- CounterPunch.org - https://www.counterpunch.org -

Taking On “Pipeline Enemy #1”

Back in September, 350.org’s Jamie Henn accurately predicted that Canadian pipeline behemoth Enbridge was “turning itself into Pipeline Enemy #1 in North America.” [1]

Commenting on Enbridge’s plans to invest $1.5 billion in the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), and to buy Spectra Energy for $28 billion, Henn said the merger “directly connects” the Standing Rock Sioux fight against DAPL in the Midwest with the battle to stop Spectra Energy’s fracked gas pipelines in the Northeast, putting Enbridge at the center of “some of the highest profile climate [and water protection] fights in the nation.” [2]

That includes Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where Indigenous and other activists are challenging Enbridge’s Line 5, an ageing pipeline which carries oil beneath the Straits of Mackinac, threatening the area’s drinking water and fisheries. [3]

From DAPL to Spectra to Line 5, Enbridge is embroiled in the major pipeline battles of North America, but in these last days of November, the focus on Enbridge will increase even further.

That’s because by November 25, the Trudeau government will decide whether to approve Enbridge’s massive $7.5 billion “renewal” of the Line 3 pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, allowing it to expand to 760,000 barrels per day (bpd) and switch from carrying light crude oil to tar sands diluted bitumen (dilbit). In April the National Energy Board, Canada’s federal regulator, set 89 conditions for the segment that runs from eastern Alberta to Gretna, Manitoba, near the Canada-U.S. border. Line 3 “would funnel oil into Enbridge’s crown jewel, the mainline system that collectively carries three million barrels a day into the U.S.” [4]

Also this week, the Trudeau cabinet will accept or reject Enbridge’s contentious Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, which has been fought for more than a decade in western Canada. As CBC News reported, “The Federal Court overturned the former Harper government’s acceptance of that project earlier this year, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet colleagues must now decide whether to push ahead with further Indigenous consultations or drop approval for the project.” [5]

DAPL, Spectra Energy, Line 5, Line 3, Northern Gateway…and next week, a major court challenge to another Enbridge pipeline – the company’s Line 9 reversal – is set to take place at the Supreme Court of Canada.

Supreme Court Case

On November 30, the Supreme Court of Canada is set to hear the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation’s challenge of the National Energy Board’s approval of Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline reversal. Since December 2015, the ageing pipeline has been reversed and restarted to carry tarsands dilbit at increased capacity and pressure, cutting across every river and tributary flowing into Lake Ontario. [6] Line 9 (from Sarnia, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec) passes under the Thames River, upstream from the First Nation’s reserve in Ontario. Line 9 is fed by Enbridge’s massive mainline pipeline system that extends from the Alberta tar sands through the U.S. Midwest.

Chippewas of the Thames First Nation Chief Leslee White-Eye says that Enbridge, the NEB, and Canada “provided no consultation on the proposed project despite our assertion that our Aboriginal and Treaty rights are being impacted.” [7]

The Federal Crown has argued that the duty to consult can be conducted by a third party – like the National Energy Board or Enbridge – but First Nations lawyers do not agree, calling for “nation to nation” consultation as their Constitutional right.

APTN National News reported that the Nov. 30 court case will “essentially settle an argument: Does the National Energy Board (NEB) execute the Crown’s duty to consultation with Indigenous communities through its public consultation process? A First Nation in Ontario [Chippewas of the Thames First Nation] and an Inuit community [Clyde River] in Nunavut argue it doesn’t. ‘No crown actor, including a tribunal exercising delegated authority, can make a decision that ignores or is contrary to the Crown’s constitutional obligations to Aboriginal Peoples,’ the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation state in their statement of facts filed with Canada’s highest court.” [8] The Supreme Court is hearing both cases together as they deal with the same issue of consultation.

Band Councillor Myeengun Henry notes that when the pipeline was put in 40 years ago, the Chippewas of the Thames weren’t consulted and didn’t consent to it then, and still haven’t been consulted and don’t consent to Enbridge’s latest decision to reverse flow direction and put through more oil. [9]

Enbridge’s Line 9 is an ageing pipe, built of sub-standard materials, which will be used to sometimes carry a product (dilbit) that it wasn’t designed for, at a greatly increased capacity and pressure, and after a second reversal of flow direction since being built in 1975. For these reasons, pipeline safety expert Richard Kuprewicz (president of Accufacts Inc.) has stated that the probability of the reversed Line 9 rupturing is over 90% in the first five years of operation. [10]

Letter of Solidarity

On September 1, Chippewas of the Thames First Nation Chief Leslee White-Eye wrote a letter of solidarity to Dave Archambault II, Chair of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

She wrote: “We are Anishinabek Ojibwe people of the Great Lakes. We stand in solidarity with your people’s struggle with the Dakota Access Pipeline and in strong opposition with you to any encroachment of inherent rights this pipeline may have on your people. We, too, are battling at the Canadian Supreme Court level over a recent decision by the National Energy Board to approve Enbridge Inc. application to reverse the flow, increase the volume and allow heavier bitumen to travel through our territories in 40 year old pipelines. To date, the Federal Crown has provided no consultation on the proposed project despite the Chippewas’ asserting their Aboriginal and Treaty rights would be impacted. The Line 9B pipeline crosses the Thames River which runs through the Chippewas traditional territory and provides a source of drinking water to the First Nation.” [11]

The small First Nation has been conducting crowdfunding campaigns and their supporters have been passing the hat at various fundraising events for several years during the court hearings. Band Councillor Myeengun Henry told the Toronto Star, “The problem is, if we should lose this [Supreme] court case, we’re going to be subject to Enbridge’s [court] costs, too. This is a huge risk for our nation. But we’ve got to this point, and we’re not going to stop now.” [12]

To appreciate the courage involved in this “huge risk,” it’s important for readers to know that not only are the Chippewas of the Thames up against one of the biggest corporate giants in North America, but “pipeline enemy #1” is being represented in court by the biggest law firm in the world, Dentons.

