Honor The Earth: Winona LaDuke on the Enbridge Sandpiper Pipeline by Colin NearyTweet
Honor the Earth’s Environmental Features Program on the Enbridge Sandpiper Pipeline featuring Winona LaDuke.
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Full script here:
Neary: Welcome. This is Colin Neary reporting for this week’s edition of, “Honor the Earth: Environmental Features Program,” which covers local, regional, and national stories on issues concerning the environment, energy companies, their impacts, and how community members can get involved in environmental policy.
The Enbridge Pipelines (North Dakota) company is proposing to build the Sandpiper Pipeline Project – an approximately 2.5 billion dollar effort. The pipeline will be transporting hydraulically fractured North Dakota crude oil from the Bakken oil reserves in Western North Dakota to Lake Superior. This pipeline is estimated to be, at minimum 24-inches in diameter or larger at points along the 610-mile long interstate route. It will originate from the Beaver Lodge Station, south of Tioga, North Dakota and ending in Superior Wisconsin. In today’s program we will hear from Enbridge representatives, including Enbridge Stakeholders Specialist Becky Haase who talks about liability for pipeline leaks and damages:”
Haase: “Usually, the possible players in a liability scenario are the company, the contractor, a sub-contractor, an insurance company usually has an obligation to get involved. Sometimes there’s an oil liability fund that’s brought in.”
Neary: “We also hear from Greg Sheline, an engineer for Enbridge who works out of the Superior, Wisconsin offices. Sheline talks about the mechanisms in place to prevent or respond to a pipeline malfunction:”
Sheline: “There are block valves placed on the mainline as well as the pump stations that can be used to close off the flow.”
Neary: “We now turn to Winona LaDuke with more information about the suggested route and capacity of the proposed Sandpiper pipeline:”
LaDuke: “The Enbridge pipeline corporation is proposing to construct a pipeline estimated to be around 610 miles from Beaver Lodge Station just south of Tioga, North Dakota to Superior, Wisconsin. The line is called the Enbridge Sandpiper Line, and recent Enbridge Open Houses were held throughout Hubbard and Cass Counties. I went to an informational meeting in Park Rapids to see what the company had proposed and why. Enbridge’s glossy-colored brochure states a minimum of 24-inch diameter based on the shipper’s request. Enbridge also states the pipeline’s capacity could be from 225,000 barrels per day from North Dakota – that’s the Bakken oil reserves – to Clearbrook, Minnesota, and then up to 375,000 barrels per day from Clearbrook, Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin. So the pipeline’s going to change in size getting into Clearbrook, which is the big transfer station, linking to the rest of the Enbridge lines.”
Neary: “In summary, the proposed Sandpiper Pipeline Project has estimated that a 24-inch or larger diameter pipeline will be necessary to transport 225,000 barrels per day of North Dakota crude oil from Beaver Lodge Station south of Tioga, North Dakota to the Enbridge transfer station in Clearbrook, Minnesota and another 375,000 barrels per day from Clearbrook to Superior, Wisconsin.
Before construction can begin, the Sandpiper Pipeline Project will also require a Certificate of Need from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and more than 2,000 right-of ways and easements. The Enbridge Company is in the process of contacting landowners within a designated “pipeline notice area” and has already applied for a Certificate of Need from the Minnesota P.U.C. Here is Winona LaDuke with more about the right-of-ways and easements:”
LaDuke: “The company hopes to secure 2,000 right-of-ways and easements in the next couple of years with a projected completion time of 2016. The corporation has skirted the major pipeline corridor from Bemidji to Superior through the Leech Lake Reservation. That corridor already has six pipelines in it. Apparently, the Leech Lake Tribal Council does not seem interested in a new pipeline to add to these six other pipelines across the reservation. As well, tribal right-of-ways are costly to the company and are according to sources, for twenty years as opposed to perpetual land owners.”
