Tag Archives: Environment

Indigenous Mexican farmers fight giant gas pipeline

  • TransCanada is building a gas pipeline in southern Mexico that’s threatening to cast indigenous communities off their land. But some are refusing to yield to the pressure to leave and are taking their fight to court.

Article originally published by DW.com

As Dona Maura Aparicio Torres finished planting her corn, she saw a man walking through her field. He trampled over her plants, took photographs and scribbled in a notebook as he approached her house.

A few days later, he was back. This time, he came with a demand that she give him the paperwork for her land. “We’re going to build a pipeline here,” he told her. That was in May 2017.

Two years earlier, the Canadian company TransCanada won the contract to build the Tuxpan-Tula pipeline, a 287-kilometer (178-mile) structure that will run across four states in southern Mexico to the Gulf of Mexico. The state energy authorities had approved the pipeline, as part of reforms begun under Mexico’s former president, Pena Nieto.

Much of the structure has already been built, apart from the final 90-kilometer stretch that runs through the village of Chila de Juarez and intersects the field where Torres grows corn and peanuts.

Resisting the state

“Our harvest is the most valuable thing we have,” says Torres, who was born into the Otomi indigenous community in Chila de Juarez. She still lives in the area with her husband and three children, in a house she bought from her mother-in-law. She sees no alternative but to stand up for what is hers.

“I don’t know where I would go if I lost my land,” she told DW.

A number of indigenous communities have joined forces to fight the pipeline. The sign here reads: ‘Say no to the gas pipeline. We’re an indigenous community and demand respect’

She is now part of a protest movement led and advised by a regional council of indigenous peoples in the states of Puebla and Hidalgo. The group was formed to share information and join forces in their claims against TransCanada.

Spokeswoman Oliveria Montes says a feeling of mistrust reigns — toward the company, the state and even neighbors.

“As soon as one person in the community sells their land, the neighbors thinks they have to sell theirs too,” she told DW.

Part of what the indigenous council does, she says, is to explain that people who are promised money to leave their land often never see a cent.

Torres received an offer of money on one of the many return visits she received from the man who had trampled her plants. When she asked him how much was on the table, he refused to name a figure. “We’ll resettle you,” he told her. “Where?” she asked. His response was another demand that she hand over the paperwork for her land. She refused.

He left his telephone number and a threat to build on the land whether she moved or not. She never called. And for the time being at least, she is still there.

A temporary reprieve

At the end of 2017, construction on the pipeline was paused following a complaint filed by the indigenous council. The case, which involves Chila de Juarez and four other communities, is now in court because before such a mega-project can be built the Mexican energy ministry must assess its impacts on the environment and residents.

While the ministry did produce such an impact report, the council questions its findings. According to Raymundo Espinoza Hernandez, a lawyer representing the council, 459 communities and 260,000 people would be affected by the construction, but the ministry assessment “only made mention of 11 communities,” he says.

TransCanada is also building other pipelines in Mexico, including the Tamazunchale pipeline extension (pictured) which runs through some of the country’s most mountainous terrain

When asked to comment, TransCanada said its subsidiary Transportadora de Gas Natural de la Huasteca (TGNH) was responsible for the Tuxpan-Tula pipeline. The same company that employs the man Torres found traipsing across her property.

TransCanada also said it knew nothing of appropriation of land in indigenous communities and does not support moving people off their land without prior consultation and consent. It concluded that it was ultimately up to the Mexican government to decide whether construction could proceed or not.

A charged atmosphere

TransCanada is under pressure. The company wants the pipeline to be up and running at the beginning of 2019. It’s part of a larger network that would eventually see natural gas flowing from Brownsville in Texas to Tuxpan and Tula in the heart of Mexico. And it’s already come under fire in the United States for the Keystone pipeline, which runs through Native American land.

So far, the delays on the pipeline as a result of resistance have pushed its costs up by a third to almost €347 million ($400 million) and Espinoza is worried that will have a negative impact on those standing in the way.

“They’ll play the communities off against each other,” the lawyer said. “If the company can’t continue with legal means, they’ll use violence to force their way into the communities.”

Torres shares his fears. “I’m afraid they’ll destroy me,” she said.

