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Protests After Permits for Line 3 Oil Pipeline Approved

Saint Paul, MN – The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) approved various permits for Enbridge’s Line 3 on Thursday, November 12, 2020, moving the Calgary-based pipeline replacement project closer to completion.

On Saturday, November 14, hundreds gathered outside of the Minnesota Governor’s Residence in Saint Paul to voice opposition to the ruling.

Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Pipeline is the largest project in the company’s history, and would be one of the largest crude oil pipelines in the continent, according to a statement on the company’s website. Line 3 is expected to transport up to 760,000 barrels a day through Northern Minnesota, passing through treaty territory and ending in Superior, Wisconsin.

Canada, North Dakota, and Wisconsin have all approved their segments of the pipeline.

Signs left on the walkway to the Governor’s Residence on November 14, 2020

Line 3 has been a hotly debated topic for several years, having both vocal supporters and opponents, citing climate change, job creation, safer transportation of crude oil, and tribal sovereignty.

In late 2017, as construction on Line 3 was started and resistance was heating up, Unicorn Riot took a trip up north to gather context as to why people were against the oil pipeline.

Current Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has previously commented on social media against pipelines, specifically because they pass through tribal lands, but at the time he made them, he was a state representative. He hasn’t since made public comments either supporting or opposing the Enbridge Line 3 project.

Community organizations, leaders, and tribes have all spoken against the pipeline.

As many people know, I have long expressed opposition to the Line 3 project and my position has not changed,” said Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan to Unicorn Riot in an email.

Flanagan is an enrolled member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, and is considered by many to be one of Line 3’s biggest opponents.

The Star Tribune reported that White Earth Band of Ojibwe Tribal Chairman Michael Fairbanks wrote a letter to MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop and asked the agency to deny permission of Line 3 citing that the activity will be a super-spreader for COVID-19.

The Governor’s inaction and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Laura Bishop’s recent decision, chose that this [decision] is not their place,” said Andy Pearson, MN 350’s Tar Sands Coordinator. “This issue will have more impact on climate than anything they’ll be able to address in their terms.

Today, MPR reported that the majority of Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s advisory group resigned in protest of MPCA’s Commissioner Laura Bishop’s approval for a key water quality permit that puts Line 3 closer to completion.

On Friday, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer filed a lawsuit to terminate Enbridge’s Line 5 easement, which has operated below the Straights of Mackinac since 1953. Whitmer said in a statement, “They [Enbridge] have repeatedly violated the terms of the 1953 easement by ignoring structural problems that our Great Lakes and our families at risk.

Speakers at Saturday’s march against Line 3 cited the current decision by Michigan’s Governor that denied Line 5—“water is life”.

Governor Walz is not listening to the science, and also that tribal sovereignty supersedes science,” said Nancy Beaulieu, MN 350’s Northern Chapter Coordinator, to the crowd over the telephone.

Because Line 3 passes through treaty land, it has significant impact on Native people,” added Pearson.

respect our treaties sign
Sign reading “Respect our Treaties” sat near a tree during the protest at the Governor’s Residence on November 14, 2020

To date, five Ojibwe bands have resisted the pipeline replace project in court: White Earth, Red Lake, Mille Lacs, Fond du Lac, and Leech Lake.

This pipeline equals the carbon emissions of 50 coal plants burning non-stop,” added Beaulieu, who’s also a member and citizen of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

According to a statement on MN 350’s website, oil transported through Line 3 is the equivalent of the total CO2 daily emissions of 16-18 million cars, every year the pipeline operates.

Towards the end of the two-hour event, the crowd of nearly 400 protestors against the permission of Line 3, were met with a pre-planned pro-Trump rally chanting, “Four more years!” and yelling their support for pipelines, while ridiculing the Line 3 protest. Along with a group wearing Proud Boys memorabilia, many waved Trump flags, carried assault rifle style weapons with alcohol in their hands and cited a fraudulent election, a claim that is being widely denied in courts and in media throughout the country, while shouting Recall Votes!

As construction is soon to begin in Northern Minnesota, resistance to the oil pipeline will continue. In turn, Northern Lights Task Force, the multi-agency commanded force that’s trained at Camp Ripley to quell Line 3 protests for years will undoubtedly be prepared, as many units had been deployed to Minneapolis during this summer’s protests against police violence and racism.

Niko Georgiades contributed to this report.


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