Stopping the Line 3 Pipeline

by Amanda 

In April, I went to MN to help stop the Line 3 pipeline being built by the Canadian company Enbridge. The pipeline would bring tar sands from Alberta Canada to the Great Lakes port in Superior WI.  There has been a pipeline for about 50 years, part of which is supposed to be “replaced”. In fact, it has a whole new route in MN which allows Enbridge to abandon and not clean up the old corroding pipeline and put in a larger pipe which will pump even more oil and use even more energy. This is despite the fact that there have been numerous Enbridge pipeline spills of crude oil including the biggest inland oil spill in US history which occurred in Grand Rapids, MN. The pipeline construction causes irreparable harm to sensitive ecosystems and creates enormous risks of spills and contamination. Tar sands is the dirtiest form of fossil fuels that exists. To mine it, the forests and land of Alberta are transformed to a moonscape. The sticky oily sand is diluted with water to pump it and spills are impossible to clean up. Unlike the horrible and inadequately cleaned spills from crude oil, there is no known technology on how to clean up tar sands spills. The proposed pipeline route crosses rivers 22 times, cuts through more than 200 bodies of water and 800 wetlands. It would also cross and potentially contaminate the treaty protected wild rice lakes of the Anishinabe; wild rice is subsistence as well as having tremendous cultural and spiritual importance.  The pipeline cuts across multiple Sovereign Indigenous nations in further violation of treaty rights. The Mississippi river basin drains about 40% of the continental US, a lot of our water to get polluted. And, the Great Lakes have about 20% of the freshwater on the planet. How can we allow this type of pollution of all of our water, all of our future generations’ water, and the water of all the innocent and beautiful nonhuman beings? And, if the spills and water damage weren’t enough, the pipeline is estimated to create greenhouse gases equivalent to 50 coal fired plants.

Knowing of the horrors associated with the pipeline, I decided to go to MN to “throw my body on the gears of the machine” doing so much to damage future life on this planet. (Not that I had the illusion my one body would save the world, but still felt I had to try to do something.) What I didn’t know was how incredibly beautiful the land would be. I fell in love with the forests, frogs, rivers, and birds. There were bald eagles, deer, bear, beaver, porcupines and more. Some days I would walk by the river watching the spring flowers poking up out of the snow and sob at how all of this could be sacrificed for greed and the dying gasps of the fossil fuel industry. How can this become a sacrifice zone for more billionaire’s wealth?  How can we allow our entire planet to be sacrificed so that our coming generations will not be able to survive?

photo of Stop Line 3 protest march

In Minnesota I went to two very moving gatherings for MMIW, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, children, 2-Spirit people. Every person I talked to knew multiple people who were murdered or missing: children, sisters, mothers, cousins, friends. I heard stories and saw photos of the missing ones. At one gathering a teepee was painted and erected; relatives of the murdered and missing dipped their hand in paint and made an imprint on the teepee. People then wrote the names and dates of the loss of their loved ones. Survivors who got away told their stories as well. The role of the pipeline “man camps” have exacerbated this problem as well as increasing domestic violence. The Enbridge contract with the state of Minnesota stipulated a fund to help cover such “associated costs.” Indigenous women have had to form their own teams to go out and look for women who are missing as police ignore the reports.

I was so sad to have to return home but I needed to be near my 90 year old mother who lives in the northern CA area which is burning down with climate chaos. Last year I helped her evacuate to my home in Oakland twice. I also knew that the West Berkeley Shellmound, sacred site of the Ohlone people of the East Bay, had lost an appeal to developers who want to put a mega building on top of it. Having been part of the struggle to save the site for many years, I wanted to come home to organize and check in with our team. And I had been helping to plan an event for the Nakba on May 15, commemorating the forced removal and massacres of Palestinians in 1948. We had no way of knowing the new terrible catastrophe the Israelis would create in Palestine to give the event new urgency and bringing 10,000 people out into the streets. I was honored to support the Palestinian community in creating a beautiful street mural.

After less than a week home, I was still sad and in tears about the next phase of the struggle in MN. I wanted to go back. In MN, there are 22 pipeline river crossings. Enbridge is going to attempt to drill starting mid-June. (Enbridge had to wait for the river to unfreeze and the mud to dry up to start work.) There are massive drills used to go under rivers. Only 5 such drills exist in the entire US. The rest of the pipeline has mostly been laid, marked by massive swaths of clear cuts. There have been numerous legal challenges to the pipeline. The Biden administration has been asked, begged and demanded to stop the pipeline. Right now, it is only the people who are willing to slow or stop the drilling that are going to stop the pipeline. If Enbridge cannot complete the crossings before the winter freeze, we will have more time for all the other strategies to work. I think of the Indigenous people of Turtle Island who continue to struggle and survive despite centuries of genocide, attacks, theft, and destruction of their land, culture, and way of life. I think of the Palestinians resisting against all the might of the Israeli terror. Each of us can take a stand against insurmountable odds on the off chance we might make a difference.