Dona Maura Aparicio Torres and her husband don’t want to leave their land nestled below the holy mountain of the Otomi people. They say they don’t know what they would do without it.

Immovable mountain

Her husband, Salvador Murcia Escalera stands among young peanut plants with a pick in his hand. He spent 14 years working as a hired hand on a plantation in California so he could send money back home. He returned when his wife called him to say her land was under threat.

“The land gives us everything,” says Torres. And she doesn’t want to see that taken away from her. She also worries that the holy mountain of the Otomi people could be blown apart to facilitate the pipeline, as has already happened in other communities.

She looks up at the mountain into which her land nestles. Legend has it that a young man called Margarito once climbed to the top, and was so tired on arrival that he laid down to sleep and never returned. The Otomi in Chila de Juarez worship him as a rain God, taking sheep, beans and corn to the mountain for him. Just like Margarito, Torres never wants to leave.


Native Band In Canada Rejects $1.15 Billion Inducement From Gas Pipeline Builder

Part of the large Alcan aluminum smelting facility in Kitimat, British Columbia, Canada.

Part of the large Alcan aluminum smelting facility in Kitimat, British Columbia, Canada.

By Joel Connelly | seattlepi.com

A native band in northern British Columbia has voted to reject a $1.15 billion (Canadian), 40-year payout from a consortium of Asian and North American energy companies that want to cross its land with a pipeline and build a liquefied natural gas terminal.

The action by the Lax Kw’alaams came after meetings in their village, Price Rupert and Vancouver saw near-unanimous opposition from the 3,600-member Aboriginal First Nation band.

“Not every election has a price tag,” Tamo Campos, a young environmentalist from the B.C. north, wrote on his Facebook page.

Garry Reece, mayor of the band’s village, said in a statement:  “Hopefully the public will recognize that unanimous consensus in communities (and where unanimity is the exception) against a project where those communities are offered in excess of a billion dollars, sends an unequivocal message this is not a money issue:  This is environmental and cultural.”

The group Pacific NorthWest LNG has proposed a $36 billion (Canadian) project that would include a pipeline terminus and liquified natural gas shipment terminal near the Lax Kw’alaams’ remote village.

The company is headed by Malaysia’s state-owned Petronas with other investors that include Shell Oil, Chevron, China Petrochemical Corp, Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. and the Indian Oil Corp.

The British Columbia government has promised and promoted LNG exports as an economic panacea, with 19 proposed projects up and down the B.C. Coast.  Two huge proposed oil export terminals — at Kitimat in northern B.C., and Burnaby, next door to Vancouver — are also under evaluation.

The Pacific NorthWest LNG project has been described as “a significant deal, a serious deal” by John Rustad, B.C.’s aboriginal affairs minister.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark predicted Monday that an agreement between Pacific NorthWest LNG and the Lax Kw’alaams will eventually be worked out.  The Indian band is no stranger to trans-Pacific commerce.  It makes money exporting raw logs to Asia.

But the energy industry’s heavy hand is generating significant backlash in British Columbia.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark:  She looked like a loser, and won.

The natural gas premier: British Columbia Premier Christy Clark has touted LNG (liquified natural gas) exports as an economic panacea for Canada’s province on the Pacific.

A proposed natural gas pipeline would go directly under the Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park, beneath which 2,000 Nisga’a Band members were entombed by a volcanic eruption more than 250 years ago.

The LNG terminal would be adjacent to the estuaries of the Skeena and Nass rivers, famous salmon streams.  The Nass is a rare example in Canada where the federal government and Aboriginal First Nations have cooperated to rebuild a flourishing fishery.

In southern British Columbia, the proposed expansion of the TransMountain Pipeline, an oil pipeline project proposed by Houston-based Kinder Morgan, could bore through four provincial parks and go under popular Burnaby Mountain Park.

Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested, and then released, in protests last November against Kinder Morgan’s exploratory drilling.

The Lax Kw’alaams have objected to disruption of Flora Bank, an estuary of eel grass vital to the maturation of young salmon before they go out into the ocean.

Pacific NorthWest LNG has offered to build a suspension bridge over the eel grass, and has plied the native band with offers of economic development and jobs.

The Supreme Court of Canada has recently granted Aboriginal First Nations expanded powers over their ancestral hunting, fishing and gathering grounds.

