Donald Trump cleared way for Dakota Access pipeline days after a major oil spill on aboriginal land

A pipeline across the Canadian border from the reservation leaked 200,000 litres of oil on the lands of Ocean Man First Nation

Max Benwell
Tuesday 24 January 2017 20:31 GMT
Donald Trump is expected to sign orders to begin a Mexican border wall and temporary ban on Muslim immigrants
Donald Trump is expected to sign orders to begin a Mexican border wall and temporary ban on Muslim immigrants

Donald Trump has cleared the way for the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline days after a massive oil spill on aboriginal land in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

A pipeline in Stoughton leaked 200,000 litres of oil in an aboriginal community, the provincial government said on Monday.

The spill will provide further validation for the tribes and activists who campaigned against the Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock, which is 600km south of Stoughton. But it will also set alarm bells ringing.

It was argued that the pipeline threatened to contaminate the local water supply and traverse sacred burial grounds. After a prolonged showdown between protesters and the police, the Obama administration announced the pipeline would be rerouted in December. Now that decision has been undone by President Trump, protests are set to be revived.

The provincial government was notified about the latest spill late in the afternoon on Friday, and 170,000 litres have since been recovered, said Doug McKnight, assistant deputy minister in the Ministry of the Economy, which regulates pipelines in Saskatchewan.

It comes seven months after another major incident in Saskatchewan, in which a Husky Energy Inc pipeline leaked 225,000 litres into a major river and cut off the drinking water supply for two cities.

Mr McKnight said Tundra Energy Marketing Inc, which has a line adjacent to the spill, is leading cleanup efforts.

"There are a number of pipes in the area," he told reporters in Regina. "Until we excavate it, we won't know with 100-percent certainty which pipe."

Tundra, a privately held unit of Canadian grain trading and energy conglomerate James Richardson and Sons Ltd, released a statement saying it is cooperating with all levels of government and will ensure "the affected land is restored appropriately."

The incident happened in the lands of the Ocean Man First Nation, 87 miles southeast of the provincial capital of Regina, according to the province.

Mr McKnight said the spill has been contained in the low-lying area in which it was discovered. Ocean Man Chief Connie Big Eagle said the spill was 15 metres (50 feet) in diameter on Friday.

Ocean Man has 540 residents, one-third of whom live on the reserve, Big Eagle said.

She said an area resident who had smelled the scent of oil for a week located the spill and alerted her on Friday. The chief said there are no homes near the spill but it is about 400 metres (1,320 feet) from the local cemetery.

"We have got to make sure that Tundra has done everything that they can to get our land back to the way it was. That can take years," she said. "They have assured me that they follow up and they don't leave ... until we are satisfied."

Additional reporting: Reuters

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