10 little-known facts about the Mackinac Oil Pipeline through the Great Lakes



Our Friends at SURF.org have a terrific online journal that posts important pieces about Great Lakes protections and conservation issues.

In June, Beth Wallace posted this piece that really brings the oil pipeline issue home to those of us that live in the Great Lakes.

Last June, the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council hosted a public symposium focused on hazards associated with the 61-year old Mackinaw pipeline and its relationship with Embridge tar sands oil transportation.

To prepare people for that meeting B. Wallace prepared the piece, 10 Little Known Facts About the Mackinac Oil Pipeline which we are pleased to link to here.

SUMMARY: 10) Two pipelines, not one, 9) Exports oil out of the U.S., 8) Carries tar sands oil, 7) spilled oil might not surface, 6) Suspends a sunken river, 5) Just increased in pressure, 4) Could have 700 crack features, 3) 640 miles of unknown pipeline, 2) Spill response plans will not work, 1) Line 5 has a history of failures.

In the coming days we will bring more stories about Embridge, oil transportation, and the Great Lakes.  What is going on in your community, we would like to know. Please use our comments section if you have any stories or links to stories that we should be paying attention to.


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Brazil Tops List in Assassinations of Land Reform Activists

Xavante indigenous activist Hiparidi Toptiro has been fighting to keep his tribe's protected forests, in Mato Grosso state, safe from farmers looking to expand their soy fields. Toptiro has bullet scars testifying to the dangers of sticking up for the environment in Brazil.  Credit Gerry Hadden/PRI

Xavante indigenous activist Hiparidi Toptiro has been fighting to keep his tribe’s protected forests, in Mato Grosso state, safe from farmers looking to expand their soy fields. Toptiro has bullet scars testifying to the dangers of sticking up for the environment in Brazil. Credit Gerry Hadden/PRI

A story by PRI reporter Gerry Hadden, distributed this week, details how 908 land-reform activists have been assassinated throughout the world between 2003 and 2012. Nearly half of those murders have taken place in Brazil.

What is it that makes Brazil the most dangerous place in the world to be an activist? You’ll find clues in the story of Guarabana Bay. The bay, just minutes from downtown Rio’s world famous beaches, is a study in pollution and filth. Dark sludge cakes the shoreline. Garbage floats everywhere. It’s so bad that some sailors set to compete here in the 2016 Summer Olympics are warning colleagues not to let this water touch their skin.

The sailors’ worries do not surprise local fisherman Sandy Anderson de Souza. He said he was out in his boat in 2001 when Brazil’s state-run oil giant Petrobas accidentally dumped 1.3 million tons of oil into the waterway. “There was so much oil it looked like there was no water at all,” he said during a recent tour of the coastline. “A year later we noticed that many species of fish were disappearing and we started to catalogue this. There are 46 species of fish and shrimp that are no longer here.”

The shoreline along Guarabana Bay, near Rio de Janeiro, is littered with debris and trash. The water in the bay itself is murky brown due to oils spills and other pollutants, activists say. That incident and several others, Anderson said, led him to tie up his boat to begin campaigning to save the bay. “Think about it,” he said. “If you put one drop of oil in a glass of water you can’t drink it. Imagine what those millions of liters did to the bay.”

Anderson says 13 fishermen became activists. Soon they began receiving threats. “Before we knew it, four of our leaders had been killed,” he said. Anderson lifts his shirt to show two scars he said were caused by bullets meant to silence him as well. He blames armed security groups working for Petrobas — a claim the company denies. What’s clear is that someone powerful wanted Anderson dead. They may still. This is why the Brazilian government has put him in a special “activist protection progam.” In other words, they’ve hidden him away.

The PRI report covers a study released by Global Witness entitled Deadly Environment which reports case studies in both Brazil and the Philippines, another hotbed of violence against environmental and land reform activists.

The Global Witness report characterizes the main drivers of the violence as land grabbing and unfair land distribution; mining and extractive industries; and illegal logging and deforestation.

Global Witness, an NGO, “campaigns for a world in which all can thrive without destroying the biosphere or each other.”