Neary: “Before Enbridge can begin contracting for right-of-ways and easements, the company must have a ‘certificate of need’ from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for the preferred southern route of the Sandpiper Pipeline Project. This southern route is estimated to be 302 miles. In comparison, Enbridge already has an existing 256 mile corridor that flows east through the towns of Cass Lake, Deer River, and Floodwood to Superior, Wisconsin. According to a source, the Leech Lake Tribal Council has not expressed interest in seeing the Sandpiper Pipeline add to the six pipelines already running through the reservation.
The preferred southern route is proposed to travel through Clearwater, Hubbard, Cass, Crow Wing, Aitkin, and Carlton counties in addition to White Earth Ojibwe Indian Reservation. The Pilot Independent reports that the Enbridge Pipeline (North Dakota) company has applied for the certificate of need along the southern route quote, ‘because it offers fewer environmental challenges.’ End quote. However, Marty Cobenais, formerly of the Indigenous Environmental Network, reports that the Alberta Clipper (Line 67) pipeline was initially proposed to travel along the southern route, but had its certificate need rejected by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Here is Winona LaDuke with more information about the potential effects of the pipeline’s proposed southern route on 1854 and 1855 treaty territory.”
LaDuke: “According to Marty Cobenais there have been concerns about the new pipeline route. Quote: ‘The Alberta Clipper 36 inch pipeline built in 2010 was proposed to go in the same area south of the reservation, but it was denied by the Minnesota PUC for fears of more contamination risks to wild rice beds. This alternate route for the Sandpiper would invade several established tribal areas that provide tribal members hunting and gathering rights from the 1854 and 1855 treaty.’”
Neary: “If Enbridge is granted its Certificate of Need, the company will still need to purchase the 2,000 or more right-of-ways and easements necessary to construct the pipeline. Private landowners within a 500-foot corridor have been notified. Within that corridor, the construction width would be 120 feet and the permanent easement width, 50 feet.
As part of its effort to seek local approval of the Sandpiper Pipeline Project southern route, Enbridge representatives have been traveling to towns such as Park Rapids for informal one-on-one meetings with residents. Enbridge representatives met with folks at Century School in Park Rapids on August 21, 2013. Winona LaDuke had an opportunity to interview Enbridge Stakeholders Specialist Becky Haase, about the liability of landowners for accidents or damages that may occur on easements. Haase responds:”
Hasse: “Just like any other kind of incident – like a car accident, a slip-and-fall, any kind of incident that relates to a pipeline, even if it’s just a safety incident, and I don’t mean just a safety incident like that’s not as important, but someone gets hurt while working on the line. All of those depend on what were the circumstances under which that occurred: Did someone behave in a way that was not reasonably prudent under the circumstances? Was there some kind of material malfunction or defect from the manufacturer?”
LaDuke: “Was there a human error?”
Haase: “Was there a human error and if there was, what human?”
LaDuke: “Mechanical failure –“
Haase: “All of those contribute to what the picture is for liability, exactly. And so, you know, looking ahead of time nobody can predict what’s going to cause an accident, and lots of times looking backwards – hindsight – you can’t always tease it apart. Like a car accident, you can’t always reconstruct it, so you can figure out who is liable. Usually, the possible players in a liability scenario are the company, the contractor, a sub-contractor, an insurance company usually has an obligation to get involved. Sometimes there’s an oil liability fund that’s brought in. And so depending on the facts and the circumstances under which the incident happened and what kind of damage resulted that’s how you kind of pick out who might be pointed at for a liability and to contribute to restoration, damage control.”
Neary: “The safety and management of the North Dakota crude oil boom has been publicly scrutinized since a 20,600-barrel leak on a six-inch Tesoro Logistics pipeline was revealed on October 10, 2013. Initial investigations reveal that state regulators point to corrosion on the 20-year-old pipeline, which was carrying Bakken crude oil. The U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which is in charge of the investigation, could not be reached for comment due to the U.S. government shutdown.