At the same time, however, the Canadian federal government has severely scaled back the environmental review of major energy projects.  Provinces can, according to the high court ruling, exercise power to override native groups’ opposition when vital interests are deemed at stake.

The rejection of the $1.15 billion deal is still a landmark in the Great White North.

“The stern resolve of the people of Lax Kw’alaams is of a piece with their ancients’ history, and in standing up for their rights, they’re making modern history, too,” journalist Ian Gill wrote in The Tyee, a Vancouver-based news web site.


Imperial Metals Announces Amidst Protests That Mount Polley Mine Could Re-Start In Months

Secwepemc Women's Warrior Society Kanahus Manuel photo courtesy Warrior Press

Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society Kanahus Manuel photo courtesy Warrior Press

VICTORIA – The open-pit, gold-and-copper mine hit by a devastating tailings pond breach that caused an environmental disaster in central British Columbia could be operating safely and near full capacity within months, the company has announced.

Steve Robertson, vice-president of corporate affairs at Imperial Metals Corp., (TSE-Ill), said Wednesday that more than 50 per cent of Mount Polley’s 370 employees would be back at work if the Vancouver-based company is granted a permit to restart operations.

“If we get a permit approving the restart of the mine in June, it’s going to take a few weeks, but within a few weeks we would be able to be up and running,” he said. “What we’re proposing is a modified restart.”

Robertson said the startup phase would not be full speed.

He said 276 people were employed doing restoration in March, but those numbers are fluctuating.

Environmental and aboriginal groups say they will oppose any decision that allows Mount Polley, blamed for spilling 24-million cubic metres of silt and water into nearby lakes and rivers last August, to resume operations.

“We don’t want it to reopen,” said Kanahus Manuel, a spokeswoman for the Williams Lake area Secwepemc Women Warriors Society.

“What I know for a fact is a small group of people can do a lot. We have these small pockets of people everywhere, and together we make up hundreds of thousands of people who are opposed to mining and destruction of our territory.”

The warriors’ society was part of protests at the Toronto Stock Exchange, B.C. government offices, the Canadian consulate in Los Angeles and Portland State University in Oregon.

“When it comes down to it we are talking about clean water,” said Manuel. “That tailings pond will be forever. That destruction that they did there and all those tailings they are not cleaning up will be there forever.”

B.C.’s Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett said Imperial Metals must prove to a mine development technical review body Mount Polley can resume operations safely, on a temporary and permanent basis.

A 30-day public comment period on Mount Polley’s application to reopen ends May 2.

The review body includes representatives from government agencies, First Nations, local governments, the community of Likely, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada.

An independent, government-ordered report concluded earlier this year the construction of Mount Polley’s tailings pond on top of a sloped glacial lake weakened the foundation of the dam and was akin to loading a gun and then pulling the trigger.

It said the spill was caused by an inadequately designed dam that didn’t account for drainage and erosion failures associated with glacial till beneath the pond.

Bennett said he is deeply aware of the environmental, economic and social concerns associated with the mine-permit decision.

“There are a lot of families up there worried about their jobs,” he said. “You get pulled in both directions. I want to make sure it’s done absolutely flawlessly from a policy point of view. I also want to see those families working.”

RCMP tracked movements of Indigenous activist from ‘extremist’ group: documents


OCT, 17 2014

The RCMP closely monitored the movements of an Indigenous environmental activist as it tightened surveillance around possible protests in northern British Columbia targeting the energy firm behind the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline, according to “confidential” documents obtained by APTN National News.

Documents from the RCMP’s Suspicious Incidents Report (SIR) database show police closely monitored the movements of a member of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) during the summer of 2010 in northern British Columbia. According to the documents, the RCMP considers IEN an “extremist” group and a trip by an IEN member to a direct action camp in July of that year created a flurry of database activity involving RCMP officers with the force’s national security operations in B.C. and Ottawa.

The documents were obtained under the Access to Information Act by academic Jeffrey Monaghan, who is a criminology instructor at Carleton University and completing a doctorate at Queen’s University.

“When you read the document closely it shows an intimate surveillance,” said Monaghan. “(The documents) show the breadth of and the normalization of the regular systematic surveillance of protest groups, of people who criticize government policy and critics of energy policy. You have national security bureaucracies, agencies, focused on domestic protest groups and it has nothing to do with terror, but with the energy economy.”