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Filed under Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Pollution

New World Resources Institute Report Links Conservation of Forests, Indigenous Communities, and Climate Action

Photo by Charlie Watson/Rainforest Alliance Frog Blog

Photo by Charlie Watson/Rainforest Alliance Frog Blog

A World Resources Institute Report Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change details how strengthening community forest rights is a significant factor in combating climate change.

Authors Caleb Stevens, Robert Winterbottom, Kate Reytar, and Jerry Springer analyze the growing body of evidence linking community forest rights with healthier forests and lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

An article on the Rainforest Alliance’s Frog Blog describing the report says

Millions of communities around the world depend on forests for their livelihoods and basic needs but lack the legal rights to manage them.  While governments currently claim ownership of most of the world’s forests, local communities who live in them have the most incentive to protect them. Indeed, the report shows that deforestation rates in areas where communities have strong land rights are considerably lower than in areas where they do not.

The Key Findings of the WRI report are:

  • When Indigenous Peoples and local communities have no or weak legal rights, their forests tend to be vulnerable to deforestation and thus become the source of carbon dioxide emissions
  • Legal forest rights for communities and government protection of their rights tend to lower carbon dioxide emissions and deforestation
  • Indigenous Peoples and local communities with legal forest rights maintain or improve their forests’ carbon storage
  • Even when communities have legal rights to their forest, government actions that weaken those rights can lead to high carbon dioxide emissions and deforestation
  • Communities can partially overcome government actions that weaken their forest rights


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Filed under Climate Justice, Forests, Indigenous Peoples

New PFPI Report: Climate of Deception exposes biomass industry greenwash

source: Biofuelwatch

McNeil Plant, Burlington, Vermont-source: Biofuelwatch

A just released report by Kelly Bitov and Dr. Mary Booth of the Partnership for Public Integrity (PFPI) persuasively argues that electricity consumers who care about the environment, global warming, and air pollution need Federal Trade Commission  (FTC) protection from biomass industry greenwashing. The report details how Biomass power companies make environmental claims that are, to say the least, misleading.

Rachel Smolker, co-director of Biofuelwatch, told Climate Connections that it makes sense that investors should be wary about funding biomass projects since the world is rapidly catching on to the hoax that it is “clean, green and C neutral” and policy makers are taking note.

 Read the full report, released on July 29, 2014 here.

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New World Bank ‘light touch’ rules abandon ecological protections, allow borrowers to opt out of indigenous rights


Villagers walk through recently cleared forest inside a HAGL rubber plantation in 2013. Source: Phnom Penh Post

Villagers walk through recently cleared forest inside a HAGL rubber plantation in 2013. Source: Phnom Penh Post

John Vidal of the Guardian recently reported on a leaked draft of the World Bank’s proposed new ‘light touch’ lending policies, weakening safeguards put in place after disastrous projects drew global criticism to it in the 1980s and 1990s.

According to Vidal, the new relaxed policies would allow for logging and mining in before protected areas as long as ecological “off-sets” are put in place and would not require consultation with indigenous peoples before projects like tree plantations or mega-dams begin on their land.

Moreover, Vidal writes,

Under the proposed new “light touch” rules, the result of a two year consultation within the bank, borrowers will be allowed to opt out of signing up to employment safeguards, existing protection for biodiversity will be shredded, countries will be allowed to assess themselves, and harmful projects are much more likely to occur…

Most shocking is the opt-out option on indigenous rights:

a proposed loophole for governments to opt out of applying the bank’s policy on indigenous peoples, jeopardising the rights of hunter-gatherer communities such as the pygmies of the Congo rainforest.

The Bank Information Center, a World Bank watchdog group, further explains the meaning of the proposed new policies.

On off-sets:

Meanwhile, the introduction of “biodiversity offsets” into previous “no-go” areas substantially weakens existing protections for critical natural habitats and protected areas, based on the shaky premise that destruction to these areas can be compensated or “offset” by agreements to preserve habitats elsewhere in perpetuity.

