Friday, April 28, 2017

Oil Uber Alles? Pipeline Mania & The Deep North

"Kayaktavists" surround a Shell Oil rig in Seattle's
Elliot Bay, May 15, 2015
With his 100th day in office approaching, and precious little to show for it save for his nomination of yet another conservative justice to the Supreme Court who believes the Constitution should protect corporations, El Presidente Loco took aim at the environment once again and fired off another fossil fuel-friendly executive order.

But ordering his toothless EPA to gut environmental protections apparently wasn't enough - not by a long shot.

Trump's executive order on Wednesday calls for a "review" of federal oversight of all state lands over 100,000 acres designated as national monuments by previous presidents since 1996.

He didn't stop there.

As Alessandra Potenza reported in an article posted on, earlier today Trump signed yet another executive order that "instructs the Department of Interior to review locations for offshore oil and gas exploration and leasing that were put off limits by the Obama administration. That includes millions of acres in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans that Obama withdrew permanently from drilling in December 2016." 

As an alarming essay on Arctic drilling by Earth Justice notes, global warming is already impacting the Arctic at a rate twice that of other regions of the Earth, allowing offshore drilling there would be disastrous for the environment.

An analysis released by the Department of Interior in December, 2015 concluded that there is a 75% chance of multiple oil spills in the Chukchi Sea should drilling be permitted - in a pristine marine environment where weather conditions are so harsh that oil spill cleanup would be impossible.

Remarkably, as Potenza's article notes, today's executive order also "asks for a review of marine monuments and sanctuaries created in the past ten years, and prohibits the creation of new ones"

The idea that a politician can block the creation of new marine sanctuaries is simply absurd.

Environmental activist Winona LaDuke
So essentially, in an effort to demonstrate his willingness to be a total lackey to the fossil fuel industry, 45 is now attempting to open up millions of acres of pristine federal lands to drilling for oil, natural gas and other minerals to private corporations.

Who as we all know, care soooo much about the environment.

But why this perplexing rush to to extract more oil?

On Wednesday morning's Brian Lehrer Show, the noted Native American environmental rights activist Winona LaDuke called into question the need for this unprecedented expansion of drilling and pipeline capacity in the U.S., as well as the Trump administration and Republican Congress' obsession with elevating the fossil fuel industry's insatiable thirst for profit over environmental safety and the health of the American people.

Take a few minutes to click over to the Website and listen to the interview if you're
interested in some perspective on the aftermath of the Dakota Access Pipeline out in the remote stretch of North Dakota where the Standing Rock Sioux galvanized global support for their efforts to block a controversial stretch of oil pipeline from passing beneath land they consider scared.

She spent a year of her life living in the Oceti-Sakowin protest camp in North Dakota alongside hundreds of other Native American water protectors, and serves as the executive director of the Native American activist group Honor the Earth.

LaDuke, who graduated from Harvard and Antioch universities and is a globally recognized environmental justice advocate, is also the author of six books and a former board member of Greenpeace, USA.

The old elementary school in Fort Yates on the
Standing Rock Sioux reservation
During her interview on Wednesday, she noted the irony of the fact that Energy Transfer Partners spent about $1.3 billion dollars on the section of the Dakota Access Pipeline that runs through North Dakota to improve what Republicans are fond of calling "energy infrastructure and energy independence".

But all that money did little to improve life on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.

Even though the DAPL threatens their water and environment.

For example, as a 2015 Al-Jazeera article by Chelsey Luger reported, meth and opiate addiction have surpassed alcohol as the source of substance abuse that represents one of the most significant dangers to the Standing Rock Sioux community.

Driven in no small part by the lack of job opportunities and federal and state funding as well as inadequate heath facilities and social services.

As LaDuke told Brian Lehrer on Wednesday, the clinic on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation is over 50 years old.

She noted that the main road that goes through there, Highway1806, doesn't even have a shoulder.

Perhaps all that fiery Republican passion for "energy infrastructure" doesn't include the roads and highways around the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.

In fact, it was the Backwater Bridge on ND 1806 where DAPL protesters famously set up barricades and engaged in conflicts with members of North Dakota law enforcement - sections of ND 1806 were closed for long stretches by the Morton County Sheriff's Department during the protests.

Oh and speaking of which...

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier
LaDuke had a few interesting things to say about Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier.

She accused him of being the principle architect behind the heavy-handed violent response to the peaceful DAPL demonstrations by members of the Morton County Sheriff's Department as well as other members of ND law enforcement who were called in to help quell peaceful protests.

LaDuke claims that Kirchmeier's overt bias and prejudice against Native Americans is so extreme that many have taken to calling him a "modern day Bull Connor".

In reference to the notorious white supremacist commissioner of public safety in Birmingham who, among other things, ordered Birmingham PD to stay away from the Trailways bus station so that members of the KKK could violently attack Freedom Riders riding through the south to protest segregation in 1961.

LaDuke noted that the treatment of Native Americans by some members of law enforcement in North Dakota, and the willingness of local and federal government to permit oil companies to run roughshod over Native American land have spurred some to refer to the region as "The Deep North."

One of the most interesting observations LaDuke made was that after the billions of dollars that Energy Transfer Partners spent to construct the DAPL, which is designed to transport crude oil from the Bakken Oil Fields, in some ways it's a pipeline to nowhere.

The oil boom that drew thousands of workers to the Bakken Oil Fields has long since turned to a bust, resulting in the loss of thousands of oil industry jobs and the closing of hundreds of oil rigs due to years of massive overproduction and the steep drop in global oil prices that prompted OPEC to announce cuts in oil production last year.

The global markets for the Bakken crude oil that the DAPL is supposed to transport to terminal port facilities in the Gulf for export to other countries, are drying up.
Trans Mountain Pipeline cuts through vast sections
of Canadian wilderness
Even as Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau have OK'd controversial pipeline expansion to transport Canadian Tar Sands oil across the border into the U.S.

Pipeline construction, like Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipeline slated to transport crude from Alberta to terminals in British Columbia on Canada's west coast, is also taking place in other sections of the U.S., including in LaDuke's home state of Minnesota.

She lives on the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota where the aging Enbridge Pipeline system has been a source of dangerous oil spills that threaten the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Canada's National Energy Board just gave Enbridge the go ahead to spend $7.5 billion to replace it's Line 3 Pipeline which stretches 1,660 kilometers from Hardisty, Alberta southeast to Lake Superior in Wisconsin - cutting across parts of LaDuke's White Earth reservation in Minnesota in the process.

With the global demand for oil flat and China starting to lead unprecedented expansion into the use of alternative energy sources like solar, it begs the question - does all this pipeline construction in Canada and the U.S. make practical sense for anyone but the oil companies?

On the eve of Donald Trump's 100th day in office, it seems that, like so many other White House initiatives launched since January 20th, this pipeline mania only makes sense from the isolated perspective of Trump himself - and the oil industry he seems so determined to please.

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