I talked with my folks and decided I could go back to MN for another month. There is a national call out by the Indigenous organizers inviting folks to come to MN and help Stop Line3. If you come, you must be willing to work under Indigenous leadership, mainly Indigenous women. You can get more information and give $ directly to the organizing at Honor the Earth or Stopline3.org

White supremacy rears its head on our trip

I traveled to MN with 13 other people in a multiracial group that was organized by a “progressive” nonprofit working on racism and reparative justice. Sadly, and not surprisingly, the representatives of the group who traveled with us were not able to live up to the goals of the organization. When BIPOC folks challenged the way decisions were being made and the way they were being treated, the group started to unravel. There were numerous meetings before and during the trip. We had divided into a BIPOC group and white-identified groups to try to process separately and then come back together. Things worsened with the stresses of travel and the first couple of days in camp. We regrouped in a space generously provided by allies in Duluth and met intensively together and in our separate groups.

I threw myself into talking with the other white people. I talked about my ongoing struggles to deal with my own internalized white supremacy and patriarchy. I took responsibility for repeatedly making mistakes and inadvertently harming BIPOC folks during my life and organizing and how I try daily to decolonize, apologize for my errors, and work to repair relationships that have suffered. I vulnerably talked of the personal harms of sexual abuse and violence that I have experienced, which I rarely speak of, to try and help the cis men understand the layers of oppression many BIPOC women and other marginalized people deal with.  To no avail. One white man in particular could not see his role in white supremacy and patriarchy. His white fragility kicked in big time, and 4 of the 6 white folks left earlier than expected WITH the van that was rented to bring all of us to camp. This decision was made individually, communicated indirectly, with no accountability to the group process that was trying to come up with a collective resolution.

Those of us who were left regrouped, having become tight in the struggle. We rented a vehicle on a credit card and went back to camp where we were warmly welcomed. We were told it was sadly not the first time the camp had witnessed such dynamics. As white people, we must be willing to listen to BIPOC folks and take their leadership. We white people are so used to our privilege. Being in charge and making decisions can seem so natural and familiar.

 La luta continua!

Support Indigenous Resistance

by Amanda

This is an overview of current pipeline struggles and local indigenous struggles in occupied Ohlone territory in the Bay Area where I live.

Saying No to Line 3

Line 3 is a proposed pipeline expansion to bring nearly a million barrels of tar sands crude oil per day from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin. Enbridge, a Canadian pipeline company responsible for hundreds of the dirtiest oil spills in the world including the largest inland oil spill in the US, is building a new pipeline corridor through pristine forests, hundreds of waterways and untouched wetlands; crossing the Mississippi River twice, and going through the treaty territory of Anishinaabe peoples to end at the shore of Lake Superior. Line 3 would violate the treaty rights of Anishinaabe peoples and other nations in its path. Wild rice, a centerpiece of Anishinaabe culture, grows in numerous watersheds in the path of Line 3. The pipeline could also contaminate the drinking water for millions of people. 

This expansion of a dying tar sands industry would emit 193 million tons of greenhouse gases in the next 50 years, the equivalent of 50 coal plants. Its carbon footprint would exceed the entire state of Minnesota and would extend the economic viability of the ultra-polluting crude oil source in a way that one expert called “game over for the climate.” If completed, Line 3 would carry hundreds of thousands of barrels a day of tar sands crude oil, some of the dirtiest oil in the world. Huge clear-cuts and massive destruction of the land and water can be seen in videos of the construction alone.

Enbridge is trying to rush the pipeline completion through this winter with more than 4,000 workers from all over the country living and working in close quarters, a super-spreader environment for Covid to workers and the surrounding communities. There has also been an increase in documented assaults and sexual violence against women in the area as has been seen wherever these “man camps” exist. A recent report of a human trafficking sting in Northern Minnesota resulted in the arrest of two Line 3 workers and one man was charged with soliciting sex with a minor. Indigenous people had warned state regulators that Line 3 would bring increased sex and drug trafficking to the area and add to the existing epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives. In response, the state permits for pipeline construction stipulated that Enbridge had to create a fund to cover anti-human trafficking efforts they knew would be associated with the pipeline construction.

