Keystone defeat energizes anti-pipeline activists
Anti-pipeline activists feel energized after the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline announced it would terminate the project following a more than decadelong battle.
The news that the fight over that pipeline ended in victory for environmental and Native advocates left opponents of another major pipeline feeling optimistic.
Keystone’s termination came amid an intensifying fight over Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline, which likewise pits some Indigenous and environmental groups against a Canadian firm.
“Activism is the only thing that works. If people don’t get plugged in and step up and stand up, then they wouldn’t even be talking about this on the news. They wouldn’t be talking about KXL,” said Frank Bibeau, who has represented some of Line 3’s opponents in court.
“You have to get involved because the entire system is set up to permit these activities,” he added.
On Wednesday, TC Energy announced that it was terminating the Keystone project after President Biden earlier this year revoked a key permit allowing it to cross the U.S.-Canada border. The U.S. portion of the project was first proposed in 2008 and eventually became a major symbol of the climate fight.
In 2015, then-President Obama rejected a presidential permit that would have allowed it to cross the border. This decision was reversed by former President Trump, which granted the permit for the vessel. This year, the permit was revoked by Biden.
“TC Energy Corporation … confirmed today that after a comprehensive review of its options, and in consultation with its partner, the Government of Alberta, it has terminated the Keystone XL Pipeline Project,” said Wednesday’s statement from the company.
In the wake of that decision, Republicans doubled down on criticism of Biden, while the news was hailed by environmental advocates.
“What happened this week sends a signal to both industry and the administration that we can’t be stopped, that our movements are, especially, Indigenous rights, climate justice, that nexus in particular, is very determined,” said Jade Begay, climate justice campaign director for the NDN Collective, an Indigenous-led group.
Opponents of Line 3 warned that just because Biden handed one victory to the environmental movement doesn’t mean they’re going to slow efforts elsewhere. In fact, some anticipate that the victory will attract more supporters to the fight against the pipeline.
Biden hasn’t taken a position on Line 3.
Protests against the Enbridge vessel have escalated this week, with activists saying that more than 160 people were arrested on Monday.
Demonstrators have also locked themselves to construction equipment and a video taken by a local news outlet showed a government helicopter flying low to the ground and stirring up dirt in the area.
“That sense of hopefulness and forward momentum will draw more people to the movement because if there’s a sense that there’s a possibility of success, more people will come,” said Simone Senogles, food sovereignty program coordinator of the Indigenous Environmental Network, referring to the Keystone announcement.
In an email, Enbridge spokesperson Juli Kellner said that the cancellation of the Keystone pipeline has “no impact” on Enbridge projects.
“Both Line 3 and Line 5 are operating pipelines that are vital to the economy and supply energy the region depends on daily. They have operated safely and reliably for decades,” Kellner said, also referring to a separate pipeline in Michigan.
She added that the Line 3 project “was approved after a thorough and exhaustive, science-based and public process of engagement.”
At issue is not the entire pipeline, which was built in the 1960s, but a new segment the company is calling a “replacement” for an existing part of the pipeline. The new segment will take a route that’s different from the original.
It would carry carbon-intensive tar sands oil produced in Canada, and a lawsuit against it alleges that it would threaten important groundwater resources for tribes.
Its supporters say that it will create jobs and contribute to the nation’s energy supply.
But Winona LaDuke, head of the environmental group Honor the Earth, said that she’s heard a lot of interest from people who want to join the Line 3 protests this summer, ranging from church groups to Dolly Parton impersonators.
“I have all kinds of people that want to come do things, it’s going to be the best … river theater in North America,” LaDuke said.