The 20,600-barrel or 865,200-gallon oil spill was found by a farmer, who noticed the fracked oil on his wheat field northeast of Tioga, North Dakota on September 29. Reuters reports: ‘Farmer Steven Jensen said the smell of sweet light crude oil wafted on his farm for four days before he discovered the leak, leading to questions about why the spill wasn’t detected sooner.’ End quote. As of October 15 just over 2,100 barrels of the spilled oil had been recovered.
At the meeting in Park Rapids Winona LaDuke also spoke with Greg Sheline, an engineer for Enbridge who works out of the Superior, Wisconsin offices. LaDuke asks Sheline about what mechanisms Enbridge has in place to maintain and monitor existing pipelines.”
Sheline: “There are pump stations up and down the line of our facilities that serve both as a pump station and also as a maintenance base for technicians and pipeline maintenance repair employees.”
LaDuke: “Okay, and so if there’s a spill in like 185 section someplace between I don’t know Park Rapids and Hubbard, it could get closed down anywhere along there, is that rights?”
Sheline: “It can. There are block valves placed on the mainline, as well as the pump stations that can be used to close off the flow.”
LaDuke: “And how often are those block valves? Does it depend or is it pretty regular?”
Sheline: “The block valves are positioned according to a program that takes into consideration the geography of the land, any navigable water ways, wetlands, and areas of high consequence. And that’s how the valves are positioned strategically along the line.”
LaDuke: “Area of high consequence – What is that?”
Sheline: “That would be a wetland or some property that would be sensitive in terms of the environment.”
LaDuke: “Most of this line is not going near a small town anyway, right? But I suppose a small town is an area of high consequence too, isn’t it?”
Sheline: “It would be. A municipal area would be, yes.”
LaDuke: “Okay, what I thought was really interesting is that this is managed out of Saskatchewan?”
Sheline: “This line – the Sandpiper line – the plan is that it will be operated from the control center in Estevan, Saskatchewan.”
LaDuke: “Where is Estevan, some place…?”
Sheline: “Estevan is northwest of Minot, across the Canadian border.”
LaDuke: “And so that is where the North Dakota line is managed from?”
Sheline: “It is, yes. That’s correct.”
LaDuke: “And it’s like a really high-tech computer center?”
Sheline: “It is, that’s correct.”
LaDuke: “And so they’re monitoring every pumping station?”
Sheline: “They are. They monitor pump stations and other technology that’s on the line. That information gets reported back to the control center, so that the operators can monitor the operation.”
LaDuke: “These are not the 50-year-old lines, these are the new lines, right?”
Sheline: “These are on all of the pipelines.”
LaDuke: “On all of the pipelines now?”
LaDuke: “Okay, but these like the new, the lines that Enbridge is putting in now are really high-tech.”
Sheline: “There have been many improvements and additions through the years, yes.”
Neary: “The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration is in charge of safety along the lines. They cover 2.5 million miles of present pipelines, with a scant 110 inspectors. Despite the recent technological improvements Enbridge has implemented, the company has been responsible for 804 oil leaks from 1999 to 2010, according to Enbridge’s own data.
Enbridge has already experienced a major 6,000 barrel spill in Minnesota’s Mississippi River watershed. July 4, 2002 in Cohassett, Minnesota, a 34-inch-diameter steel pipeline owned and operated by Enbridge Pipelines (Lakehead), LLC ruptured in a marsh west of Cohasset, Minnesota. And the 34-inch pipeline leaked more than 6,000 barrels or 252,000 gallons of crude oil into surrounding Blackwater Creek. In an attempt to keep the oil from contaminating the Mississippi River, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources set a controlled burn that lasted for 1 day and created a smoke plume about a mile high and 5 miles long, in order to prevent the oil from entering the Mississippi River.
The area along the proposed Sandpiper pipeline southern route from Clearbrook, Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin is mostly northwoods forest that currently has no pipelines running through it. Due to the lack of any long term study of the chemical composition of North Dakota fracked Oil from the Bakken, little is known about what the effects a spill would have on Northern Minnesota’s environment.