IEN is headquartered in Bemidji, Minn., and describes itself as a grassroots organization focused on climate and social justice issues, according to its website. IEN is headed by prominent Dine’-Dakota environmentalist Tom Goldtooth. Goldtooth could not be reached for comment.

The documents record entries from RCMP officers into the SIR database. The entries focus on concerns around possible protests in July 2010 against energy firm Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project. The controversial Gateway project would transport bitumen from Alberta’s tarsands to the B.C. coast for loading onto tankers headed to Asian markets. The project received federal cabinet approval but now faces an onslaught of legal challenges from B.C. First Nations.

Enbridge provided the RCMP a list of its events planned for that July. The company was concerned the events could become targets of demonstrations. The list of Enbridge’s activities included a golf tournament in Prince George, B.C., Go Karts for Girls in Fort St. John, B.C., and the Riverboat Days Concerts in Terrace, B.C.

The activities of one individual, however, captured the RCMP’s attention that month.

“Although there is no specific criminal threat, we do have information that a known member of the Indigenous Environmental Network will be heading to Northern B.C. tomorrow for a planned ‘Wetsuweten Direct Action Camp (sic),’” according to the “occurrence report” dated July 7, 2010, written Craig Douglass, with the Southeast District RCMP in British Columbia. “We would like to anticipate and monitor any protests in order to keep you informed if these protests happen in your detachment areas.”

APTN National News contacted a former member of IEN late Wednesday who said they attended the Wet’suwet’en camp during the stated time period. APTN National News failed to connect with the individual, who is currently travelling, for a planned interview Thursday.

The RCMP created a file on the IEN member’s planned trip to the action camp. The file was dated the same day as Douglass’ email.

“Information file opened to gather information involving demonstrations to the Northern Gateway Pipeline,” according to the file, number 20103467. The file was classified as a “Critical Infrastructure-Suspicious Incident.” The file summary goes on to state that the “known member of (IEN)” would be heading to the action camp on July 8, 2010.

The file, which remained active, included three “associated occurrences” dated in 2011. Little detail is provided about these occurrences. The list included the date, whether it happened in the same area, employed a similar modus operandi or was a similar event.

The file also listed a number of groups as “involved persons.” The groups listed include the Defenders of the Land, Direct Action in Canada for Climate Justice, Ontario public Interest Research Group, Ruckus Society, Global Justice Ecology Project, Sea to sands Conservation Alliance, Canadian youth Climate Coalition, the Indigenous Action Movement and the Wet’suwet’en Direct Action Camp.

“These groups listed out are being registered and their names are going into national security databases and when something comes up their names would come up. This has very significant repercussions down the road, it creates perpetual suspicion and perpetual surveillance,” said Monaghan.

The RCMP officers involved on the file included several officers with B.C.’s E Division’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET), intelligence analysts from Ottawa and a supervisor from the federal policing operational analysis sector at RCMP headquarters in the capital city.

Members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation held an anti-Enbridge pipeline protest in Smithers, B.C., on July 16, 2010. IEN was involved in the protest, along with the Rainforest Action Network, Ruckus Society, Greenpeace and the Council of Canadians, according to the Flickr site of a Six Nations photographer who was at the event.

The file on the IEN member, however, seemed headed for a downgrading.

On July 12, 2010, an analyst with B.C. INSET concluded the file did “not fall within the suspicious incident categories” and would not require imputing in the SIR database. A supervising INSET sergeant then reviewed the file and came to the same determination.

The sergeant, however, was overruled by a senior officer at Ottawa RCMP headquarters. The officer determined the file should be imputed because IEN was an “extremist” group. The file was also forwarded to the now dismantled Aboriginal Joint Intelligence Group (JIG) and to the RCMP’s main liaison with the energy sector.

“File pertains to extremist groups organizing training for potential disruption of Enbridge pipelines,” reads the overruling entry from Ottawa headquarters. “Request to SIR administrator…to complete a SIR report on the incident in order to capture information of analytical value that pertains to pre-incident training that targets a critical infrastructure sector.”

An RCMP spokesperson said the force could not immediately responded to stated questions from APTN National News on the issue.