When Drones Guard the Pipeline: The Militarization of Our Fossil Fuels
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
Someone needs to explain to me why wanting clean drinking water makes you an activist, and why proposing to destroy water with chemical warfare doesn’t make a corporation a terrorist.
I’m in South Dakota today, sort of a ground zero for the XL Keystone Pipeline, that pipeline, owned by a Canadian Corporation which will export tar sands oil to the rest of the world. This is the heart of the North American continent here. Bwaan Akiing is what we call this land-Land of the Lakota. There are no pipelines across it, and beneath it is the Oglalla Aquifer wherein lies the vast majority of the water for this region. The Lakota understand that water is life, and that there is no new water. It turns out, tar sands carrying pipelines (otherwise called “dilbit”) are sixteen times more likely to break than a conventional pipeline, and it seems that some ranchers and Native people, in a new Cowboy and Indian Alliance, are intent upon protecting that water.
This community understands the price of protecting land. And, the use of military force upon a civilian community- carrying an acute memory of the over 133,000 rounds of ammunition fired by the National Guard upon Lakota people forty years ago in the Wounded Knee standoff. That experience is coming home again, this time in Mi’gmaq territory.
Militarization of North American Oil Fields
This past week in New Brunswick, the Canadian military came out to protect oil companies. In this case, seismic testing for potential natural gas reserves by Southwestern Energy Company(SWN), a Texas based company working in the province. It’s an image of extreme energy, and perhaps the times.
SWN exercised it’s permit to conduct preliminary testing to assess resource potential for shale gas exploitation. Canadian constitutional law requires the consultation with First Nations, and this has not occurred. That’s when Elsipogtog Mi’gmaq warrior chief, John Levi, seized a vehicle containing seismic testing equipment owned by SWN. Their claim is that fracking is illegal without their permission on their traditional territory. About 65 protesters, including women and children, seized the truck at a gas station and surrounded the vehicle so that it couldn’t be removed from the parking lot. Levi says that SWN broke the law when they first started fracking “in our traditional hunting grounds, medicine grounds, contaminating our waters.” according to reporter Jane Mundy in on line Lawyers and Settlements publication. This may be just the beginning.
On June 9, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) came out en masse, seemingly to protect SWN seismic exploration crews against peaceful protesters – both native and non-Native, blocking route 126 from seismic thumper trucks. Armed with guns, paddy wagons and twist tie restraints, peaceful protestors were arrested. Four days later the protesting continued, and this time drew the attention of local military personnel. As one Mi’gmag said, “Just who is calling the shots in New Brunswick when the value of the land and water take a backseat to the risks associated with shale gas development?”
The militarization of the energy fields is not new. It’s just more apparent when it’s in a first world country, albeit New Brunswick. New Brunswick is sort of the El Salvador of Canadian provinces, if one looks at the economy, run akin to an oligarchy. New Brunswick’s Irving family empire stretches from oil and gas to media, they are the largest employer in New Brunswick and the primary proponents of the Trans Canada West to East pipeline which will bring tar sands oil to the St. Johns refinery owned by the same family. Irving is the fourth wealthiest family in Canada, the largest employer, land holder and amasses that wealth in the relatively poor province. The Saint John refinery would be a beneficiary of any natural gas fracked in the province. In general, press coverage of Aboriginal issues is sparse there at best.