According to Enbridge, the Sandpiper’s preferred southern route will cross into White Earth Ojibwe Indian Reservation south of Bagley and run along the eastern boundary of Upper Rice Lake, an important ricing lake for White Earth tribal members. The Sandpiper pipeline will continue south passing through a portion of the Mississippi Headwaters State Forest, meanwhile passing along the eastern boundary of White Earth Reservation as it travels south along Route 71 before passing within several miles of Park Rapids, where the pipeline will turn east at Straight River township. It will also cross the Mississippi River south of Palisade before passing by the town of McGregor on its passage to Superior, Wisconsin. In total, the Sandpiper preferred southern route will travel within a five mile proximity of at least 10 state forests, parks, and wildlife management areas, including Itasca State Park, White Earth State Forest, Two Inlets State Forest, and the Fond du Lac State Forest.
Much of the pipeline east of Park Rapids is planned to run along existing transmission lines until the line reaches Superior. The entirety of the preferred southern route for the Sandpiper pipeline is within the watershed of the Mississippi River and Lake Superior.
For more about Enbridge pipelines management here is Winona LaDuke interviewing Becky Haase:”
LaDuke: “How many thousands of miles of lines does Enbridge have? I know there’s 2.5 million miles of pipeline in this country.”
Haase: “I think the Enbridge system spans about 2,000 miles, so that would be the geographical spread, but we have more than 50,000 thousand – 5-0-0-0-0-0 – miles because so ‘cause there’s more pipe within stations, for example. So if we have multiple pipelines in an easement in a particular spread, so that takes that into account.”
Neary: The following passage is from the ‘Spills, Leaks and Ruptures’ subsection of the ‘Environmental track record’ chapter of the Polaris Institute’s corporate profile of Pipeline Company Enbridge:
“Every year Enbridge strives for the lofty goal of zero releases, or no spills, leaks or ruptures that could send toxic poisons, chemicals and hydrocarbons into the environment. In spite of its stated objective thousands of litres of dangerous fluids are released from the company’s pipelines and holding tanks into the environment each year.
According to Enbridge’s own data, between 1999 and 2010, across all of the company’s operations there were 804 oil spills that released 161,475 barrels (approximately 25.67 million litres, or 6.8 million gallons) of hydrocarbons into the environment. This amounts to approximately half of the oil that spilled from the oil tanker Exxon Valdez after it struck a rock in Prince William Sound, Alaska in 1988.”
We now turn to Winona LaDuke for a brief history of Enbridge oil leaks:”
LaDuke: “Some of the environmental concerns for the pipeline are rather large. Between 1999 and 2010 the Enbridge Corporation, according to the Polaris Institute had 804 oil leaks, including some in Cohasset, MN and a mitigated spill and unmitigated spill on the Leech Lake Reservation, as well as an 800,000 gallon spill in Kalamazoo, MI.”
Neary: “An Enbridge spill was also documented on April 24, 2013 in Viking, Minnesota when 600 gallons of diluted bitumen, otherwise known as dilbit, were spilled from the Enbridge Alberta Clipper (Line 67) pipeline. Dilbit is thick with the consistency of peanut butter, and must be diluted for transport from the tar sands oil fields in Fort McMurray, Alberta. However, by July 18, 2013 the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved a Certificate of Need necessary to expand the Alberta Clipper (Line 67) pipeline.
Additionally, the Enbridge spill along the Kalamazoo River has already become the lengthiest and costliest oil spill cleanup in history. The Kalamazoo spill occurred at 6 P.M. on July 25, 2010 when Enbridge Line 6B ruptured and lasted for 17 hours while the pipeline gushed more than a million gallons of dilbit into the Kalamazoo River, according to recent Environmental Protection Agency estimates. As of May 2013, Enbridge estimates the company has recovered 1.15 million gallons of dilbit from the Kalamazoo River. EPA estimates 180,000 gallons of dilbit still remain in the river bottom sediment.
