Line 3 pipeline resistance continues as activists call on Biden administrator to shut down project


Opposition to the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota has peaked in recent weeks, with the project nearing completion. Environmentalists, Hollywood celebrities and Democratic lawmakers have called on the White House to intervene at the last minute, arguing that the risk of a potential spill is too great and that tribal sovereignty has been violated.

If completed and fully operational, the Line 3 pipeline will be able to transport 760,000 barrels of Canadian oil per day from North Dakota to Wisconsin. Most of the opposition has been concentrated about 337 miles from the Minnesota pipeline that crosses dozens of bodies of water, including near the start of the Mississippi River.

Hundreds of people have been arrested during protests around the pipeline.

“The main concern is a spill. It crosses so many rivers that if there was a spill at a river site, the whole stream would be contaminated… our ecosystems would never recover, ”Sam Strong, secretary of the Red Lake Nation, told ABC News.

More than 50 cities depend on the Mississippi for their daily water supply, according to the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service.

“This is one of the most pristine lands in all of the United States, one of our national treasures, and they chose to run this pipeline directly into these headwaters. Who makes these decisions? ” he said.

The company that builds the Line 3 pipeline, Calgary-based Enbridge Inc., said the pipeline is actually safer for the surrounding area than the old pipes it replaces. The EPA and the Department of Justice ordered the company to replace aging lines in 2017 and Enbridge communications director Mike Fernandez said they had taken several steps to limit the impact on sensitive ecosystems around the new lines, in particular by using thicker materials and engineered lines. to go further below the areas that feed the Mississippi.

“This is a six-year, science-based regulatory legal process where everything has been tested,” Fernandez told ABC News in an interview.

But the construction was not without problems. On Friday, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fined Enbridge $ 3.3 million for “unauthorized appropriation of groundwater.” aquifer and released millions of gallons of groundwater as the state grapples with a drought.

The Red Lake Nation has joined the Ojibwe Tribe White Earth Band, Honor the Earth, the Sierra Club and others in a number of lawsuits to try to stop the project, but the courts in Minnesota sided with the state and Enbridge Energy, the owner of the pipeline, in the long licensing process. [LINK?]

A federal court in DC has yet to rule on a lawsuit arguing that permits for the project issued by the Army Corps of Engineers should be reassessed.

The Justice Department, so far, has defended the Corps, and the White House has deflected questions, citing the case. Activists argue that the president and his team could, if they so choose, take a more active role and ask the Corps to conduct further impact studies.

“President Biden took decisive action on day one in office to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline protecting the cultural resources, lands and water of tribal nations along the route. Now President Biden, Jaime Pinkham [Acting, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works] and the US Army Corps of Engineers has full authority to shut down these pipelines until a proper assessment of the dangers they pose is complete, ”a group of tribal leaders wrote on Friday.

The project started as a replacement. Enbridge was tasked in 2017 by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice to replace the failing old pipeline. The company said the new hoses are designed to be safer for the surrounding area.

“This is a six-year regulatory, legal and scientific process where everything has been tested,” Enbridge communications director Mike Fernandez told ABC News.

Those protesting the pipeline, however, balk at the idea that it was simply a matter of modernizing the pipelines. After all the permits, mapping and debate, the new pipeline now takes a route that is a third new one, and the pipeline will be able to carry nearly double the amount of oil, according to Enbridge and official documents.

Tribal sovereignty issues

Fernandez said the new route was proof that the tribes were consulted in the process, as the line was adjusted around certain landmarks and tribal boundaries. A few local tribes have agreed to work with Enbridge Energy and allow the pipeline to cross their lands. Others, however, have prepared for the pipeline to cross land they claim without their permission.

“We can say that there were consultations or conferences with our tribes, but in the end those words, feelings, thoughts were not taken into account when making the decision. And so to me, that seems very insincere, ”Minnesota State Senator Mary Kunesh told ABC News during a Labor Day weekend protest rally in Bemidji, in the United States. Minnesota. She said she saw echoes of Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline debate.

After writing to the White House on several occasions asking President Joe Biden to intervene, Representative Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Brought several of her fellow Democrats to her home state to meet with the “protectors of the ‘water’, like many members of the opposition. call themselves.

Earlier this month, the Ojibwe Tribe White Earth Band took a new case to tribal court, listing wild rice as the main plaintiff and claiming that nature itself has a right to exist and is threatened by this project.

Emissions reduction targets and energy future

Biden hosted a second global climate change summit on Friday and urged his counterparts to set aggressive benchmarks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Yet climate scientist Heidi Roop, a professor at the University of Minnesota, said it was hard to imagine the president meeting his own emissions targets with a new pipeline like this bringing more oil to market. .

“The new pipeline is designed to transport approximately 760,000 barrels of oil per day. If we look at the emissions associated with burning that amount of fuel, that translates to roughly about 38 million, the equivalent of 38 million cars on the road. Every year, about 45 coal-fired power plants burn, ”Roop told ABC News.

“If we only consider the consequences for climate change, investments in fossil fuel infrastructure that will increase our capacity to consume fossil fuels, which are the root cause of global warming, are pointing us in the wrong direction.” Roop continued. “If we want to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. We need to start looking at other tools in our toolbox that will support and sustain society. “

Fernandez said Enbridge wanted to be part of the transition to an energy future based more on cleaner energy, but argued that there was still a high demand for oil.

To complicate the debate on this particular pipeline, the exact type of Canadian oil Line 3 is designed to carry: the tar sands. A heavier oil that requires significant energy for both extraction and refining, the tar sands are considered one of the dirtier options.

“So the question is, are we going to have the same demand for oil in 2015, if we have it in 2021, and I don’t think that is the case”, Arvind Ravikumar, expert in climate impacts and energy infrastructure and partner . professor at the University of Texas – Austin, told ABC News. “Therefore, when we think about building these new pipelines, we have to think not only about the climate impacts of the oil that will flow tomorrow, but whether this fossil fuel infrastructure is needed for the next 30 years.

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