While Standing Rock protests continue in North Dakota, Pacific Northwest tribes are meeting Thursday to plan action against a newly approved oil pipeline in Canada.
"We're ready to defend our rights," said Lummi Nation member Jewell James.
The First Nations are worried about Kinder Morgan's newly approved Canadian oil pipeline, and increased tanker and barge traffic. They believe it will inevitably end in crashes and spills.
"It definitely will happen, and it will destroy the San Juan Islands," James said.
Pipeline owner Kinder Morgan said in a statement there's nothing to worry about. They sent the following points:
- Trans Mountain has loaded marine vessels with petroleum since 1956 without a single spill from tanker operations.
- The expansion at Westridge Marine Terminal is based on the loading of Aframax tankers, the same-sized tankers, shipping the same products they do today.
- If the Project proceeds, there will be an investment of more than $150 million in Western Canada Marine Response Corporation that will further improve safety for the entire marine shipping industry.
- The investment will fund five new response bases, more than 100 new employees and new vessels at strategic locations along BC's southern shipping lane. Three of the bases call for 24/7 operations, including a new Vancouver Harbour base.
- Trans Mountain doesn't own or operate tankers, but we have implemented rigorous screening programs for vessels calling at our Westridge Marine Terminal. Only properly equipped and crewed, double-hull, vetted and inspected vessels are loaded.
- Further precautionary risk control measures include expanding the laden tanker tug escort to cover the entire shipping route through the Strait of Georgia, and between Race Rocks and the J Buoy at the western entrance to Juan de Fuca Strait. Pilots will disembark near Race Rocks, instead of Victoria, and Port of Vancouver will establish a shipping channel for east of Second Narrows Bridge.
Just like the Dakota Access pipeline protests, this could become the Pacific Northwest's Standing Rock. Environmentalists consider tar sands oil especially dense and hard to clean up. The new line will more than double production of the oil.
The Natural Resources Defense Council released a report Wednesday claiming tar sands tankers and barges traveling U.S. waterways could increase from fewer than 80 to more than 1,000 a year.
In a statement released to KING 5, lead author of NRDC's report Joshua Axelrod writes:
"Canadian oil producers have a scheme to flood us with dangerous tar sands oil. Their hopes to send hundreds of millions of barrels of tar sands oil into U.S. waters are truly alarming. We can't let them endanger American livelihoods, our most iconic and threatened species, or our beautiful wild places with these irresponsible plans...The risks and costs created by possible tar sands spills are so substantial that local, state and federal governments should take immediate action."
The Lummi Nation has defended the Salish Sea in court since the late 19th century.
"Fighting for our way of life is nothing new, and I think our elders and community leaders hold us accountable to that," said Lummi Charmain Tim Ballew.
Ballew points to legal action already taken to protect the area around Cherry Point. The tribe has asked the state to expand an aquatic reserve, removing it from any future development.
"Because we have to leave them to our kids, it's our job as tribal leaders to make sure our kids experience what their grandparents did," Ballew said.