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2017: Pipeline Resistance Gathers Steam From Dakota Access, Keystone Success

By Lisa Song - Inside Climate News, January 2, 2017

When President-elect Donald Trump takes office next month, his pro-drilling, anti-climate action energy policy will buoy the oil industry. But it will also face staunch resistance from a pipeline opposition movement that gathered momentum, particularly with this year's successful showdown over the Dakota Access pipeline, and shows no signs of slowing.

Local grassroots action, governments' environmental concerns and market forces have stopped or delayed dozens of fossil fuel projects since the high-profile Keystone XL pipeline was cancelled in November 2015, and activists are continuing to oppose at least a dozen oil and gas pipelines around the country.  

"There have been people fighting pipelines since pipelines first went into the ground," but awareness of the issue has grown due to the Keystone XL and Dakota Access, said Cherri Foytlin, director of the advocacy group Bold Louisiana.

Opposition to pipelines has united environmentalists, Native Americans and rural landowners of all political backgrounds, many of whom resent the pipeline companies' use of eminent domain to seize their land.

This "Keystone-ization" effect, along with low oil prices, has created a hostile environment for fossil fuel expansion projects. The election of Trump, who favors building the Keystone as well as the Dakota Access, will put advocates back on the defense—but they say they are ready for the challenge.

"I think the scope of what we are being asked to do might change," said Andy Pearson, Midwest tar sands coordinator for MN350, a Minnesota green group. He said activists will have to work to maintain the victories they've won in the past few years.

"I'll have to fight just as hard under a Trump administration as I'd have to under a Clinton administration," Foytlin said. Her main concern is that Trump will be "brazen enough" to condone the use of force against protesters, she said.

Environmentalists have prioritized stopping pipelines because every pipeline is a decades-long investment in fossil fuels, locking in demand and hampering a transition to cleaner fuels. Successfully blocking them limits companies' ability to move their product to market, which feeds into a strategy of "making life more difficult for the fossil fuel industry going forward," said Adam Rome, a history professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo who studies the environmental movement.

Many groups have used the national attention on the Dakota Access to publicize opposition to other pipeline projects. In Florida, activists fighting the Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline have held #NoDAPL solidarity events and protests to slow the project, which is already under construction.

In Texas, advocates credit the Dakota Access movement for inspiring local action against the Trans-Pecos gas pipeline, and two activists were arrested in early December for blocking access to construction equipment.

Since the Dakota Access captured the spotlight, "there has been this outreach and outcry of people wishing to connect these battles into one," Foytlin said. "It's less about pipelines, and about the battle to win the hearts and minds of people."

Standing fast at Standing Rock

By Lois Danks - Freedom Socialist, December 2016

Indian-led encampments on Standing Rock Sioux territory are digging in for the North Dakota winter. They are determined to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. And they are not alone, as thousands upon thousands join their bold struggle to save planet resources and peoples.

Already they have won a temporary victory from the government to halt the digging, but Dakota Access is moving equipment to tunnel under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe. And the Norway-based bank DNB has sold its pipeline assets and may terminate loans.

The construction, which was fast-tracked without a full environmental review and without the knowledge and consent of the Standing Rock Sioux, is planned to carry half a million barrels of oil every day. A spill would poison the water supply and farmlands of the Standing Rock Indian reservation and of 17 million people downriver.

Since April the largest Standing Rock camp (Oceti Sakowin or the Seven Council Fires) has welcomed hundreds of tribes and dozens of delegations including the Two Spirit (LGBTQ) delegation and Labor for Standing Rock. At times the camp swells to over 7,000 people dedicated to halting the pipeline construction.

Unions stand at Standing Rock

By staff - NW Labor Press, December 14, 2016

The standoff at North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux Reservation — with Indian tribes and supporters on one side, and police and private security for the Dakota Access Pipeline on the other – also finds labor union members on both sides.

North America’s Building Trades Unions and the AFL-CIO have come out in favor of the project moving forward, because it’s a big source of union jobs. But other labor organizations have declared support for pipeline protesters, and in Oregon and Washington, a number of union members have traveled to Standing Rock to take part in the massive protest encampment — a nonviolent uprising that has united Indian tribes nationwide.

Roben White — a retired union painter and former president of Painters Local 10 — is one of them. White is of mixed Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne ancestry on his father’s side, and he’s an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He’s also a staunch unionist who says he was pained to see unions take a stand he disagrees with.