Getting to Know Dentons

Dentons Canada LLP – Counsel for Enbridge Pipelines Inc. in the Supreme Court case [13] – is part of the giant law and lobbying firm Dentons, which reportedly has “close ties” to Donald Trump. [14] According to The Intercept, one of Dentons’ clients has been the Super PAC called Make America Number 1, a primary PAC that was supporting Trump’s candidacy. [15]

Trump confidant Newt Gingrich serves as a senior advisor at Dentons, along with a host of other powerhouse names such as Howard Dean (former – and possibly future – chair of the Democratic National Committee), Gordon Giffin (former U.S. ambassador to Canada, long-time director of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.), Jean Chretien (former Liberal prime minister of Canada), Gary Doer (former Manitoba premier and former Canadian ambassador to the U.S.), James Moore (former Canadian Industry minister), and Stephen Harper (former Conservative prime minister of Canada).

Dentons announced in September 2016 that Harper had joined the firm, noting that the relationship would be a “strategic affiliation,” while Harper remains chair and CEO of his own consulting company. His role at

Dentons is to “provide clients with advice on market access, managing global geopolitical and economic risk, and maximize value in global markets.” Defeated in the Autumn 2015 Canadian federal election, Harper officially resigned as a Member of Parliament in August. [16]

Just hours after the U.S. election, Dentons released a post-election prediction document containing “Trump Cabinet Possibilities,” and noting: “Tribal opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline may prove to be a difficult early test for the Trump Administration’s handling of Native issues. It seems likely that the Trump Administration will find itself at odds with tribes on energy and natural resources development issues, increasing the potential for litigation over existing and future oil and gas leases and the federal government’s trust responsibility to tribes.” [17]

Spirit in Dark Times

In the midst of dark times, Aboriginal peoples are truly inspiring and leading the way as water protectors, showing tremendous courage in every way.

Chippewas of the Thames band Councillor Myeengun Henry stated in October with regard to the Nov. 30 Supreme Court case: “Well, I’m more positive now than ever before. The Canadian government has acknowledged that they didn’t consult with First Nations. What we’ve been seeing in the news recently is that the laws that dictate the National Energy Board process are being exposed. The National Energy Board is full of oil executives who basically make the hearings a formality and all of this is starting to come to light in Canada. I think we stand a really good chance of winning this case.” [18]

Nonetheless, they are going to need money (www.gofundme.com/chippewas) and prayers (if you’re the praying type).

Chief Leslee White-Eye says, “We want to be working with all Canadians on water protection and the fossil fuel industry and nation-to-nation relationships with First Nations in Canada. The [Supreme Court] decision is going to have considerable impacts either way. This really does matter. How we raise our children to value water.” [19]

DAPL, Line 3, Spectra Energy, Line 5, Northern Gateway, Line 9: ”Pipeline Enemy #1” is involved in all of them. The next few days are going to be crucial.


[1] “Enbridge Spreads Tentacles to Acquire Spectra, Creating ‘Pipeline Enemy #1’,” Commondreams.org, September 6, 2016.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Brian Bienkowski, “From the Sioux to the Sault: Standing Rock spirit spreads to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula,” Environmental Health News, November 21, 2016.

[4] John Paul Tasker, “Ottawa to decide this week on Enbridge’s biggest pipeline project,” CBC News, November 20, 2016.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Joyce Nelson, “Reversing Enbridge & Big Oil’s Pipeline Plans,” Counterpunch, December 18, 2015.

[7] John Riddell, “Chippewas of the Thames Need Your Help,” Tar Sands Resistance, October 19, 2016.

[8] Kenneth Jackson, “Upcoming Supreme Court case could force Ottawa to overhaul consultation with Indigenous communities,” APTN National News, October 12, 2016.

[9] Alex Ballingall, “Chippewas of the Thames protest pipeline,” The Toronto Star, October 20, 2016.

[10] Joyce Nelson, “NEB limits public input at oil pipeline reversal hearings,” CCPA Monitor, October 2013.

[11] Chief Leslee White-Eye, Letter to Dave Archambault II, September 1, 2016.

[12] Ballingall, op. cit.

[13] File No. 36776, In the Supreme Court of Canada (On Appeal From the Federal Court of Appeal) Between: Chippewas of the Thames First Nation (Applicant) and Enbridge Pipelines Inc., the National Energy Board, Attorney General of Canada (Respondents), February 15, 2016.

[14] Lee Fang, “Donald Trump May Select an Architect of Bush’s Torture Program to Run CIA,” The Intercept, November 11, 2016.

[15] Ibid.

[16] The Canadian Press, “Stephen Harper takes job at international law firm Dentons,” September 12, 2016.

[17] “US Election Insight 2016,” Dentons.com., Nov. 10-11, 2016.

[18] Meg Borthwick, “Chippewas of the Thames take Line 9 to court,” rabble.ca, October 26, 2016.

[19] Council of Canadians, “London chapter organizes fundraiser for Chippewas of the Thames Supreme Court challenge,” November 20, 2016.