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US and Canadian native peoples form alliance to stop oil pipelines

23 September 2016

Aboriginal tribes from Canada and the northern United States signed a treaty on September 22 to jointly fight proposals to build more pipelines to carry crude from Alberta's oil sands, claiming that further development would damage the environment. Targets include projects proposed by Kinder Morgan, TransCanada and Enbridge.

Image: LPLPR
Image: LPLPR

The move came on the same day as Native American tribes took their fight to Washington to stop development of the $3.7 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline, which would cross federally managed and private lands in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.

The previous week the US Justice Department intervened to delay construction of the pipeline in North Dakota. Among the treaty's signatories is the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which is a primary opponent of the Dakota pipeline.

The Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion was signed by 50 aboriginal groups in North America, who also plan to oppose tanker and rail projects in both countries, they said in a statement.

While aboriginal groups have long opposed oil sands development, the treaty signals a more coordinated approach to fight proposals. The statement did not specify what actions the groups would take to stop development.

"What this treaty means is that from Quebec, we will work with allies in British Columbia to make sure that the Kinder Morgan pipeline does not pass," Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon said in the statement.

"And we will also work with our tribal allies in Minnesota as they take on Enbridge's Line 3 expansion, and we know they'll help us do the same against Energy East," he said, referring to TransCanada's plan to carry 1.1 million barrels of crude per day from Alberta to Canada's East Coast.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, whose members include the targeted companies, said in a statement that the industry would listen to aboriginal concerns.

"The fact remains there is a critical need for pipelines in Canada," the association said, noting that they are the safest and most environmentally friendly way to move oil and gas.

Canada is assessing oil pipeline proposals as the country's most energy-rich province, Alberta, faces a crash in prices, partly due to insufficient means of moving oil to lucrative international markets.

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