Last week The Washington Spectator published an investigative report describing Enbridge Energy’s plan to circumvent U.S. law and open the valves on a transborder pipeline that will carry roughly the same amount of tar-sands oil into the U.S. as TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL Pipeline.
Enbridge and TransCanada are both Canadian companies.
Like the Keystone XL, Enbridge’s Line 67 (also known as the Alberta Clipper) requires a presidential permit issued by the U.S. State Department.
Unlike TransCanada, Enbridge is not waiting for the permit.
Three weeks ago, while I was reporting on our story, Sierra Club staff attorney Doug Hayes told me that Enbridge’s “scheme” is illegal, a flagrant violation of the National Environmental Protection Law.
When I asked Hayes if the Sierra Club intended to file suit, he said: “I’m not in a position to answer that question.”
Does John Kerry, a “champion of the environment,” know his State Department has turned a blind eye to Enbridge’s plan to import into the United States 800,000 barrels of tar-sands crude per day?
Last week the Sierra Club answered it, joining five other plaintiffs, including the regional indigenous people’s collective White Earth Nation, to sue Secretary of State John Kerry. The suit, filed in federal court in Minneapolis, asks the court to set aside the State Department’s permit and require Enbridge to go through the process required by law before it begins to flow 800,000 barrels of tar-sands from Canada into the U.S.
We reported most of the allegations in the lawsuit.
But in stark legal terms the suit—White Earth Nation, Honor The Earth Indigenous Environmental Network, Minnesota Conservation Foundation, MN350, Center For Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, and National Wildlife Federation vs. John Kerry—describes a Canadian corporation openly disregarding the law and an acquiescent State Department that is contemptuous of the law, the public, and the public interest.
In a telephone press conference announcing the lawsuit, Hayes reiterated much of what he told me weeks earlier.
Federal law requires any company building a pipeline across the U.S. border to apply for a presidential permit, issued by the State Department.
That permit requires an environmental assessment of the project, which ensures that environmental information is available to public officials and citizens before decisions are made and before actions are taken.
As we reported, Enbridge has existing pipelines north and south of the U.S.-Canada border. But no pipeline with a permit to cross the border.
In the telephone conference, Hayes describes the use of an existing pipeline to cross the border and bypass the permit.
Enbridge’s existing cross-border line (Line 3), Hayes said, “is old, it was built in 1968 and has a history of safety problems and can’t handle this increase in capacity.
What Enbridge is actually doing is building an entirely new high-strength pipeline across the international border, next to Line 3 and next to the Alberta Clipper and that’s what it is planning to use.
Enbridge claims that this new pipeline qualifies as maintenance of the 1968 pipeline. It’s actually a new process.
All of this is glaringly evident.
Enbridge has two lines crossing the border, the existing Line 3—and the Alberta Clipper (Line 67)—awaiting a presidential permit.
Now it has three, because it has built a new Line 3 adjacent to the old Line 3.
“Enbridge admits,” Hayes said, “that the only reason it is doing this is that the State Department review has taken over a year and it doesn’t want to wait any longer.”
In the story we ran last week, we reported that Enbridge wrote to the State Department on June 24, saying it was moving ahead with or without the presidential permit.
The lawsuit reveals that on June 13, 2014, “Enbridge met privately with State Department officials to propose a ‘Bypass Project,’ which would import up to 800,000 bpd of heavy tar-sands crude oil on the New Border Segment.”
What other communication exists between Enbridge and the State Department regarding the pipeline?
Perhaps now we will find out.
The lawsuit also describes a Freedom of Information Act request that the Sierra Club filed on March 25, 2014, ordering the State Department to release information pertaining to Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline.
The Freedom of Information Request Act requires agencies to respond to requests within 20 days. Eight months later, the State Department has yet to release a single Enbridge document. Nor has it explained the delay.
While the suit asks the State Department to require Enbridge to go through the permitting process, it also asks a federal judge to enforce the Freedom of Information Act and order the State Department to release the documents (which should include the authorized capacity for Line 3).
When we spoke three weeks ago, Hayes told me that he wondered if Secretary of State Kerry, “a champion of the environment,” was aware of what State Department officials were allowing Enbridge to get away with.
Perhaps the lawsuit will get Kerry’s attention and answer that question.
Lou Dubose is the editor of The Washington Spectator.