TC Energy and the Encino-Topolobampo pipeline on Rarámuri ancestral territory in Mexico

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: PBI-Mexico accompanies CONTEC on a visit to the San Elías Repechique Forest community in August 2016.

Calgary-based TC Energy is currently building the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline without consent on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia.

This spring, the company plans to begin drilling under the Wedzin Kwa river considered sacred by the Wet’suwet’en peoples.

Photo: Canadian police raided Wet’suwet’en territory in November 2021 to enable construction of the TC Energy Coastal GasLink pipeline to continue.

TC Energy also owns five pipelines in Mexico that transport about 25 per cent of the natural gas consumed in the country.

One of those pipelines is the Encino-Topolobampo pipeline.

It was built on the ancestral territory of the Rarámuri in the Sierra Tarahumara in the state of Chihuahua without free, prior and informed consent.

The pipeline has the capacity to move 670 million cubic feet of natural gas a day from Texas through the mountains of Chihuahua to Mexico’s Pacific Coast.

When the San Elías Repechique Forests community opposed the project in February 2014, that created sufficient pressure for a consultation.

The Chihuahua-based human rights organization Technical Community Consultation (CONTEC) was one of the organizations that supported them.

Journalist Martha Pskowski writes that when the consultation began in November 2014, “Rarámuri communities voiced concerns that construction would impact their water sources, cause deforestation, and affect their farmlands.”

She adds: “The community of Repechike maintained that they wanted the pipeline route to be re-drawn so it would not cross their territory.”

By February 2015, the community decided to end the “dialogue” in this consultation process because TC Energy subsidiary Noreste Natural Gas Transporting corporation (TGNN) had not taken into consideration this request to redraw the pipeline route.

In a report about the consultation, CONTEC commented: “The logic of the state is to impose the project at the lowest social cost possible. That’s how the consultation is used as rhetoric, as discourse, without its real meaning.”

Pskowski notes: “[TransCanada] eventually agreed to modify the route to avoid Repechike’s territory. However, in other communities where construction started before the consultation got underway, it was impossible to turn back the clock.”

By December 2018, the pipeline was operational.

Pskowski further comments: “Experiences like the El Encino-Topolobampo pipeline have soured many Indigenous communities and human rights lawyers to the state-run consultation process.”

Now, TC Energy, the largest foreign investor in Mexico, has plans for another pipeline.

As of December 2021, the company was looking at a $4 billion-plus capital investment in a pipeline that would function as an extension of the Sur de Texas-Tuxpan pipeline. It also wants to have the Villa de Reyes pipeline fully in-service by mid-2022.

Both pipelines have been opposed by Indigenous peoples in Mexico.

Photo: In January 2020, Indigenous Otomi peoples in the town of San Pablito called for the TC Energy Tuxpan-Tula pipeline to be cancelled because it would cross the sacred hills of the Pahuatlán region in the state of Puebla.

The report Territories of water: defense of community areas and the shared history of their peoples (before the Tuxpan-Tula gas pipeline), can be downloaded here.

When the report was presented to the Regional Council of Indigenous Peoples in Defense of the Territory of Puebla and Hidalgo, the council “accepted and celebrated the document, and pledged to continue their fight, and eventually to establish links with the Wet’suwet’en communities that resist TC-Energy in Canada.”

The Peace Brigades International-Mexico Project has informally accompanied CONTEC since 2015. In February 2022, PBI-Mexico amplified and formalized that accompaniment due to the increased level of risk faced by the organization.

Photo: PBI-Mexico remembers Julian Carrillo, a Raramuri defender the Sierra Tarahumara who was murdered in October 2018. Pskowski has noted that his death and other acts of intimidations “discouraged some Rarámuri people from speaking out when the energy company TransCanada began building a natural gas pipeline through the area.”

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