The current line 3 is corroding and has hundreds of structural problems. There is undoubtedly contamination under the line. Enbridge wants to simply abandon the old line 3 and the expensive clean up. Indigenous nations are standing up along with local people, mayors, and county commissioners increasingly concerned about Enbridge ignoring liability for its old pipeline. This is a problem with much of our aging fossil fuel infrastructure. The corporations walk away leaving us to deal with the toxic sites.

The permit for Line 3 was granted, and the recent Minnesota Court of Appeals failed to halt construction. Massive direct actions and protests are continuing to block construction. Nearly 200 people have been arrested in the brutal cold of a Minnesota winter. Defenders have set up resistance camps, blockaded and occupied worksites, locked down to construction equipment and inside the pipeline. Tribes vow to continue fighting and are appealing to Biden to cancel the permit. Thousands of other groups support their call to protect indigenous rights and culture and decommission the old crumbling Line 3 and justly transition to a renewable, sustainable economy. The Giniw Collective, indigenous woman, 2-spirit led, are in frontline resistance and say “We stand unafraid” to protect our Mother, defend the sacred, and live in balance.

Wall Street is funding, insuring and investing in the climate crisis. Stopping this money pipeline is one of the most important ways we can address the climate emergency. There are many campaigns to stop the flow of money to fossil fuels. Just this week Rutgers University voted to divest all university money from fossil fuel industries. Insurance companies are also responding to public pressure, and the writing on the wall of climate catastrophe, to stop insuring fossil fuel infrastructure. Check out campaigns under Stop the Money.

OnApril 1stfrontline Indigenous youth and organizers from the Dakota Access and Line 3 pipeline fights will travel to Washington D.C. to demand that President Biden Build Back Fossil Free by stopping these climate-destroying projects. By the time this edition of UltraViolet is out, there will be announcements of national solidarity actions. Info at Build Back Fossil Free Campaign. More Info Honor the Earth or Stopline3.org

Fight Against DAPL Continues

April 1st 2021 marks the five year anniversary of the birth of the Sacred Stone Camp and the well known fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) which brought together Indigenous people from across the Americas and supporters from around the world to stop the 1,172 mile pipeline at the point it was crossing under the Missouri River on the Standing Rock Reservation. Five years later indigenous people are still struggling to protect the water, land and sky for future generations (as they have for hundreds of years). The pipeline’s trespass of their historic territories was a violation of treaties with the U.S. government. The opposition was violently attacked, and the DAPL pipeline was illegally completed.

DAPL cost $3.8 billion to construct going from the Baaken shale fields to Illinois. Another leg, the Bayou Bridge pipeline, went south to St. James, Louisiana through the largest swamp in the US. A fierce coalition of Indigenous folks, local black residents, people whose living comes from fishing in the area, and supporters were violently and illegally attacked with hundreds of arrests while blocking construction. The oil is flowing but water protectors were able to demand a reroute to save 11 acres of swamp where they have grown an amazing food forest that contributes to the mutual aid network in the area.

photo of demo

DAPL currently pumps 570,000 barrels a day of fracked shale oil. Oil has been flowing since 2017 despite Tribal governments and organizations continued pressuring of courts to subject the pipeline to a full environmental review. In March 2020 a federal judge ordered the Army Corps to conduct an EIR and vacated the pipeline’s right to pass beneath Lake Oahe. Indigenous groups say the pipeline is now operating illegally because of the judge’s decision.  Energy Transfer, with the Trump administration’s support, refused to shut the line down and wants to increase the flow to 1.1 million barrels a day. This would add even more risk for spills of this extremely dirty oil.

Following a Jan. 27 court ruling that the pipeline is operating illegally without the necessary federal permits, President Biden has the opportunity to immediately shut down the illegal Dakota Access Pipeline while the Environmental Impact Statement process is conducted. Campaigns raising this demand are ongoing. Last month, Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux youth ran 93 miles to site of the Sacred Stone Camp to pressure President Biden shut down the Bakken oil pipeline. The demand will also be raised in Washington DC on April 1 along with Stop Line 3. More info on the DC action Build Back Fossil Free.  Info on DAPL at Indigenous Environmental Network

