By Winona LaDuke
You can’t make that up. At the end of the fossil fuel age, the plan is to shift the responsibility to Indigenous people. And it’s not going to work. Disguised as “equitable positions” or “reconciliation”, across the continent, businesses and governments are trying to pledge bad projects on indigenous peoples.
The most recent case was the attempt to bond the Navajo Nation with a 50-year-old coal-fired power station – Navajo Generating Station. It was after BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, dumped a 50-year-old coal mine, with all kinds of environmental and health responsibilities, on the tribe. It’s always good to get rid of the debts of some poor people that we took advantage of for fifty years. It didn’t work, the Navajo Nation rejected the offer.
Here is a new one – a very good one in Canada. Turns out, no one really wants an oil sands pipeline. Well, with the exception of some pipeline companies, the Koch brothers, Syncrude and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Here’s the skinny: The Trans Mountain Kinder Morgan project would “twin” another pipeline, making it a 700 mile pipeline with a capacity of 800,000 barrels per day. This pipeline is currently the only way for Canada to get oil to Chinese markets. This pipeline was originally purchased for $ 4.5 billion in August 2018 from Kinder Morgan, which faced stiff opposition in the courts and on the streets. Trudeau bought this pipeline, for the people of Canada, and the next day the British Columbia court ruled that all permits were null and void on the pipeline because Indigenous peoples had not been consulted and had to give their consent.
Fast forward to January 2019, when the value of the pipeline, now dubbed “TMX” (I call it Trudeau West) fell by about $ 700 million. A pipeline without approvals is a risky thing, and more and more risky by the day. Interest payments on a pipeline project are also quite high. Robyn Allan, an independent economist critical of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, says financial statements show the existing pipeline suffered a loss of $ 58 million in the first four months the government owned it. Economists disagree on interest payments on pipeline debt – it’s between $ 149 million and $ 249 million a year, and that’s a big change. [www.mining.com/ canadas-trans-mountain-pipeline-on-track-to-lose-c175m-in-2019-economist]
That’s a lot of money. Not the best time to send this debt to First Nations. After all, most Canadian First Nations have poverty rates four times the national average, a lack of clean water and inadequate infrastructure. It makes perfect sense for a First Nation, or a coalition of First Nations, to take on Canada’s debt and responsibility on a megaproject that will wreak environmental and economic havoc. [www.theglobeandmail.com/ canada/article-ottawa-says-its-on-track-to-end-drinking-water-advisories-on-
Enter the reconciliation pipeline
That’s smart for sure, in the political spin. âLet’s make it the pipeline of reconciliation. Through Aboriginal majority ownership, it can improve the lives of Aboriginal people across the West. How? ‘Or’ What? By returning the profits from shipping the resources to market to the traditional owners of the lands where those resources came from, âtheir website explains.
âProject Reconciliation wants indigenous peoples to use the financial markets to take a controlling stake in Trans Mountain. He also wants to create a sovereign wealth fund to create intergenerational wealth to improve the lives of Indigenous people across the West by investing in infrastructure and renewable energy projects.
This is an offer for the risky pipeline. Two other coalitions of “competing” First Nations are allegedly seeking to purchase the pipeline. The Alberta Iron Coalition invited 47 First Nations organizations and approximately 60 MÃ©tis organizations across the province to join the effort, which was approved by the Alberta-based Assembly of Treaty Chiefs in the fall. latest. And then there is a third – the âWestern Indigenous Pipeline Groupâ, made up of First Nations already located along the route of the infrastructure, affected by the current 300,000 barrels per day oil sands pipeline, to be âtwinnedâ. If a miracle happened in the funding. These are three coalitions that are all preparing for a bidding war for a pipeline project that faces massive opposition. Rueben George, (Tsleil-wauluth First Nation) Leader of the Opposition to the Pipeline, calls this new development “a new smallpox blanket.” Economically, he’s probably right.
Lots of money online
The offers are big and the numbers a bit confusing. Project Reconciliation is forecasting a $ 6.8 billion bid for a 51 percent stake in the pipeline. The other two indigenous initiatives are also bidding for an equity stake. Just to make sure more money is stolen from First Nations, Project Reconciliation plans to raise $ 7.6 billion in bonds. It’s more debt and more people making money with first nations.
My math is not the best. But let’s just note that the pipeline was bought for $ 4.5 billion by Canada less than a year ago. (This gave Kinder Morgan a 637% return which emptied a liability). Then the pipeline’s resale value fell in January. And as the Toronto Globe and Mail notes, âThe expansion of the pipeline, as Kinder Morgan had originally proposed to do before abandoning the project, is expected to cost around $ 9 billion on top of the purchase price of the pipeline. existing pipeline and associated assets. This meant that the total cost to taxpayers would be around $ 14 billion.
Now some First Nations are looking to buy a 51% stake for $ 6.8 billion. On a pipeline with no known final price. After all, the existing pipeline is run down and the new one doesn’t exist. Nice job Trudeau. Let me ask who is going to make the interest payments for these first nations? These are going to be at least $ 20 million per month.
âWe need to come to a place where the indigenous peoples of Canada control their own destiny and make their own decisions about their future,â Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
This is how Trudeau justifies it, and it will not work. Indigenous peoples have better control over our destiny when we control our lands and waters. This pipeline project is truly an exorbitant cover for smallpox. The Trudeau West Pipeline (formerly known as Trans Mountain) will add approximately 162,536 million metric tonnes of carbon to the air each year. That’s what 800,000 barrels per day of oil from the tar sands get. This carbon is supposed to stay in the soil, not in the air; a basic biology class will tell you. The cost of removing carbon from the air is approximately $ 1,000 per metric tonne. This responsibility lies with someone, most likely the owner of the pipeline. There is also the cost and responsibility for the spills, and the costs to our First Nations and our democracies of the brutality of militarization, criminalization and repression that will have to occur to install these pipelines.
There is no way that the âSovereign and Reconciliation Fundâ dreamed of by the First Nations will have any money. Believe me, by the time you are all done paying the interest and your financing, you will be in intergenerational debt bondage.
âIf Canada is truly committed to reconciliation, it is time to step away from this risky project,â suggested Eugene Kung, lawyer for the West Coast Environmental Law Firm. âCanada has already overpaid for this risky project, and now its value is even lower – it’s time to cut our losses and move on a different path for Canada’s clean energy future.
Alberta, it is time to move on. You are the sunniest province in Canada. Reconciliation and justice do not mean imposing greater responsibility on First Nations. The reconciliation would have been to pay these First Nations a royalty for all the oil that has passed through their territories in recent decades. Reconciliation would mean infrastructure for the people, not for the oil companies; like clean water, renewable energies and peace.
After all, when the Navajo Nation rejected the purchase of the aging Navajo power plant in April, it put in place the 27-megawatt Kayenta Solar Project.
It’s the future.