The Standing Rock Sioux object to the pipeline chiefly because of the potential risk to their water supply. When complete, the Dakota Access Pipeline would pump 470,000 barrels a day of light crude oil through a 30-inch-wide, 1,172-mile-long pipeline from the Bakken Oil Fields of northwestern North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to refining facilities in Illinois. The pipeline’s route was originally supposed to cross the Missouri River just upstream from Bismarck, North Dakota, but because of concerns that an oil spill could wreck the city’s water supply, the route was changed to cross just upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The pipeline would cross half a mile north of the reservation, 92 feet underneath the Standing Rock Sioux water supply — Lake Oahe, a reservoir formed by a Missouri River dam.

To protest that course, in April, members of the tribe established a “spiritual camp” on Army Corps of Engineers land along the banks of the Missouri river. By August, it had become the largest gathering of Native American tribes in more than a century. With protesters attempting to stop construction, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple declared a state of emergency Aug. 19. Private security contractors, joined by police reinforcements from six states, deployed in armored personnel carriers, and used rubber bullets, tear gas grenades, pepper spray, and sound cannons against unarmed protesters. On Sept. 3, security guards attacked nonviolent protesters with pepper mace and dogs.

Then on Sept. 9, Department of Justice, Department of the Interior and Department of the Army asked that the pipeline company voluntarily halt construction within 20 miles of Lake Oahe, after a federal judge denied the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for a temporary injunction.

Shortly after that, national AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka weighed in with an official statement on the pipeline: “The AFL-CIO supports pipeline construction as part of a comprehensive energy policy,” he declared Sept. 15. “Pipeline construction and maintenance provides quality jobs to tens of thousands of skilled workers,” Trumka said. Community involvement is important, Trumka said, particularly in situations involving places of significance to Native Americans, but, he added, “once these processes have been completed, it is fundamentally unfair to hold union members’ livelihoods and their families’ financial security hostage to endless delay.… Furthermore, trying to make climate policy by attacking individual construction projects is neither effective nor fair to the workers involved.”

Reacting to Trumka’s statement, White, the former Painters Local 10 president, picketed with half a dozen other local unionists outside the Sept. 23 annual awards banquet of the AFL-CIO’s Southwest Washington Labor Roundtable.

“I’m all labor. I live and breathe it,” White said. “I’m not questioning the fact that they want those jobs. I made my living in the building trades too. But there is a point that we need to take responsibility. … How ‘bout fixing the pipelines that are busting all over the place? How ‘bout changing the infrastructure so we don’t have to use so much oil and gas?”

For the Standing Rock tribe, protest banners say, “water is life.” But for many union construction workers, pipelines are how they earn their living. After the federal agencies requested a halt to construction, five national union presidents wrote to President Obama. “The [Dakota Access pipeline] project is being built with an all-union workforce and workers are earning family-sustaining wages, with family health care and retirement contributions,” wrote the presidents of Operating Engineers, Electrical Workers, Teamsters, United Association and Laborers. “However, the project delays are already putting members out of work and causing hardships for thousands of families.”

The pipeline is providing work for an estimated 4,500 members of building trades unions.

But a number of labor organizations not directly involved with the project issued statements supportive of the protests, including Amalgamated Transit Union, American Postal Workers Union, Communications Workers of America, National Nurses United, and Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

‘An injury to one is an injury to all’

By Angela K. Evans - Boulder Weekly, December 1, 2016

Since July, thousands of people have joined the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota as they protest the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which is slated to carry up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil every day for 1,172 miles from North Dakota to Illinois. The protesters, who call themselves “water protecters,” have been joined by members of other Native American tribes, environmentalists, international sympathizers and members of several labor unions.

Liam Cain, a card-carrying member of Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) out of Cheyenne, Wyoming, first traveled to North Dakota after he heard that large trade unions such as LIUNA and AFL-CIO called on the governor of North Dakota to protect union members working on the pipeline by sending in the National Guard.

“If anyone knows anything about the labor movement or labor history, they know it’s a deeply hypocritical and soulless thing for them to do. It aligns them as the junior partners in capitalism and divorces them from whatever was good with the labor movement in terms of the working-class and fighting for the working-class population. …

“This is actually a union I’m a part of,” he continues. “I may have philosophical disagreements with people who are in this union but this isn’t a philosophical disagreement. This is a soulless, disgusting thing that the International [Union] signed off on and the rank and file is not all on board with.”

Originally from Humboldt County, California, Cain first joined LIUNA in 2008 to work on a major pipeline being built through Cheyenne, and he has worked on several mainline pipeline construction projects since. Lately, he’s spent more of his time fighting wildfires around the country but still picks up jobs on pipelines during the off season.

