An Illinois Green Party Statement — September 9, 2016
We live in a time in which human-caused global climate change is already causing widespread harm throughout the globe, and in which an onslaught of pollutants is contaminating our water, air, soil and all living things — driving all life on the planet toward a Sixth Great Extinction.
Yet our state and federal governments act as if none of this occurring. They continue to support giant fossil fuel corporations building more infrastructure that will expand the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, while creating terrible risks of more catastrophic water, air and land contamination.
This is madness and it has to stop. And that is only one of the reasons why we stand in solidarity with the sovereign Oceti Sakowin Oyate (the Great Sioux Nation), the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and their First Nation and other allies, in their just struggle against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline across their sacred and ancestral lands. We condemn the violent and inexcusable attacks on our brothers and sisters engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience by Energy Transfer Partners’ private security forces and their dogs. And we stand in solidarity with Iowa farmers and all others on the front lines of the struggle to stop the pipeline.
The Illinois Green Party has already been involved in the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline in our state. This proposed 1,172-mile pipeline will extend from the Bakken Shale fracking fields in North Dakota, across South Dakota and Iowa, across the Mississippi River at Hamilton, IL, to the ETCO pipeline near Patoka, Illinois (east of Lake Carlyle). A related ETCO pipeline project will build a pump station and new line from Patoka to a compressor station by Johnsonville, in Wayne County. ETCO will use its recently purchased Trunkline Gas Co. pipeline, which goes through the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge and the Shawnee National Forest, under Lake of Egypt in Johnson County, through the Cache River Wetland, across the Ohio River and then south to an oil refinery operated by Sunoco Logistics in Nederland, Texas. The southern portion of the route is an older pipeline that the companies have been granted permission to reverse flow. Sunoco Logistics is a parent company of Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the principal company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, and is also involved in the extraction of Canadian tar sands oil in Alberta, Canada.
Thus, over a year ago, we urged Illinoisans to support a petition and send comments to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) in opposition to the pipeline being permitted. Green environmental activist Tabitha Tripp, of Anna, Illinois, spent hundreds of hours preparing testimony, gathering exhibits and preparing and submitting briefs to the ICC in an effort to stop the pipeline, noting the unacceptable risks posed by the project and exposing the ridiculous claim that the pipeline was needed to serve the public “convenience and necessity.” The ICC was forced to note the “number of public comments opposing eminent domain to support her contention that eminent domain is inappropriate for a private entity.” It added: “The Commission . . . concludes that they reflect a lack of acceptance of the grant of eminent domain authority to Dakota Access.”
Then it granted the eminent domain authority anyway.
In Illinois and the other affected states, the law of eminent domain has been perverted into its opposite. Eminent domain is the doctrine that allows the state to take someone’s private property, with fair compensation, when it serves a legitimate public need. But in this case, the oil companies’ aims are private greed, not public need. They prate about “energy self-sufficiency,” even though their sole motive is private profit, and nothing will prevent them from exporting the oil overseas. They point to the few temporary construction jobs that will be created while ignoring the potential lives, habitats and farmland that will be ruined when the inevitable leaks and spills occur. They ignore the fact that taxpayers may end up having to pick up the tab for the inevitable, and inadequate, “clean up” efforts that will follow. And of course, the global impact of more fossil fuel combustion doesn’t even enter the calculations of the oil giants and their government sycophants.
As former Green Party vice-presidential candidate Winona LaDuke recently observed: “More than 570,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil will pass through the pipeline daily, along with 245,100 metric tons of carbon daily – enough carbon to combust the planet to oblivion. The pipeline would span 200 water crossings and in North Dakota alone would pass through 33 historical and archeological sites.”
The proposed pipeline route crosses ancestral lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Missouri River. This is an instance of environmental racism. The original proposed route placed it north of the drinking water intakes for the city of Bismarck, but it was redirected. The Missouri River is a major source of water for the Tribe and for millions of others downstream.
The risk of serious water contamination is not hypothetical. As Tripp pointed out to the ICC: “The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has noted over 2,000 pipeline spills in the United States since 1995. Therefore, the probability of a spill from the proposed Dakota Access project rises to almost an inevitability.” Inspections won’t help much: The PHMSA has fewer than 150 pipeline inspectors to cover the entire United States. A Wall Street Journal review found that there were 1,400 pipeline spills and accidents in the US in 2010-2013, with four out of every five pipeline accidents discovered by local residents, not the companies that own the pipelines. Former Scientific American Editor Trudy Bell reports that PHMSA data from 2001 to 2011 suggests that the average pipeline “has a 57% probability of experiencing a major
leak, with consequences over the $l million range in a ten year period.” That may be higher in the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline, because unrefined Bakken crude oil is corrosive, toxic, and highly explosive.
ETP had an oil spill in Philadelphia in January 2014, and a gas pipeline explosion in Cuero, Texas in June 2015. The National Lawyers Guild has reported that ETP and its affiliated entities “have a long history of violations of environmental laws, including pending lawsuits by the states of New Jersey, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the City of Breau Bridge in Louisiana over MTBE
contamination of groundwater, as well as citations for releases of hazardous materials from its pipelines and facilities in Ohio, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Hawaii.”
The Guild also noted: “The conduct of the US government in its approval of the Pipeline proposal breaches the terms of the 1851 and 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaties between the Oceti Sakowin and the United States. The exercise of colonial power by the United States in approving the proposal further violates the collective human rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its peoples including the rights to self-determination, national sovereignty, and free, prior, and informed consent as to those matters that may affect them, which are secured to all peoples by the Charter of the United Nations, Art. 73; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Art. 1, 3 (ICCPR); and specifically to indigenous peoples under the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights
of Indigenous Peoples. . . . The proposed pipeline violates the collective environmental human rights of the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to life, health, clean water, and a clean environment, treaty rights secured to them by the Ft. Laramie Treaties as well as by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
We owe a debt of thanks to all of the courageous Native Americans who have come
together in a historic gathering and are now on the front lines of the struggle to save our
climate, our water, air and land. We urge all Illinoisans and all Americans to rally in
support of their efforts. Their cause is our cause.
We support them because we all have a stake in combating global climate change. We support them because we all have a stake in supporting clean water, air and land. We support them because we all have a stake in supporting the human rights of all peoples. We support them because we support the rule of law and upholding Native American treaties. We support them because an injury to one is an injury to all. We support them because they are our brothers and sisters.
We support them because it is the right thing to do.