What we know about TC Energy pipelines in Mexico

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: On October 14, 2023, Wet’suwet’en and Otomi land defenders marched together in Toronto in opposition to the construction of TC Energy pipelines on their territories.

This is a brief overview of what we have compiled about Indigenous opposition to Calgary-based TC Energy gas pipelines in Mexico:

The Encino-Topolobampo pipeline

When the Indigenous Raramuri forest community of San Elías Repechique opposed the construction of this pipeline in February 2014, that created sufficient pressure for a consultation.

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.”

She also highlights that the murder of Raramuri land defender Julian Carrillo on October 24, 2018 “discouraged some Rarámuri people from speaking out when the energy company TransCanada began building a natural gas pipeline through the area.”

By December 2018, the pipeline was operational.

When Mariana Azucena Villarreal Frías of the Network in Defense of Indigenous Territories of Sierra Tarahumara (REDETI) was in Ottawa this past October, she highlighted that the massive pathway of the underground pipeline on Raramuri territory continues to be deforested so that the roots of the trees don’t impact the pipeline.

Photo: Mariana Azucena Villarreal Frías of REDETI, along with Manuel Jabonero of PBI-Mexico, spoke about the ongoing impacts of the Encino-Topolobampo pipeline when she visited Ottawa on October 24-27, 2023.

The Tuxpan-Tula pipeline

TC Energy is also building the Tuxpan-Tula pipeline resisted that is being resisted by Otomi, Nahua and Tepehua communities grouped together as the Regional Council of Indigenous Peoples in Defense of the Territory of Puebla and Hidalgo.

In March 2017, Mongabay reported that the Indigenous Otomi community of San Pablito in the state of Puebla “points out that this megaproject of the TransCanada company threatens the sacred places of the Otomi people, but also the groundwater, the collection of water from the subsoil and therefore the recovery of water sources.”

That article explains the Tula pipeline threatens the “unique ecosystem” of the Mesophilic Forest and the Cerro del Brujo in San Pablito, a hill that is a source of water that “besides being totally drinkable, is considered sacred and with healing powers.”

By January 2020, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stated: “Although we have to pay, the pipeline will not pass through the sacred hills.” But because the pipeline continues to put communities at risk, the Regional Council of Indigenous Peoples said it “will maintain the demand for cancellation of the project.”

In July 2021, Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng visited the TC Energy office in Mexico City and tweeted about “the community-centered business approach of TC Energy, the largest Canadian investor in the country.”

By August 2021, Reuters reported on a new pact between Mexico’s state power utility (the Federal Electricity Commission/ CFE) and TC Energy to “step up efforts to help TC Energy complete the Tuxpan-Tula pipeline after work stalled over concerns the project would cut across lands local communities consider sacred.”

In April 2023, the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) confirmed the intention to complete the pipeline. As of June 2023, efforts to complete the construction of the pipeline appeared to be moving ahead despite continued opposition.

Photo: On January 19, 2022, PBI-Mexico accompanied the National Meeting of Struggles against Gas Pipelines and Death Projects where the Regional Council expressed their opposition to the Tuxpan-Tula pipeline.

The Sur de Texas pipeline

The Sur de Texas pipeline takes fracked gas from the city of Brownsville in southern Texas to the city of Tuxpan in the Mexican state of Veracruz.

This pipeline is currently in operation.

The Southeast Gateway pipeline

The Southeast Gateway (aka Puerta al Sureste) pipeline would also begin on land in Tuxpan and continue across the ocean and flow to Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz and the refinery in Dos Bocas, Paraiso, Tabasco. Greenpeace Mexico confirms that “this new pipeline would be the extension of the Sur de Texas-Tuxpan gas pipeline”.

This pipeline is opposed by the Union of Indigenous Communities from the North of the Isthmus (UCIZONI).

This past February, La Jornada Veracruz reported that campesinas, Indigenous peoples and environmental groups protested in Sierra de Santa Marta against this pipeline “to demand an end to the criminalization and persecution of their leaders. …The activists [also expressed concern that] a great campaign has been deployed to militarize the towns that are within the Interoceanic Corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (CIIT).”

Mexico News Daily has reported: “The so-called Interoceanic Corridor will include 10 new industrial parks across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec — the narrow ‘waist’ of southern Mexico between Salina Cruz, Oaxaca and Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz.”

Greenpeace Mexico has also explained that the Southeast Gateway pipeline “will seek to connect this infrastructure [the Sur de Texas pipeline] with megaprojects such as the Dos Bocas refinery, the Mayan Train, two combined cycle plants in the Yucatan Peninsula, the liquefaction terminals of Salina Cruz and Coatzacoalcos, all this with the aim of exporting liquefied gas to the Trans-Isthmus industrial corridor, as well as to Europe and Asia.”

On TC Energy beginning construction of the Southeast Gateway pipeline this past May, Carlos Beas Torres of UCIZONI commented: “We are witnessing this Canadian company threaten the Laguna del Ostion estuary, in the south of the state of Veracruz.”

Photo: Carlos Beas Torres of UCIZONI, along with Margherita Forni of PBI-Mexico, spoke about his concerns of the Southeast Gateway pipeline on a PBI-Canada-organized webinar, September 21, 2023.

We continue to follow the implications on Indigenous rights and community rights of these TC Energy pipelines in Mexico – as well as the TC Energy Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia. We are particularly attentive to the deployment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG) against land defenders.

Video: RCMP C-IRG officers smash down a door and arrest land defenders at gunpoint on November 19, 2021.

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