The West Berkeley Shellmound

The West Berkeley Shellmound (WBS) is an Ohlone sacred village and burial site that is approximately 5,700 years old located in Berkeley CA. It is the oldest place of human habitation in the Bay Area. Members of the Ohlone community gather at the site for prayer and ceremony today as they have for thousands of years. Local Ohlone leaders say the site is critical to the cultural survival of a people who have been systemically oppressed for generations. “It’s not too late to save this one piece of ground, this one place that doesn’t have building, this one place that is open to the sky.” said Corrina Gould of the Confederated Villages of Lisjan (Ohlone)

While it’s covered in concrete now, the City of Berkeley designated the site as a City Landmark, because of the significant and essential role the site plays in the history of the Bay Area. The State placed the site on the California Register of Historic Resources, and the National Trust placed the WBS site on its 2020 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places

The WBS is at risk of desecration by a multi story condo and shopping development. The Shellmound defenders are working to return the site to open space with room to continue Ohlone gatherings and ceremonies. Past excavations in and around the proposed site have uncovered hundreds of human burials and undisturbed cultural remains. When the City of Berkeley denied the permits, the developer sued the city and lost the case. In February 2021, the developers appealed the massive court victory, which protected WBS from development. Simultaneously, they imprisoned the WBS site in thousands of feet of barbed wire and fencing, covered with dozens of no trespassing signs and security cameras which deny any access to the site. From the WBS call to action this week, “This is another act of settler colonial aggression and violence, part of a long history of the criminalization of Indigenous religion and spirituality. May all the fences, walls, and borders fall! FREE the West Berkeley Shellmound! “ More info at Save the West Berkeley Shellmound FB page or website

Free the Indigenous People’s Day Five

5 Indigenous women and Two Spirited people are facing felony charges in relation to the toppling of a statue of Junipero Serra at Mission San Rafael. Known as the Indigenous People’s Day 5 (IPD 5), they were picked out for prosecution from a large, 80% white crowd present at a demonstration on Indigenous People’s Day in 2020 where the statue was brought down.  This is part of a nationwide effort to remove symbols of white supremacy, violence, enslavement, and genocide, with many removed by city and state officials themselves.

Junipero Serra was an architect of the mission system in California, which imprisoned and enslaved Indigenous people. Serra was directly responsible for rape, torture, and genocide. His canonization was, and is, opposed by many both Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups, and numerous statues of Serra have been taken down.

photo of demonstrator

“Progressive” Marin District Attorney Lori Frugoli is continuing to press charges, despite thousands of emails and phone calls from supporters across the Bay Area and beyond demanding that the charges be dropped. A petition was delivered to her office with 76,000 signatures. March 18 is the next court date. Please call Frugoli to demand the felony charges be dropped at 415-473-6450.  More info at Indigenous Peoples Day 5 Solidarity Coalition

As the World Burns or Drowns, CalSTRS Won’t Divest from Fossil Fuels

by Carla

This year as we watched the Amazon, the “lungs of the earth”, burn, and as we witnessed more and greater climate catastrophes around the world, as the temperature increases result in ice melts and rising oceans and torrential storms that disproportionately affect peoples and nations which have not caused the problems they face, it would seem that a policy of divesting from the fossil fuels that cause climate change would be a reasonable course of action.  Yet, the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) still refuse to seriously consider the demands to divest from their current holdings in fossil fuels, and to work on a model of sustainable investing.

Adults working along with Fossil Free California, in conjunction with youth groups such as Youth vs. the Apocalypse, Earth Guardians and Warriors 4 Justice, have been trying to educate the CalSTRS (State Teachers Retirement System) Board about the need to divest immediately from fossil fuels.

In September 2019 students from youth groups traveled to Sacramento to make their third appeal to the STRS board to divest from fossil fuels.  The board unflinchingly dismissed their demands to simply investigate the possibility of divestment. The middle school students, who came from Oakland schools, had researched and prepared a script which they passed from one person to the next since they were limited to a minute per speaker.  After speaking, students brought up to the dais a stuffed animal, each representing an endangered species, and left them for everyone to view.  They were admonished by the Investment Committee’s board chair, Harry Keily, to not approach the board due to security concerns. 

Students, both middle school and university students, presented at the STRS board again in November, 2019.  Students disrupted the CalSTRS meeting, playing Greta Thunberg’s speech and unfurling banners.  One student did a performance dance to the speech, and was about to be forced out.  After a 2 hour postponement of the meeting, the meeting continued where students and teachers were allowed to address the board for one hour.

photo of demonstrators

The STRS board argues that it has to make decisions based on fiduciary concerns, representing all of California’s public school teachers.  The board claims that it would be irresponsible to even consider divestment at this point in time, and uses the argument that if STRS continues its investments in fossil fuels, STRS also has the ability to influence policy.  As of December, 2019 we have not seen any changes in the policies of the large fossil fuel companies that will have any impact on the pressing problems created by climate change. 

