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Exploitation of Indigenous Culture Enriches Gas Corporation in Connecticut

Martha Klein, RN, MPH

September 2023

TC Energy is a multinational fossil fuel corporation. Among its massive holdings of 58,000 miles of pipeline are the Keystone, Columbia Gas, the Canadian Mainline and many others, delivering 25% of fracked gas used in the United States. It owns 50% of an interstate gas pipeline that passes through Connecticut before reaching its terminus in Commack and the Bronx, New York (Berkshire Hathaway Energy owns the other 50%). TC Energy intends to increase the gas capacity of this pipeline by expanding four compressor stations along the pipe’s route. Connecticut and the city of Milford have already indicated their approval of this fracked gas expansion; Brookfield has indicated provisional approval. 

 

The name of the impending project on this line is “Expansion by Compression” (ExC). The title that TC Energy uses for the pipeline itself is a French name for a New York and Canadian tribe who refer to themselves as Haudenosaunee, which means People of the Longhouse. The Brookfield compressor station actually lies at the intersection of two interstate fracked gas pipelines, TC Energy and Enbridge, another pipeline that appropriates Indigenous culture. The corporate, for-profit names of these pipelines are “Iroquois” and “Algonquin” respectively. Why should we care that for-profit, extractive companies use an appropriated tribal name for their pipelines? Does exploitation have real world impacts? 

 

TC Energy’s asset map shows its holdings are located largely on Indigenous lands in Canada, and in economically challenged areas of the mid-Atlantic United States. One recent project called the Coastal Gaslink (CGL) is located on unceded Indigenous lands, the Wet’suwet’en First Nations tribal homeland around the Bulkley River, British Columbia in Canada (Wetʼsuwetʼen First Nation). This gas pipeline is intended to connect to a proposed floating liquified natural gas (FLNG) facility called Cedar Link that is to be built in the pristine coast region of northwest British Columbia in the Kitimat district (TC Energy Operations Maps). 

 

To have a better understanding of how TC Energy treats Native peoples and their territories, see the pictures below, sent to us courtesy of the Unist’ot’en Healing Center. The name of the Wet’suwet’en tribe means “People of the Wa Dzun Kwuh (Bulkley) River”. The people’s identity is entwined with the natural world that sustained them. Gosnell Creek is featured below. 

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It seems inconceivable that any company would simply abandon trucks, trailers and tanks to the melting river. Yet that is what TC Energy/CGL did, despite receiving six court ordered stop work orders in two weeks. In spite of ongoing legal action and direct protest by Wet’suwet’en people, their land and rivers are being destroyed while they endure daily surveillance and harassment by guards hired by TC Energy to monitor residents and protestors. To learn about the environmental damage caused, read this: URGENT: CGL CAUSES HEARTBREAKING DAMAGE TO OUR RIVERS.  

 

Back in Connecticut, we need to think critically about what it means to allow extractive exploiters to maximize profits here. When a company such as TC Energy demonstrates total disregard for the territories and rights of Indigenous tribes, yet continues to use tribal names for their fossil fuel projects, we should be suspicious. Cultural appropriation and greenwashing at the expense of Native people’s lives and language is theft and fosters the disrespect demonstrated by energy profiteers. Fossil fuels companies use greenwashing frequently; we’ve all heard the promises to move to “decarbonization” while these same companies continue to increase the carbon they extract, transport, sell and burn. Companies like TC Energy destroy culture at the same time as they destroy rivers, people’s sovereign land, the ecosystem, and the climate. They make a lot of money which funds this destruction. 

 

Desecration of homelands combined with legal harassment has become fossil fuel companies' modus operandi, because they encounter resistance wherever they go. The majority of people in North America want to get off fossil fuels and transition to a modern renewable energy system. Virtually all of the younger generations are knowledgeable and concerned about the effects of continuing to extract and burn fossils. The planet is burning and we can all smell the smoke. It is impossible for greenwashing to wash away the fear we feel about killing the earth that gives us life. 

 

Sierra Club Connecticut opposes the fracked gas expansion in Connecticut, and is organizing with residents from Brookfield and Milford to stop the Expansion by Compression project. We invite you to join us in this journey to fight for a livable future. Contact Nick Katkevich or Sam Dynowski to learn about actions to take to oppose ExC.


Martha Klein, former CT Chapter Chair, is a nurse and anti-racist climate movement builder.  

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