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'It's all about the water': Speaker’s presentation in DL focuses on harmful effect of tar sands oil

White Earth educator and activist Dawn Goodwin spoke last Wednesday about oil pipelines and hydraulic fracturing at a special presentation hosted by St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Detroit Lakes. (Vicki Gerdes/Tribune)

Fossil fuels, tar sands, fracking, pipelines, oil production, oil spills... these are terms that have been part of the lexicon of U.S. and Canadian culture for decades now.

But it is only within the past decade that they have been featured prominently in regional news headlines — thanks in no small part to Enbridge's catastrophic, 1-million-gallon oil spill on the Kalamazoo River in 2010, and recent protests over construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

Dawn Goodwin, an activist and educator from the Rice Lake area of the White Earth Reservation, spoke on these issues this past Wednesday at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Detroit Lakes.

"When I was around seven years old, I started learning about water," Goodwin said, noting that even as a young girl, she was concerned about pollution and the effect it would have on the local water supply.

Though her father reassured her, noting that "there are laws to protect the water," she later learned that even federal laws like the Clean Water Act of 1972 could be circumvented — all that was needed was the right "loophole."

When Goodwin's sister moved to a community near the Bakken oil fields in 2004, she started learning about a process called "fracking," or hydraulic fracturing. Invented by Halliburton in the 1940s, Fracking involves using a pressurized liquid to create cracks in the deep rock formations inside an oil well, allowing natural gas and petroleum to flow to the surface more freely.

Though the liquid used for fracking is made up mostly of water, its exact composition is unknown, Goodwin said.

"They use terms like 'low temperature processing additives,' 'acidity modifiers' and 'bitumen emulsifiers,'" she said.

What is known, she added, is that some of the chemicals used are considered toxic.

"I thought, 'There's no way that this would not harm our water,'" Goodwin said.

As she began to educate herself about tar sands oil development and oil pipelines like Enbridge's "Alberta Clipper" and Line 3, Goodwin started taking a more active role, supporting organizations like Honor the Earth and the Indigenous Environmental Network.

"I've been involved in quite a few 'actions' over the years," said Goodwin, referring to organized protests like the one initiated by the Standing Rock Sioux over construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

She said there is a lot of information available out there for people who want to get involved — but they have to be careful about where they get that information, as some sources are far from reliable.

Goodwin said that she gets her information from sources like Honor the Earth (honorearth.org) and "alternative news" sites like Digital Smoke Signals (www.digitalsmokesignals.com).

One audience member, Bob Merritt, said that there are also some non-native organizations like Friends of the Headwaters and the Upper Mississippi Headwaters Coalition that are working toward the same goals.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 17 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454
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