On gutted assessment:

The elimination of clear, predictable rules also appears to be a clear attempt by the Bank to avoid accountability for the negative impacts of projects that it funds.

Finally, the BIC writes:

As the World Bank asks us to trust them, the string of broken promises, the climate of secrecy in preparing the proposal, and an underfunded safeguard staffing structure in utter disarray, provide little reassurance that these policies will be implemented in an effective way to prevent negative impacts to project affected communities and the environment.

Safeguards are only as good as the institution itself: Even with these safeguards in place, the World Bank has backed projects that are ecologically and ethically unsound. The above photo, for example, comes from a story from April on an investigation of the World Bank funding illegal land grabbing. Other such stories can be easily found on Climate Connections.

Rather than ushering in a new period, these policies seem more like the real face of the Bank peeking through.





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Filed under Indigenous Peoples, World Bank

U.S Coal Exports are a significant part of Obama’s Climate Action Plan

Powder River Mining- Source Greenpeace USA

Powder River Mining- Source Greenpeace USA

A new report released by Greenpeace USA, Leasing Coal, Fueling Climate Change, reveals that the United States’ federal coal leasing program promotes more coal mining and exports, and has lead to 3.9 billion metric tons of carbon pollution since the beginning of the Obama administration and is equivalent to the 3.7 billion tons of carbon that was emitted in the entire European Union in 2012. The report questions the ability to reconcile the coal leasing and export program with the Obama Climate Action Plan.

According to the report:

Without major changes, the federal coal leasing program will continue to undermine federal, state, and international efforts to reduce carbon pollution; the BLM Wyoming office plans to lease over 10 billion tons of coal in the coming years, dwarfing the emissions reductions expected from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

The report comes to several startling conclusions including:

The carbon pollution from publicly owned coal leased during the Obama administration will cause damages estimated at between $52 billion and $530 billion, using the federal government’s social cost of carbon estimates.In contrast, the total amount of revenue generated from those coal leases sales was $2.3 billion.


A ton of publicly owned coal leased during the Obama administration will, on average, cause damages estimated at between $22 and $237, using the federal government’s social cost of carbon estimates – yet the average price per ton for those coal leases was only $1.03.

A July 28, 2014 post in DESMOG Blog by Steve Horn Greenpeace Report: Obama Administration Exporting Climate Change by Exporting Coal says that the policies represented by the coal development and exports

serve as major endorsements of continued coal production and export to overseas markets

and that

the report tackles the dark underbelly of a rule that only polices coal downstream at the power plant level and largely ignores the upstream and global impacts of coal production at-large.

The DESMOG article is full of jaw dropping statistics gleaned from the Greenpeace USA report and is an important read.

Other recent stories linked in the DESMOG report echo this theme. Read them here:

AP-July 28, 2014  Not in my backyard: US sending dirty coal abroad by Dina Cappiello

Rolling Stone-February 3, 2014  How the US Exports Global Warming by Tim Dickinson

Maclean’s June 10, 2014 America’s dirty secret  by Luiza Ch. Savage





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Orin Langelle responds to Rolling Stone article, “Green Going Gone: The Tragic Deforestation of the Chaco”

Orin Langelle, Board Chair, Global Justice Ecology Project

I am impressed to see attention being given to the Chaco region by Christine MacDonald’s Rolling Stone article.  I also witnessed some of the tragedy of the Chaco and Paraguay itself.

In 2009 I traveled to the Chaco with Dr. Miguel Lovera, my friend and the chairperson of Global Forest Coalition and part of the Ayoreo support group, Iniciativa Amotocodie.

Dr. Lovera became National Secretary for Plant Safety for Paraguay during Fernado Lugo’s presidency. In her article, MacDonald writes that “Lugo was swept from office in 2012 [by] an impeachment carried out by the Paraguayan Congress.” My colleagues in Paraguay would disagree with the term “impeachment.” To them it was a coup that forced Lugo out of office in 2012.