In North Dakota, Cain joined up with the Labor for Standing Rock delegation, a group of workers in a variety of unions who have traveled to Standing Rock to show their solidarity with the Native Americans and environmentalists protesting the pipeline.

San Diego Labor Opposes Dakota Access Pipeline

By Jim Miller - OB Rag, December 12, 2016

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the heroic struggle against it have ignited a big battle inside of American labor. Earlier this fall an excellent article in Common Dreams outlined the split over DAPL at the national level with key trades unions and AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka backing the pipeline and criticizing the protests while other large national unions were issuing statements supporting the Standing Rock resistance.

Here in California and elsewhere, Trumka’s letter in support of the pipeline received strong condemnation.

For instance, a response to it that I penned as chair of the California Federation of Teachers Climate Justice Task Force challenges the AFL-CIO leader in the strongest possible terms:

“In sum, your statement is factually inaccurate, morally suspect, politically inept, and does not stand for the values that should guide a progressive union movement worth being a part of in an era of stark threats to the future of our children.”

I have yet to receive a response.

North Dakota's Public Bank Was Built for the People: Now It's Financing Police at Standing Rock

By Matt Stannard, YES! Magazine - December 14, 2016

In 1918 in Bismarck, North Dakota, populist socialism won big: The Nonpartisan League, a political party founded by poor farmers and former labor organizers, captured both houses of the North Dakota Legislature. Farmers had been badly hurt by big banks charging double-digit interest rates and by grain companies that operated every elevator along the railroad route, underpaying and cheating the farmers. In response, the new government created the publicly owned Bank of North Dakota (BND) and the North Dakota Mill and Elevator. Both institutions epitomize American public cooperativism, creating democratic checks on private interests' ability to manipulate financial and agricultural markets. The Bank of North Dakota, in particular, created a firewall against the destructive practices of Wall Street banks, a firewall that went on to protect the state from the worst effects of the financial downturns of the next hundred years.

Nearly a century later, in 2016, that same bank lent nearly $10 million to local law enforcement to fund their response to protests near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The millions in loans provided by BND allowed the police to double down on suppression of the Standing Rock Sioux's resistance to construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. They have used harsh detention measures, injury-causing rubber bullets, and water cannons in freezing weather in an effort to demoralize and disperse water protectors, whose chief political actions were praying and nonviolent civil disobedience.

North Dakota's leadership has bound the state's economy up so tightly in fossil fuels that it has forced itself to subsidize the security costs of energy companies. In fact, the energy industry has come to expect subsidization for its costs and easy externalization of its negative impacts.

A public bank created to empower small farmers and protect common people from outside interests was used to silence indigenous and environmental opposition to outside interests. How did this happen? And what's the takeaway for those who point to public banking as a key solution to breaking the power of Wall Street?

We Still Stand With Standing Rock

By Labor for Standing Rock - Labor for Standing Rock, December 14, 2016

Editor's Note: Many IWW members have been and continue to be involved with this mobilization. One of the three founders of Labor for Standing Rock is also a founder of the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus.

Labor for Standing Rock salutes the Water Protectors, whose courageous resistance has forced the Obama administration not to grant a final easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline to drill under the Missouri River.

We thank all those who have already joined us on the ground; helped purchase and deliver supplies to winterize Standing Rock camp; and organized support in their own unions and communities. We appreciate the thousands of military veterans whose recent presence has played a key role in fighting DAPL. This is what working class solidarity looks like.

Now, we must keep the pressure on until the Black Snake is dead and gone.

As indigenous activists point out: "This fight is not over, not even close. In fact, this fight is escalating. The incoming Trump administration promises to be a friend to the oil industry and an enemy to Indigenous people. It is unclear what will happen with the river crossing. Now more than ever, we ask that you stand with us as we continue to demand justice." http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/…/whats-next-wate…

While supporters are not being asked to come to Standing Rock at this time, the coalition "support[s] those who choose to stay, if they are able to live comfortably and self-sufficiently through a winter in the Great Plains." In addition, indigenous activists have asked Labor for Standing Rock to continue providing support for those who remain through the bitter winter.

In this context, we reaffirm that workers' rights are inseparable from indigenous rights. An Injury to One is an Injury to All! -- Mni Wiconi: Water is Life! There are no jobs -- or life -- on a dead planet; we need just transition and full employment to build a sustainable world.

Winterizing is Political

By Nickita Longman - Briar Patch, November 23, 2016

Organizing a camp takes all hands on deck. My recent visit to Oceti Sakowin Camp on Standing Rock reservation was no exception. While police surveillance of the camp goes round the clock, so does the tireless labour and work required to winterize the space with the impending cold.

