Water protectors, supporters oppose Line 3 pipeline
Mary Annette Pember
Correction: Photos are courtesy of Ginew Collective not Keri Pickett
Native and non-Native activists organized the Digital Rally to Stop Line 3 on Dec. 9 to inform people about the progress of the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline in Northern Minnesota and offered ways to take part in digital actions opposing construction of the controversial pipeline.
Construction on the $2.6 billion pipeline started about a week ago in rural Aitkin County. Those who oppose the project are occupying trees, chaining themselves to construction equipment and praying near pipeline worksites.
Two people have been arrested and charged with damaging construction property after locking themselves to equipment, according to Tara Houska of Ginew Collective.
Ginew Collective is an activist organization formed during the course of the Line 3 project. Organizers focus on defending the land, teaching people how to gather and grow their own food and training them to safely engage in direct actions against the pipeline project, said Houska of Couchiching First Nation.
Opposition to the project is gaining momentum as people set up camps and gather along the pipeline route.
“The future is not about fossil fuels,” said Winona LaDuke during the digital rally. “The future is about renewable energy and local foods; the future is about laws and justice and what we call the green revolution.”
LaDuke, White Earth Nation, is a long time environmental Indigenous activist and founder of Honor the Earth.
Enbridge finally received the last necessary permit to begin work replacing its aging Line 3 pipeline after six years of regulatory review.
Line 3 travels south from Canada, then east through Northern Minnesota and merges with Line 5 in Wisconsin and on to Michigan. The pipelines are part of Enbridge’s U.S. Mainline system carrying Canadian tar sands oil.
Enbridge, partial owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline, is the largest pipeline company in North America.
Indigenous, environmental and citizen groups have fiercely opposed Line 3 through lawsuits and regulatory fights throughout the six-year process. They maintain that pipeline construction will damage and pollute fragile waterways and any leaks or spills will damage wild rice and other ecosystems in the region. Moreover, opponents say that the pipeline represents an antiquated commitment to fossil fuels that contributes to climate change.
The Red Lake Nation, White Earth Nation, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Headwaters and Honor the Earth filed a lawsuit with the Court of Appeals challenging the most recent Enbridge permit from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, raising concerns about risks to wetlands and water quality.
Red Lake and White Earth recently asked the Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission to temporarily suspend pipeline construction until state courts rule on appeals. The tribes’ motion was voted down, however, by the Commission.
“The first thing we need to do is accept we cannot keep building fossil fuel infrastructures,” said Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar during the digital rally.
“Enbridge has presided over some of the worst pipeline catastrophes in our nation’s history including the devasting Kalamazoo river disaster (in Michigan), the largest inland pipeline spill in history,” she said.
According to Enbridge, the Line 3 and Line 5 projects are intended to replace existing, aging pipelines that were built in the 1960’s and are no longer safe to carry the load of tar sands oil.
The projects, however, are not really replacements according to Andy Pearson, MN350 tar sands organizer.
“They want to put the pipeline in a different place, a corridor where there aren’t any Enbridge pipelines through hundreds of wetlands and prime wild rice watersheds,” Pearson said during the rally.
Dr. Laalitha Surapaneni of Physicians for Social Responsibilities also questioned Enbridge’s plan to bring in more than 4,000 people from out of state to work on Line 3 during a pandemic. She and other health care professionals signed a petition urging Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz to suspend the project as a means to mitigate spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“There is no way to safely build a pipeline during a pandemic,” Dr. Surapaneni said.
Speakers at the digital rally chastised Walz for failing to stop the pipeline project. On Dec. 3, Walz told reporters that since Line 3 has undergone extensive review and permits have been vetted and granted, governors should not stop projects but rather rely on the state’s process.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered Enbridge’s easement with the state for the Line 5 project through the Straits of Mackinac be revoked, giving the company until May 2021 to shut down the project.
Enbridge filed a federal complaint seeking an injunction of Whitmer’s order.
During the digital rally, organizers encouraged attendees to tweet their opposition to Line 3 to President-elect Biden and Walz.
They also asked people to participate in a “phone zap,” by calling the governor’s office as well as the Minnesota Department of Health to voice their opposition to the pipeline.
LaDuke ended the rally by inviting people to travel north in support of water protectors opposing the project.
The Digital Rally to Stop Line 3 was organized by MN350, the Ginew Collective, the Sierra Club, Honor the Earth and Stop the money pipeline.
Mary Annette Pember, citizen of the Red Cliff Ojibwe tribe, is national correspondent for Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @mapember. Based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Pember loves film, books and jingle dress dancing.
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