Because of the coup, Dr. Lovera lost his job as National Secretary for Plant Safety for Paraguay.  While National Secretary, Lovera was in constant battle with the soy mafia and tried to stop the introduction of GMO cotton. Lovera had armed guards in his home due to his ongoing campaign to stop GMOs. No doubt Paraguay’s agribusiness leaders and their friends at Monsanto celebrated the fact that Lovera was removed from office.

 When I was in the Chaco in 2009 it was evident that things were bad and were going to get worse.  One of the tragic realities is the ongoing hostilities against the indigenous Ayoreo People of the Chaco. I was invited by the Ayoreo community to photograph Campo Lorro, where some of the first Ayoreo People captured were sent when Mennonite farmers established settlements on their land.

Below is one of photos I shot in Campo Lorro for the photo essay “Sharing the Eye.”


There are still uncontacted Ayoreo living in the Gran Chaco. They do not want contact with “civilization” and wish to remain in their forest home. Today, however, cattle ranches, expansion of genetically modified soybean plantations for biofuels, hydroelectric dams and mineral exploitation threaten the forests of the Chaco.

The Rolling Stone article by Christine MacDonald definitely documents the ongoing tragedy of the Chaco. A subtitle in her article, “Animal Cruelty is the Price We Pay for Cheap Meat,” highlights the policies of US-based agribusiness giants Cargill Inc., Bunge Ltd., and Archer Daniels Midland Co.

Besides reading the Rolling Stone article, you can also see more from Global Forest Coalition on the negative impact of unsustainable livestock production in South America, the continent with the highest deforestation rates on earth: Redirecting Government Support for Unsustainable Livestock Production key to Biodiversity Conservation, Claim New Report and Briefing Paper.

Read the Rolling Stone Article:  Green Going Gone: the Tragic Deforestation of the Chaco, by Christine MacDonald

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Land Grabs, Photo Essays by Orin Langelle, South America, Uncategorized

GMO corn fails in Brazil; farmers blame Monsanto, Syngenta, etc.


corn-nightA long-time friend in Vermont, Chris Hendel, sent us this story from Reuters: BT corn seeds, hyped as being resistant to pests, have largely failed to do that in Brazil, and have led to bug resistant crops and greater farmer dependence on toxic chemicals.

This maps onto resistance identified in Iowa.

The Brazilian farmers, though, are going after the pesticide corporations.

According to Caroline Stauffer:

Producers want four major manufacturers of so-called BT corn seeds to reimburse them for the cost of spraying up to three coats of pesticides this year, said Ricardo Tomczyk, president of Aprosoja farm lobby in Mato Grosso state.

The companies involved are Dow, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta.

At the same time that farmers are fighting GMO corn in Brazil, timber corporation Suzano and their subsidiary Futuragene are seeking permission for the first ever GMO trees in Brazil–genetically engineered eucalyptus trees.

There is also an application pending here in the US to legalize highly toxic, flammable and water greedy GE eucalyptus trees for industrial plantations.

To support the effort to stop GE trees, sign our petition calling for a ban.

By Caroline Stauffer,  Jul 28, 2014.

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Genetically modified corn seeds are no longer protecting Brazilian farmers from voracious tropical bugs, increasing costs as producers turn to pesticides, a farm group said on Monday.

Producers want four major manufacturers of so-called BT corn seeds to reimburse them for the cost of spraying up to three coats of pesticides this year, said Ricardo Tomczyk, president of Aprosoja farm lobby in Mato Grosso state.

“The caterpillars should die if they eat the corn, but since they didn’t die this year producers had to spend on average 120 reais ($54) per hectare … at a time that corn prices are terrible,” he said.

Large-scale farming in the bug-ridden tropics has always been a challenge, and now Brazil’s government is concerned that planting the same crops repeatedly with the same seed technologies has left the agricultural superpower vulnerable to pest outbreaks and dependent on toxic chemicals.

Experts in the United States have also warned about corn production prospects because of a growing bug resistance to genetically modified corn. Researchers in Iowa found significant damage from rootworms in corn fields last year.

Read more here.

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Filed under Industrial agriculture, Uncategorized