The evening of November 20 marked perhaps the most violent attack of Standing Rock water protectors by militarized police to date: the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council estimated that 300 people were treated for injuries and 26 people were taken to hospital. Protectors at Standing Rock are resisting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is to cross the Missouri River just north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. It had previously been planned to cross the river north of Bismarck, ND, but it was rerouted to its current path after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined it would threaten municipal water wells.

Protectors defending the Missouri River from the pipeline are not unacquainted with weapons euphemized as “less-than-lethal”: rubber bullets, concussion grenades, and teargas. The most disturbing use of force against the brave souls who are protecting water in Sunday night’s attack was the militarized police’s abuse of water cannons in freezing temperatures. Unicorn Riot reported that a 13-year-old girl was shot in the face by law enforcement; two people suffered the effects of cardiac arrest. Many suffered from hypothermia. With winter quickly approaching, winterization and warmth in the camp is needed now more than ever.

The developed camp houses seven kitchens, a main meeting dome and a mess hall, a medic centre, art spaces, donations tents, two sacred fires, a carpentry shop, a school, and plenty of individualized sleeping quarters. All of these spaces require revamping for the coming cold. Often, that entails insulation and flooring, and indoor propane heating.

The prairie cold in North Dakota is harsh and biting, and many allies and visitors from more temperate climates can be unaccustomed to it. The winterization process is all the more urgent to ensure that all protectors – those from the prairies or elsewhere – are insulated from the elements.

Liam Cain, a trade unionist with LIUNA 1271/IWW EUC, understands that winterizing is part of the long haul resistance. “The folks staying for the winter are inspirational and determined, and coming from Wyoming I recognize the necessity of solid, weatherproof shelter to get through the bitter cold.”

Cain, who has a general background in construction and is also a representative of Labor for Standing Rock, knows firsthand of the efforts required for the winterization process. “We were buying things in bulk – 2×4s, plywood, fasteners, screws,” he explains. Cain went on countless supply runs to assist the process. “Our motive was just to plug in with the people already starting the work and help bridge the gaps.”

In my short time at the camp, I volunteered in a kitchen operated by an Indigenous woman named Rachel. The kitchen recently had insulated flooring installed with the help of Cain and others associated with Labor for Standing Rock, and moving and organizing her space was the next step in promoting a smooth functioning kitchen to put warm food in the bellies of the water protectors.

Resolution Against the Dakota Access Pipeline

Resolution passed by Railroad Workers United - November 2, 2016

Whereas, the  unprecedented  $3.78  Billion,  1,172-mile  Dakota  Access  Pipeline would carry over half a million barrels of dirty crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in  North  Dakota,  through  South  Dakota  and  Iowa  to  Illinois  to  connect  to  other pipelines bringing oil to the East Coast and the Gulf; and

Whereas, the  pipeline  is slated to pass through the tribal lands of Standing Rock Sioux  near  Cannon  Ball,  North  Dakota,  and  underneath  the  Missouri  River,  the main source of water for the tribe; and

Whereas, the  pipeline  is  slated  to  pass  under  the  Missouri  River  a  second  time before  passing  under  the  Mississippi  River,  a  total  watershed  coving  40%  of  the continental United States; and

Whereas, the pipeline has already disturbed the lives of millions of Americans; and

Whereas, millions  of  workers--including  many  union  members  and  their  their families--live in communities that are in thepath of the proposed pipeline; and

Whereas, the transport of heavy crude is particularly volatile, leading to 18.4 million gallons of oils and chemicals spilled, leaked, or released into the air, land, and waterways  between  2006  and  2014  in  North  Dakota  alone,  causing  death,  contamination of soil and water, and numerous types of disease; and

Whereas, scientists  have  warned  that  in  order  to  avoid  wide-scale,  catastrophic climate disruption, the vast majority of known remaining fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground; and

Whereas, people  engaged  in  protecting  their  land  and  water  have  been  brutally attacked by private security forces in both Iowa and North Dakota; and

Whereas, Native  Americans  and  other  activists  defending  their  land  and  water have  the  same  right  to  defend  their  land  and  engage  in  non-violent  protest  as workers who are protesting the actions of an unfair employer; and

Whereas, the  U.S.  Congress  has  repealed  the  ban  on  exporting  oil,  meaning  that the oil transported by the pipeline is likely to be sold overseas and not contribute to US energy independence; and

Whereas, we know that a very real threat to workers’ lives and livelihoods is the prospect of catastrophic climate change; and

