

"Pipeline spills are rare," Roth said. "Obviously, there have been some in the news lately and coincidently very close together in time. But the truth is that the failure rate for our pipelines is actually better than the industry average."

Safety will be a big consideration, he added: "Spill preventions, pipeline safety, the marine safety program for Northern Gateway ... are all absolute key priorities."

The firm claims the economic benefits will outweigh any environmental costs.

The project will create 62,700 "person-years of employment" over the construction phase and 1,150 long-term jobs in maintenance and operations of the pipelines and marine terminal, the company .

According to an by the , the plan would produce only 215 long-term jobs and would spew 22.3 megatons of climate-changing emissions each year — the equivalent of adding 5.4 million cars on the road.

Pressure Mounts Against Dirty Pipelines

protest Prince George

yeah, so much for the environment, why doesn't the media show the garbage the protesters left behind.


there has been enough raping of the Lands ,lately i see less an less wildlife an more hwy. etc. etc.. 4 the sake of future generations I pray this destruction is stopped 4 ever....

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