Indian Country Today

A controversial pipeline project in northern Minnesota is complete and oil is scheduled to start flowing this week.

Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline project will carry oil as soon as Friday despite months-long protests against it. The Canadian-based company’s president and CEO, Al Monaco, said in a statement that the pipeline “will soon deliver the low-cost and reliable energy that people depend on every day.”

The project was completed despite stiff opposition from tribes, environmentalists and others who argued that the 1,097-mile pipeline — including the 337-mile segment across Minnesota — would violate treaty rights, worsen climate change and risk spills in waters where Native Americans harvest wild rice.

It will carry oil from Alberta’s tar sands, a heavier crude that consumes more energy and generates more carbon dioxide in the refining process than lighter oil.

(Follow ICT's Enbridge coverage: A Pipeline Runs Through It)

The Indigenous Environmental Network said in a statement that the fight to stop Line 3 is “far from over, it has just shifted gears.”

“Do not think we are going quietly into the night, we will continue to stand on the frontlines until every last tar sands pipeline is shut down and Indigenous communities are no longer targeted but our right to consent or denial is respected,” the statement read.

 Winona LaDuke, a citizen of the White Earth Band of Anishinaabeg and executive director of Honor the Earth, vowed to continue the opposition.

"Line 3 is a crime against the environment and Indigenous rights, waters and lands, and it marks the end of the tar sands era — but not the end of the resistance," she said.

 In a statement, Camp Migizi promised to remain an open camp and to disrupt and stop pipeline work. More than 900 people have been arrested or ticketed at protests along the route since construction began in December.

“We ask that you remember us, as we will still be here, fighting to protect all that is sacred, even if they build line 3,” read the statement.. “Our community that we have built here will still remain, and we ask that you remember that just like all of the Indigenous communities we have come from we are still here, learning, fighting, and healing.”

The main remaining tasks are cleanup and restoration along the route, said Leo Golden, an Enbridge vice president in charge of the project. Some parts have already been restored with crops and native grasses growing on them, he said. But construction mats still need to be removed from wetlands and other cleanup work will continue through next summer.

Golden said officials do not expect to get the final sign-offs from landowners along the route until next summer.

Enbridge said the project was necessary to replace a deteriorating pipeline built in the 1960s, which could carry only half its original volume of oil, and to ensure the reliable delivery of crude to U.S. refineries. Enbridge expects to start running the pipeline at its full capacity of 760,000 barrels per day in mid-October.

Line 3 starts in Alberta, Canada, and clips a corner of North Dakota before crossing Minnesota en route to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. The Canadian, North Dakota and Wisconsin segments were finished earlier and the Canadian and Wisconsin legs are already in service.

Water protectors tour an Enbridge Line 3 construction site near Park Rapids, Minnesota, on June 6, 2021. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember/Indian Country Today)

The process of filling the line starts in North Dakota on Friday, Golden said. Enbridge puts the cost at $5.3 billion Canadian dollars for the Canadian section and $4 billion U.S. dollars for the work in the U.S.

Opponents have challenged the pipeline’s permits in court to no avail so far. They’ve also unsuccessfully sought to persuade Biden, who canceled a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline soon after taking office, to intervene.

(Related: 'Rights of nature' cases could bolster treaty guarantees)

A challenge is still pending in federal court to a permit granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but that case didn’t block construction. Opponents can still ask the state Supreme Court to review a clean water certification granted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Also, a novel “rights of nature” lawsuit is pending in the White Earth Ojibwe tribal court. It names Manoomin, or wild rice, as one of the plaintiffs. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has asked a federal appeals court to block the case.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report