In January, the CalSTRS Investment Committee presented a report, in accordance with SB 964 (2018) which requires that CalSTRS and CalPERS report on the financial risk associated with their investment portfolios in climate related investments.  The report does not acknowledge the extreme danger that is faced as the world approaches the 2º C maximum temperature increases.  It does not acknowledge the crisis that we currently face.  On the other side, California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, an ex-officio member of the investment committee, supports the divestment of CalSTRS from its fossil fuel funds.

CalSTRS is the second largest public pension plan in the country.   In September, shortly after the students addressed the STRS board, the University of California announced that it would be divesting both its endowment and pension funds from fossil fuel companies, including stocks and bonds. 

After a six year fight by UC Fossil Free the University of California system agreed to divest.  The argument the UC chancellors cited was that the investments in fossil fuels are fiscally unsound and represent a non-sustainable model of investment.  According to articles in the Nation magazine (Oct. 8, 2019, Williams, Emily and LeQuesne, Theo) the UC Board of Regents knew as early as 2013 that “fossil free funds have been outperforming” fossil fuel funds.  The activists at UC understand that divestment is the strongest way to put pressure on fossil fuel companies and to fight against the racist and classist impacts of fossil fuel companies’ policies.  The University of California’s (UC) announcement “declaring a climate emergency” came after the Climate Strikes around the world led by youth.  A political movement created the conditions for the response from Bachner (UC’s chief investment officer and treasurer) that UC needed to look at a new model for investment that is founded upon environmental sustainability, social responsibility and a fiduciary responsibility.  After years of activism, UC acknowledged that it can earn more money for its endowment and pension fund by supporting a sustainable economic model.

Similarly, New York City was pressured to divest its pension funds from fossil fuels in 2018. New York City has the fourth largest public pension fund in the country.   DIVEST NY, a coalition of local climate change organizations and public unions, led the fight for divestment that started in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy.  Labor played a large role in organizing for divestment under the name Labor 4 Sustainability.  The comptroller of New York City, Stringer, speaks about the fact that divestment from fossil fuel funds is not only ethical, but also fiscally sound.   Even the governor of New York, Cuomo, has come out in support of divestment of public funds from fossil fuel companies.  

Recent studies (done by Corporate Knights, a media and analysis firm) show that funds in the fossil fuel sector are actually underperforming, and therefore, a bad investment for the future of the retirees. Corporate Knights claims that if CalSTRS had divested from fossil fuels 10 years ago, the retirement fund would have gained $5.5 billion dollars.

Those people who have addressed the STRS board by speaking at meetings or sending emails have made clear that due to the climate disaster we don’t have the luxury of waiting to see if we can influence the policies of the fossil fuel industries and the banks that fund them.   Therefore, Fossil Free California is urging an immediate divestment of public pension funds from fossil fuel industries, and a reinvestment of these monies into clean energy, supporting a green new deal. The CalSTRS Investment Committee does not believe that divestment has the support of its stakeholders, public school educators and retired educators.  Fossil Free California, in response to the CalSTRS report that they will not be changing their investment model, is calling on educators, students and community members to address the investment committee’s board meeting on January 30, and to commit to on-going pressure on CalSTRS to create a sustainable investment model.   Information can be obtained at the Fossil Free website (https://fossilfreeca.org/).  The website also contains links to send emails to the CalSTRS and CalPERS board.  Both CalSTRS and CalPERS need to feel pressure from their stakeholders that they no longer will tolerate the intransigence of the Investment Committees in the face of growing dissent and mounting evidence against their views.

Protect the Water

NO TAR SANDS IN OUR BAY!

Monday, March 19 at 8 AM – 12 PM

375 Beale St, San Francisco

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has issued a permit to the Phillips 66 Refinery for a Wharf Expansion Project. This project would enable the refinery to bring in over 93 oil tankers a year filled with Alberta tar sands (also called oil sands or dilbit). Tar sands are almost impossible to completely clean up when accidents occur.

The issuing of the permit came as a complete surprise. The groups working on stopping this permit had no idea that a draft environmental impact report had been put out for public comment which resulted in the only comment coming from Phillips 66.

Oil tankers spill. This would be a disaster in our beautiful bay. Join your Indigenous water protectors and land defenders to protect and defend the Bay!

Action called by Idle No More SF Bay