The cleanup expense by summer of 2012 had reached 765 million dollars and is expected to top a billion dollars before cleanup has been completed. In total, Enbridge pipelines have experienced 804 oil leaks between 1999 and 2010, according to Enbridge’s own data. Here is Winona LaDuke questioning talking to Becky Haase about the Kalamazoo spill:”
LaDuke: “In the worst known recent spill of Enbridge, being the Kalamazoo spill. That’s an $800 million price-tag so far, and it’s not cleaned up, right?”
Haase: “It is cleaned up, but our tasks to satisfy the regulatory agencies that are overseeing the cleanup are not complete yet, so we will continue –“
LaDuke: “The EPA.”
Haase: “Yep. We will continue to do what they ask us to do.”
LaDuke: “Because from what I understand the EPA has not deemed that the job is complete.”
LaDuke: “And so far you guys have footed most of the bill of clean-up.”
Haase: “I don’t know how much we footed, but I know it has an 800 million-dollar-plus price-tag that’s been published, so it’s a lot of money.”
LaDuke: “But that has been spent. And if you guys didn’t end up paying for it, then you’re hoping that somebody will, like the oil spill liability fund.”
Haase: “Yeah, and I don’t know the ins and outs of that. Yeah, I don’t know either, so I’m not really qualified to comment on that.”
Neary: “A 2011 peer-reviewed study published in the Human and Ecological Risk Assessment:
International Journal documented 632 chemicals used in fracking fluid, with only 353 of the chemicals reviewed in academic literature.
Each well-pad requires 4 million gallons of water and approximately 2,000 trucks are needed to haul the water, sand, and chemicals each time a well is fracked. Many wells are fracked multiple times. A 2012 report released by the North Dakota State Water Commission states that North Dakota expects 2,500 new oil wells per year for the next 15-25 years in the Bakken oil fields. Therefore, if 2,500 fracking wells are built each year in North Dakota and each is fracked at least once, there will be a minimum of 250 billion gallons of wastewater as a result.
Here is Winona LaDuke with more on the contents of fracking fluid:
LaDuke: “There is essentially a problem of contents. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted hydraulic fracturing or fracking from protections under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and CIRCLA. The act, also known as the Halliburton Amendment, exempts companies from disclosing the chemicals involved in fracking. However, according to a 2011 Congressional report over 600 chemicals are used in this process.
Those chemicals include a host of things, although one fracking company refers to these as things you would quote, ‘find in your household’ end quote. Chemicals include methanol, benzene, toluene, xylene, ethyl benzene – all known carcinogens. You might find them in your household, frankly, if your house was a meth lab.
Stephen Goiubelt, deputy director of the Montreal environmental group Ecuaterra, commented: ‘It’s not the oil people are used to. Depending on the type of crude oil, the environmental impacts, safety issues, decontamination issues are very different because of what’s in this oil. There’s a risk of fire and explosions, but when this stuff burns it releases a lot of toxic chemicals, which have a big impact on the short term, and quite possibly on the long term. So essentially some of the questions we are asking is what would be going through the proposed Sandpiper line, and what would be the ecological impacts if there was a spill?”
Neary: “North Dakota Bakken Crude is unconventional oil and very volatile in nature, it’s lighter than conventional oil and closely similar in relation to the gasoline we put into cars and vehicles. On July 6, 2013 a 74-car train transporting Bakken oil derailed and exploded in Lac Megantic, Quebec. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 47 people are either missing or dead from the explosion, and about 40 buildings, half of the downtown area, were destroyed. With more on the Lac Megantic train explosion and the Bakken oil boom, here’s Winona LaDuke:”
LaDuke: Three years ago, estimates indicated 577 billion barrels of oil were under the Bakken formation, and Ft. Berthold Reservation of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara people is considered the sweet spot for oil extraction. Since the implementation of a number of new test wells, however, estimates have been revised to 903 billion barrels of oil. At present about 70% of it is coming out by train. That’s about a thousand cars a day going through Detroit Lakes, as an example.
