Mass protests could follow approval for work on Line 3
“They have gotten their Standing Rock,” Winona LaDuke, founder of Honor the Earth, said after Minnesota regulators approved a proposal to replace Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 oil pipeline in Minnesota.
LaDuke vowed to challenge Enbridge using every regulatory means possible, as well as mass protests if needed.
“What I will tell you is we are not backing down,” LaDuke said. “We are here, we will stand here because we have been here for 10,000 years. We’re the home team, and we’re not going anywhere.”
She and others raised the threat of mass protests after the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted June 28 to award a certificate of need for the higher-capacity replacement line, as well as Enbridge’s preferred route, which crosses land covered by an 1855 treaty between the Anishinaabe people and the U.S. government.
Enbridge has said it needs to replace the pipeline because it’s increasingly subject to corrosion and cracking.
Enbridge president and CEO Al Monaca, in a statement June 28, said replacing Line 3 is “first and foremost about the safety and integrity of this critical energy infrastructure.”
And commissioners, during discussion before the vote, expressed concern for the deteriorating condition of the pipeline, which runs from Alberta, Canada, across North Dakota and Minnesota to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin.
Debate on replacement has focused on whether Midwest refineries need the extra oil, the environmental consequences of spills and tribal rights and resources.
Opponents say the pipeline, which will carry tar sands oil from the Athabasca River Basin in Alberta, risks spills in fragile areas, including where American Indians harvest wild rice. Ojibwe Indians, or Anishinaabe, consider wild rice sacred and central to their culture.
Native American leaders have threatened a repeat of the protests on the Standing Rock Reservation against the Dakota Access pipeline, in which Enbridge owns a stake. Those protests in 2016 and 2017 resulted in sometimes violent skirmishes with law enforcement and more than 700 arrests.
The environmental group Greenpeace, in a statement, said, “The powerful, indigenous-led movement against pipelines has stopped pipelines before and, together, we will do so again.
“Let this serve as a warning to the banks and companies backing these destructive projects: Oil pipelines that threaten water, violate indigenous rights and put the environment at risk of oil spills — including Line 3, Keystone XL and the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline — will continue to face growing resistance.”
Bill McKibben, co-founder of the 350.org environmental group, said, “For too many centuries the people who run America have ignored its original inhabitants and, for too many decades, they’ve ignored its climate scientists. Line 3 is an integral part of the global warming machine and with the leadership of indigenous peoples across the region we will keep fighting it.”
The strength of the opposition guarantees a court battle.
Enbridge has said it would continue to run Line 3 for at least 11 years if the commission rejected its proposal and that it can do so safely despite the pipeline’s accelerating maintenance needs.
Appeals of the commission’s decisions go to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The Minnesota Legislature also could intervene when it reconvenes next year.
In addition to the challenges from Native American and climate change activists, the Minnesota Department of Commerce found there is no need for the replacement line, determining the demand for oil and petroleum products will fall as people switch to electric cars and renewable energy sources.
Also, an administrative law judge, based on the testimony of more than 68,000 people, recommended against issuing a permit for a new route.
WiG writer Lisa Neff and AP writer Steve Karnowski contributed to this report.