The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Sarah Burt, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6755
Kristina Johnson, Sierra Club, (415) 977-5619
Chuck Laszewski, MCEA, (651) 223-5969
Marty Cobenais, Indigenous Environmental Network, (218) 760-0284

Native & Green Groups Challenge State Dept. Permit for Dirty Oil Pipeline

Alberta Clipper’ Would Bring Canadian Tar Sands Crude to U.S.


Native American and environmental groups filed suit in federal court
today challenging a proposed tar sands oil pipeline that would bring
the dirtiest oil on Earth from Canada to the United States.

The U.S. State Department's approval on August 20 of Enbridge
Energy's Alberta Clipper pipeline permits 450,000 barrels of tar sands
oil per day to be pumped from northern Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin,
for refining.

Tar sands oil is dirtier and, over its lifecycle, emits more global
warming pollution than any other type of oil. Tar sands development in
Alberta is creating an environmental catastrophe, with toxic tailings
ponds so large they can be seen from space, and plans to strip away
forests and peat lands of an area the size of Florida. (Photos at

The Indigenous Environmental Network, Minnesota Center for
Environmental Advocacy, National Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club
filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for Northern California. They
are represented by the nonprofit law firm Earthjustice.

Read the complaint (PDF)

"The Alberta Clipper will mean more air, water and global warming
pollution, particularly in communities near refineries that process tar
sands oil," said Earthjustice attorney Sarah Burt. "The State
Department fails to show how building a pipeline to import the dirtiest
oil on Earth is in our national interest."

Kevin Reuther, legal director of the Minnesota Center for
Environmental Advocacy, said 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?" asked Reuther. "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."

The Alberta Clipper is the latest of a massive network of tar sands
pipelines up for approval by the State Department. 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.

"This project will lock our nation into a dirty energy
infrastructure for decades to come," said Sierra Club Executive
Director Carl Pope. "Instead of increasing our reliance on oil and
piping in pollution, the State Department should support clean,
American energy and the jobs that come with it."

Marty Cobenais of the Indigenous Environmental Network of Bemidji,
Minn., said the State Department's permit is invalid because the Leech
Lake Band of Chippewa had not given its approval in a tribal
referendum. "The voices and rights of the Leech Lake Band members are
not being listened to by the Obama Administration," said Cobenais.

"This pollution pipeline will increase our dependency on foreign
fuels and accelerate the development of one of the dirtiest, most
destructive fuels on the planet," said Joe Mendelson, director of
global warming policy for the National Wildlife Federation. "We should
be investing in clean energy technologies that will help solve the
climate crisis."


  • Global warming pollution from tar sands production is three times
    that of conventional crude oil and tar sands oil contains 11 times more
    sulfur and nickel, six times more nitrogen and five times more lead
    than conventional oil.
  • The Alberta Clipper pipeline would cross the border in Neche,
    N.D., and run for 384 miles through the Chippewa National Forest and
    the Leech Lake tribal lands in Minnesota before terminating in
    Superior, Wis. Construction would impact over 200 water bodies and
    would destroy more than 1,200 acres of upland forested lands, more than
    650 acres of open lands, and more than 1,300 acres of wetlands.
  • By approving the pipeline, the State Department overlooks the
    serious environmental, climate, and human health impacts of tar sands
    oil. The decision is a departure from the Obama Administration's
    commitment to a clean energy future.
  • Development of tar sands oil poses a threat to national
    security because it increases our dependence on foreign oil and
    contributes to climate change, a growing source of concern for security
  • Proponents of the pipeline claim it will create jobs. The
    truth is that more and longer-lasting American jobs can be created by
    investments in clean energy sources like wind and solar power.