The push to get oil and natural gas out may cause some problems, as the market and essentially the push by oil companies to extract for a good price means that safety is not always addressed. This was a big problem this summer when a Bakken oil-filled train blew up essentially all of Lac Megantic, Quebec.
What I mean by blew up is that 70 cars derailed and some exploded, 40 buildings were eliminated from the map – 4 square blocks – and around 40 people were “vaporized:” That’s the term that was used by the press and the fire department in Quebec. Now Lac Megantic is a small town in Quebec about the same size as Detroit Lakes. Its train disaster was Bakken oil. The disaster illustrates a new set of policy, safety, and unplanned growth challenges in what is known as extreme oil or extreme fossil fuels extraction. That is the discussion on fracked oil because of the unmitigated and largely emerging environmental concerns.
According to World News NBC, firefighters in Lac Megantic said that the white hot blaze left a scene of destruction like nothing they’d ever before encountered. Bakken shale crude is unconventional in many respects. It is apparently more explosive. Why? We don’t know because there’s not exactly a full disclosure of contents. The challenges remain for fracked oil from the Bakken.”
Neary: “In 2011 the counties along the preferred southern route for the Sandpiper earned approximately 400 million dollars that year for Leisure & Hospitality, popularly known as the tourism industry. Hubbard County alone earned 29 million dollars and employed 700 people in Leisure & Hospitality during 2011. A spill along the Sandpiper’s preferred southern route with the magnitude of the Enbridge spill in Kalamazoo or the more recent Tesoro spill in Tioga, North Dakota could have a potentially major, detrimental impact on the economies of Aitkin, Carlton, Cass, Clearwater, Crow Wing, and Hubbard counties.
Though construction of the preferred Sandpiper southern route will likely be shorter than an annual tourist season, many continue to be in support of the Sandpiper Pipeline Project, as they claim pipeline construction will result in jobs creation. Enbridge promises the Sandpiper Pipeline Project will create thousands of temporary jobs. However, these positions would only exist during construction from 2014 to 2016, and will result in approximately 40 permanent employees after construction is complete. Additionally, the construction labor will likely be mostly out-of-state employees who will create man-camps along the pipeline route. Still, union leaders remain in support of the pipeline. Now to Winona LaDuke with more on the Sandpiper pipeline project and jobs creation.”
LaDuke: “Union leaders say they strongly support this project. Enbridge is planning on thousands of jobs during construction, although by 2016 when the proposed line is completed maybe 40 employees will be working permanently on the 610-mile line. This exemplifies one of the challenges that other environmental groups are forwarding and has been a concern of communities from Nebraska, to Texas, throughout the Dakotas.
As far as jobs and the environment, Harry Melander, President of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council, says, ‘This is a big employer for us. Pipelines feed a lot of families.’ Glen Johnson, business manager for the 12,000-member local 49 Operator Engineers, said, ‘Enbridge has a good record of employing union contractors.’ He said, ‘The union for heavy equipment operators in North Dakota and Minnesota already has thousands of members working in a range of oil and gas projects from local feeder lines and interstate transmission lines and refinery upgrades.’ This is an important selling point for most of the new energy projects.
Now one of these challenges are that there’s going to be a lot of union or highly trained or skilled workers for the pipelines in the north that are required. Both people could move into the area – these are known as “man camps” when they move in for pipeline construction and there’s a number of them throughout North Dakota – or our people could be trained for these jobs. At the same time, there are longer-term implications for the environment. In the end the environment is an employer for all of us from a pipeline to our farms. This remains a deep concern.”
Neary: “This has been Honor the Earth: Environmental Features Program. Special thanks to our guests Becky Haase and Greg Sheline, representatives of the Enbridge Pipelines Corporation. To learn more about Honor the Earth, please visit HonorEarth.org or find a recording of this week’s and past week’s programs at soundcloud dot com forward-slash honortheearth. You can also find Honor the Earth on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Thanks for listening!”
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