Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Proposed Oil Refinery in Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation's Homeland


“There is a reason that a new oil refinery has not been built in our USA for over 30 years, no one wants these proven extremely toxic & polluting industries in their back yard!”

The Council of the Three Affiliated Tribe's (TAT), Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nations and TRIAD Project Corporation also known as Triad Engineers Limited, of Linden, Utah and Calgary, Alberta, Canada are pushing forward with the intent of building of a proposed oil refinery within the boundaries of the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota.

If this refinery is built, local tribal community members are concerned with the increased dumping of toxic contamination in the air and water from the proposed refinery. Information gathered by the tribal grassroots group, Environmental Awareness Committee (EAC) found the following information:

"The oil refining industry is the single largest source of Benzene emissions & one of the largest sources of air pollution in the United States. Their toxic emissions are found to cause cancer, neurotoxicity, reproductive toxicity, increased respiratory disease, decreased lung function, and premature death." (1)

“The petroleum refining industry releases & transfers over 600 toxic chemicals. The petroleum refining industry releases 75 percent of its total Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) poundage to the air, 24 percent to the water and 1 percent to the land.” (2)

"Petroleum refineries are proven to present major health hazards for human communities living near refineries and for aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems where they are situated." (3)

“The petroleum refining industries toxic air pollutants can have both chronic and acute health impacts on a large number of exposed individuals. For example, in 1995, EPA estimated that 4.5 million individuals living within 30 miles of oil refineries were exposed to benzene at concentrations that posed CANCER risks that were higher than the Clean Air Act’s acceptable risk threshold. The Maximum risk for individuals exposed to benzene from oil refineries was 180 times higher than the acceptable risk threshold.” (4)

The tribal grassroots group EAC found information that reports that refineries use thousands of gallons of water every day for their process and cooling activities and generated wastewater is often dumped daily into rivers, streams, lakes and holding ponds that often leak endangering people who utilize the waters for drinking and recreational purposes, to fish, and effecting the ecosystem and aquatic life. They report that according to the Region 8 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's fifteen page "Notice of Intent" comment letter on the Three Affiliated Tribes proposed refinery, dated February 12, 2004, it says, “It is not possible to operate a petroleum refinery without some releases of pollutants to surface waters and groundwater. Groundwater and soil under the refinery will eventually become contaminated with petroleum and other chemicals.”

EAC working with groups like the Refinery Reform Campaign find that refineries throughout the country pose threats of chemical disaster to neighboring communities, because they use, release and store tons of deadly chemicals at their facilities. They are concerned that these threats are ever-increasing reality to the facility workers and neighboring communities alike. Accidents including chemical spills on site and off, through transfers, transportation, explosions, fires and toxic releases continue to injure and kill workers and sicken hundreds of people who live near oil refineries. This happens even though people who work for the refineries are trained in all aspects of the prevention of such occurrences.

EAC is concerned that "The people of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nations and of the surrounding area are all already living and dying with the devastating, adverse effects imposed upon our health & well being by the existing multiple polluting stressors of several coal/lignite power plants, the USA’s first coal gasification plant, coal mining, oil wells, the states existing oil refinery, and farm land herbicide/pesticide use, and we all agree that the proposed refinery's toxic effects to human and environmental health and well being can not be and will not be tolerated or accepted. The incidence of asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and many other chronic health conditions, diagnosis and associated death is of already extreme number amongst the Indian and non-Indian alike. Health care needs and existing emergency services are also extremely lacking and unmet", says EAC tribal members.

EAC is concerned that mercury contamination of the fish in North Dakota is already to such a degree that Fish Consumption Advisories have been issued by the North Dakota State Department of Health. This is a result of coal fired power plants surrounding the Three Affiliated Tribes' reservation.

"We, the Environmental Awareness Committee, Save Our Sacred (S.O.S) Earth Campaign, of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nations people have great concerns of the unacceptable, expected, immediate, and bio-accumulative devastation that the proposed refinery processes and emissions would bring to the health and well being of the children and their developing bodies, the future generations, "all our relatives", of which encompasses all life, including the Living Air-the Sacred Breath of our Creator, the Living Sacred Waters-the life's blood of the earth of which sustains all life and the Living, Sacred Earth-our Mother, whom nurtures and sustains us. There is a reason that a new oil refinery has not been built in our USA for over 30 years, no one wants these proven extremely toxic and polluting industries in their back yard!"

"We have also come to realize that the intended feed stock of the proposed refinery is a product of the tar sands in Canada. Not only would our tribal council be imposing a sort of self-imposed toxic genocide upon our people, the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nations, but we are horrified to realize that we will in effect, also be contributing to the toxic genocide of our indigenous relatives to the North of us, the people of Dene, Cree, and Metis Nations, and to the irreversible devastation to their homelands and their subsistence way of life."

EAC is supporting clean renewable energy as an alternative to the polluting and global warming contributing emissions that could come out of the proposed refinery. EAC says there are other means of economic development available that are non-polluting. There is tremendous wind energy potential. EAC reports that the Department of Energy estimates that the wind resources of the Great Plains could meet 75 percent of the electricity demand in the contiguous 48 states.” (5)

EAC and IEN know that the Tribal Nations of the Great Plains could be on the forefront of this development. EAC says that global warming, greenhouse and toxic emission pollutions and depleting oil reserves, necessitate action for the entire world to reduce its dependence on non-renewable, polluting energy sources (oil, coal, etc.) and expand upon the development of our non-polluting alternative energy resources and the potential of wind, solar and hydrogen fuel cells.

(1) The Special Investigations Division, Committee on Government Reform, House of Representatives report: "Oil Refineries Fail to Report Millions of Pounds of Harmful Emissions." Dated: November 10, 1999.
(2) EPA Profile of the Petroleum Refining Industry
(3) The Center for Health and Global Environment, Harvard Medical School report, "Oil-A life cycle analysis of its health and environmental impacts." Dated: March 2002
(4) www.thomas.loc.gov
(5) EPA, Regulatory Impact Assessment for the Petroleum Refinery NESHAP

For more information contact:
Environmental Awareness Committee, Save Our Sacred (S.O.S) Earth Campaign
Jodie White 701-743-4589 ljwhite@restel.net or earth_sky_2003@yahoo.com or
Kandi Mossett, IEN Campus Climate Challenge, iencampusclimate@igc.org


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