The end of fossil fuels is nigh. This week alone, we’ve seen three major pipelines get smacked TF up. First, a judge ordered the Dakota Access pipeline to be shut down and emptied of all crude oil in 30 days. Then, the Atlantic Coast pipeline was canceled due to its endless delays and increasing costs. Just hours after that, the Supreme Court upheld the rejection of a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. This comes after months of fossil fuel companies seeing their profits shrink and anxieties rise.
And this is only the beginning. Like I said, the end of fossil fuels is nigh.
Fossil fuels are not the hot commodity they once were. This is becoming true for fossil fuels of all types, not just the super dirty and expensive ones like coal or tar sands. Financial institutions and smart business leaders are realizing that fossil fuels have had their run, but the future is clean, renewable energy.
This week’s victories are in line with this trend, but they’re not only due to the changing market landscape. They’re a direct result of nonviolent direct action and incredible environmental activism that’s been led by people of color, especially Indigenous people. Environmental organizations have been pushing to end these projects for years now. Buoyed by this week’s wins, advocates from around the U.S.—and the world, really—have their sights set on other major oil and gas pipelines and projects that need to halt immediately.
“[These victories] signal the rising power of our movement, the climate justice movement,” Collin Rees, a senior campaigner with Oil Change U.S., told Earther. “It shows that when we fight, we win.”
There are a few pipelines—or as many indigenous groups call them, Black Snakes—that activists will be focusing their energy on in the coming years. A new world is on its way.
Jordan Cove is much more than a pipeline. The project involves a natural gas export facility that would sit on 240 acres along the Port of Coos Bay just south of Eugene, Oregon, as well as a 229-mile long pipeline that would move gas from south-central Oregon to the terminal. Pembina, a Canadian-based energy company, has been trying to push the Jordan Cove project forward since at least 2017 when it formally applied for its federal permit.
The Department of Energy just approved the project for exporting natural gas on Monday. However, officials with Oregon appear to be standing with opponents: It’s denied every state permit the project needs. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is on board with the project, but the state joined a lawsuit challenging its approval of Jordan Cove last month.
It’s. About. To. Go. Down.
The battle to stop Line 3 is going on for more than two years. Fossil fuel company Enbridge has pitched the project as a replacement of an older tar sands pipeline that rolls through Canada to Minnesota, but it actually is an entirely new pipeline on a new route. Many Indigenous-led organizers in the region have been working hard to stop the project, including through direct action. The pipeline is set to skirt tribal reservations and would tear through sacred wild rice fields, which is a traditional food for the Anishinaabeg people.
The Minnesota government has given Line 3 most of the permits it needs, but it’s still missing a few that could kill it once and for all. With public pressure mounting around fossil fuel infrastructure, opponents feel hopeful they can stop the project. Tar sands are increasingly less financially viable, and that might work to the benefit of opponents.
Another Enbridge darling, Line 5 would cut across Michigan. It connects to Enbridge’s networks of pipelines that help carry crude oil between Canada and the U.S. Line 5 is another “replacement” project that the company began back in 2017. The original pipeline is nearly 70 years old and in need of some updates, but Indigenous opponents want to see it taken out for good. In the past 50 years, it’s been responsible for at least 1.1 million gallons of oil spilled.
It’s definitely not doing the environment any good, and the state’s new leadership is adamantly opposed to the project. Attorney General Dana Nessel has been facing off with Enbridge in court and is trying to shut down Line 5 permanently.
With the Atlantic Coast pipeline in its grave, local advocates are shifting their sights toward the Mountain Valley pipeline. This gas pipeline is supposed to run 303 miles from West Virginia to southern Virginia. It runs just west from the Atlantic Coast pipeline’s route. The project hasn’t received as much attention as its neighbor to east, but organizers in the region are hoping to change that.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has supported the Mountain Valley pipeline, and it’s further along than others on this list. That means killing this one may not be as easy as the others. That doesn’t make it impossible, though. The project is over budget, facing construction delays, and the next target for local environmentalists. That sounds like a recipe to victory to me.
The Trans Mountain pipeline isn’t in the U.S., but it has faced intense opposition there and in Canada, where it’s being proposed, as Indigenous people stand in solidarity with one another. The pipeline would shuttle tar sands from Alberta to British Columbia, ending near Vancouver. The resulting increase in ship traffic would put waterways separating the U.S. and Canada at-risk from a spill.
The Canadian and Albertan governments, though, are dedicated to making this thing a reality. I mean, Canada bought the damn thing after developer Kinder Morgan was over it.
But if this doesn’t smell like a dying project, then I don’t know what does. Opponents are fiercely committed to keeping the pipeline out of Indigenous territories. Insurers are starting to drop coverage for the project after pressure from advocates. Even the United Nations has denounced it. The dirty tar sands project has no place in a future free of fossil fuels and pollution.
None of these do. RIP, Black Snakes. No one will miss you.