Whereas pipelines  accidents,  such  as  the  recent  Helena,  Alabama  gas  pipeline explosion  which  killed  one  and  injured  five,  pose  a  threat  to  workers  and  their communities; and

Whereas, many  large  corporations,  and  especially  fossil  fuel  corporations,  have been  putting  profits  ahead  of  the  common  good  of  workers,  the  public,  and  the environment, and these corporations have been unjustly granted the constitutional  rights  and  powers of “person-hood”, diminishing  democracy and  the  voice  and power of the people; and

Whereas, numerous national and international unions have already passed resolutions against construction of the pipeline, including National Nurses United, the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Communications Workers of America, the United Electrical Workers, Service Employees International Union, and others; and

Whereas, these unions have an economic, environmental and racial justice strategy which has been employed to win membership strikes through broad base support by non-unionized workers and community members; and

Whereas, unions  in  support  of  Standing  Rock,  and  against  the  Dakota  Access  Pipeline  have  come  under  attack from reactionary unions who have engaged in the bad practice of collaborating with bosses, such as the virulently anti-union Koch Brothers; and

Whereas, Railroad  Workers  United  is  already  on  record  supporting  the  development  of  a  just  transition  plan  for

workers affected by fossil fuel elimination; and

Whereas, more long-term good paying jobs would be created by investing in sustainable energy infrastructure projects using already existing technologies while at the same time reducing greenhouse gases; and

Whereas, we support the rights of our union brothers and sisters building the pipeline to work in safe environments at jobs that are consistent with respect for the environment and the rights and safety of frontline communities;

Therefore Be  it Resolved, that we call upon the Federal Government to  make permanent the moratorium  on  construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline by revoking permits for construction issued by the Army Corps of Engineers; and

Be it Further Resolved, that Railroad Workers United calls on the labor movement to support a just transition to a renewable energy  economy  and  investment  in  the  construction  of a  nationwide sustainable energy  infrastructure that will address the growing threat of climate change and its consequent droughts, floods, fire, crop failure, species extinction and other dire consequences of global warming;

Be it Finally Resolved, Railroad Workers United urges all railroad craft unions and the rest of the labor movement to become actively involved in promoting a just transition to a sustainable alternative energy economy that protects the  environment and respects  the rights of all working people to good paying safe  jobs, human  rights and justice for all.

Berkeley Federation of Teachers Resolution in Support of Resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline

Resolution Passed ca. November 17, 2016, by the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, AFT local 1078

Whereas there is incontrovertible evidence that fossil fuel extraction and use is the main cause of global warming, which is an existential threat to humanity;

Whereas we Americans are painfully aware of the history of Native American dispossession and broken treaties, leaving native people in often impoverished reservations which have become prey to extractive industries, allowing only short-term profit but long term destruction to these areas;

Whereas recent statements by other unionists and the president of the AFL-CIO, of which the AFT is a part, have mislabelled protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) “environmental extremists” and “professional agitators” who “hold union members’ livelihoods and their families’ financial security hostage to endless delay.”;

Whereas these union leaders have also mischaracterized such pipeline jobs as “quality jobs,” when in fact they are temporary, unsustainable and highly dangerous and often deadly;

Whereas in fact the growth of the fossil fuel industry is incompatible with good union jobs, and more generally, there are no jobs on a dead planet;

Whereas we teachers of young people are interested in them achieving economic independence, being engaged with the wider world, and making sure they have a viable planet to live on and enjoy;

Whereas our own earned money, in the form of contributions to the California Teachers Retirement System (CALSTRS), is being invested in and thus supporting fossil fuel and extractive industries, and that teachers in California and across the US have been pressuring their retirement funds to divest from these industries;

Whereas more than a dozen other unions and labor organizations, including our own Alameda Labor Council and our sister local AFT 2121 in San Francisco have passed resolutions or offered support to the protest at Standing Rock;

Therefore, be it resolved:

That the Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT) stands in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the coalition of Native leaders and activists defending their cultural heritage, sacred grounds, right to protest, sovereign rights and right to clean water;

That the BFT call on the AFL-CIO to reverse its support of the Dakota Access Pipeline, reject the false “jobs vs. planet” paradigm, and advocate for real, sustainable and safe jobs that are compatible with the survival of all life on earth;

That the BFT call on the leadership of our state level organization, the California Federation of Teachers, and the directors of CALSTRS to heed the growing demand to divest our hard-earned pension money from any fossil fuel or extractive industries; and

That the BFT make a $500 donation to send a member to the frontline of the protest in North Dakota, or to contribute to their legal defense fund.

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