Coalition files lawsuit over Enbridge pipeline

True to their word, an environmental coalition has filed suit in California challenging the recent U.S. presidential permit granted to a controversial pipeline running from Alberta across the Canada-U.S. border to Wisconsin.

When the permit was granted Aug. 20 for Enbridge's Alberta Clipper pipeline, a coalition of environmental and Native American groups opposed the decision, claiming it went against U.S. President Barack Obama's promise to cut global warming pollution and America's addiction to oil while investing in clean energy.

On Thursday, the National Wildlife Federation, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, the Sierra Club and the Indigenous Environmental Network filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for Northern California. They will be represented by the non-profit law firm Earthjustice.

Earthjustice attorney Sarah Burt said the lawsuit was filed in California because a number of the plaintiffs are located in the state, and the law allows plaintiffs to file in their home jurisdictions.

"The basis of the lawsuit is that the environmental review that was done does not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and some of our more policy-based reasons for filing the lawsuit raise such questions as, if Obama is really committed to investing in a clean energy future that he's talked so much about, then these sort of decisions really don't mesh with that."

She added the Clipper pipeline will mean more air, water and global warming pollution, particularly in communities near refineries that process oilsands oil.

Kevin Reuther, legal director of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, says there are too many unanswered questions to allow the pipeline to go forward.

"What happens when this dirty oil leaks and spills from the pipeline?" he asked. "How much more global warming pollution will be emitted? How much more water will be polluted? How many more migratory birds will die? No one knows, because neither the state nor federal agencies responsible for protecting us have done their jobs."

According to the coalition, the Alberta Clipper is the latest of a massive network of "tarsands pipelines" up for approval by the State Department. The coalition maintains the agency has been under pressure from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to allow the pipelines to go forward, despite the risks they pose to American communities, clean energy jobs, and national security.

The $3.6-billion Alberta Clipper pipeline will carry oilsands product from Hardisty, Alta. It will extend 525 kilometres from the U.S.-Canadian border near Neche, N.D., across northern Minnesota to an Enbridge terminal in Superior, Wisc. The project also includes associated pumping and terminal stations. Scheduled to be up and running in 2010, the pipeline has an initial capacity of 450,000 barrels of heavy crude a day. A second pipeline, Southern Lights, will consist of a new 51-centimetre pipeline extending 307 kilometres from Superior, Wisc., to an Enbridge terminal in Clearbrook, Minn.

Meanwhile, National Energy Board hearings begin today into TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the American Gulf Coast. Hearings are slated until Friday in Calgary and Sept. 22 to 25 in Saskatoon.

According to TransCanada, the proposed Keystone Gulf Coast Expansion Project (Keystone XL) is complementary to the Keystone Pipeline and would serve existing refineries and markets on the U.S. Gulf Coast in Texas. The proposal calls for a 3,200-kilometre, 91-centimetre crude oil pipeline that would begin at Hardisty, Alta., and extend southeast through Saskatchewan, Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. It would incorporate a portion of the Keystone Pipeline to be constructed through Kansas to Cushing, Okla., before continuing through Oklahoma to a delivery point near existing terminals in Nederland, Texas, to serve the Port Arthur, Texas, marketplace. An 80-kilometre pipeline to the Houston, Texas marketplace is also proposed.

The Alberta Federation of Labour is an intervenor at these hearings.

"The last thing Alberta needs right now is another bitumen super-pipeline taking jobs out of the province," said president Gil McGowan.

Fort McMurray Today, Tues Sept 8 2009
Byline: Carol Christian

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