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Pipeline Opponents Celebrate Victories in North Dakota, Canada

An anti-pipeline protest in San Francisco in January. (Pax Ahimsa Gethen / CC 2.0)

Pipeline opponents in North America saw a series of victories this week. In Canada, news broke Thursday that a widely opposed pipeline project is being abandoned by the Calgary-based energy company TransCanada. And although the fight against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) has waned in recent months, criminal charges against the #NoDAPL protesters are being dropped by the hundreds.

In Canada, the proposed Energy East project “would have carried more than one million barrels of oil every day from Alberta and Saskatchewan across the country to be refined or exported from facilities in New Brunswick and Quebec,” CBC News reports. “Numerous Indigenous groups located along the pipeline’s proposed route were against the plan.”

The project was abandoned in what TransCanada labeled a purely “business decision.” Still, opponents of the pipeline celebrated the news, as Common Dreams reports:

Oil Change International (OCI) estimated in an analysis earlier this year that Energy East would produce an additional 236 million tons of carbon pollution each year. For this reason and many others, OCI applauded TransCanada’s decision to nix the project, which was first proposed in 2013.

“This is an important day in the fight against climate change in Canada,” Adam Scott, senior advisor at OCI, said in a statement on Thursday. “Energy East was a disaster waiting to happen. The pipeline and tanker proposal scheme was utterly incompatible with a world where we avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

Aurore Fauret, Tar Sands Campaign coordinator at 350.org, echoed Scott’s celebration and highlighted the grassroots mobilization that brought the pipeline into public view and ultimately helped ensure its defeat.

“We witnessed a People’s Intervention that forced the climate costs of Energy East to the forefront of the pipeline review,” Fauret said. “Over 100,000 messages were sent to the National Energy Board (NEB) demanding it consider all the emissions the project would generate. Close to 2,000 people applied as intervenors, citing climate change as one of their reasons. Two years later, after the NEB accepted to review the climate costs of the pipeline, TransCanada is calling it quits.”

Meanwhile, the Lakota People’s Law Project has been hard at work, fighting for charges to be dropped against opponents of the DAPL, who are called “water protectors.” In a press release sent Thursday, lead counsel Chase Iron Eyes shared celebratory news.

“Many attorneys have worked long hours and 400 of 800-plus charges have been dropped,” he writes. “North Dakota’s judges see that the accusations against water protectors are baseless.”

Iron Eyes notes that a longstanding petition created by the Lakota People’s Law Project has been key in the fight to drop charges. Watch Chase Iron Eyes explain the situation in a video released earlier this year:

Despite the growing legal victories for water protectors, construction of the DAPL is proceeding with the help of new financial input. The Associated Press reported last week that Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the pipeline, paid North Dakota $15 million to help cover security costs related to the project.

AP writes:

The builder of the Dakota Access pipeline sent North Dakota $15 million on Thursday to help pay law enforcement bills related to months of sometimes violent protests over the project’s construction.

Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners has wired the money, said Mike Nowatzki, a spokesman for Gov. Doug Burgum. Company investors also contributed, he said.

[North Dakota Governor] Burgum said in a statement he was grateful for the contribution.

“We remain committed to pursuing all available avenues to ensure that North Dakota taxpayers alone don’t bear the enormous costs of law enforcement, life safety and other resources expended on the protests,” he said.

North Dakota officials, including the state’s congressional delegation, have long pushed for federal reimbursement to cover all costs related to the protests. Burgum asked President Donald Trump for a disaster declaration earlier this year to cover the costs of the protest, but the request was denied.

The state on Monday did get a $10 million grant from the U.S. Justice Department to help pay some of the policing bills.

AP notes that the construction of the DAPL “is still being contested in federal court.”

Emma Niles
Assistant Editor
Emma Niles, an assistant editor at Truthdig, graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a degree in political science. She has worked for the National Women’s Law Center and Ms. Magazine.…
Emma Niles

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