June will be a critical month for Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 pipeline as the company resumes construction and opponents rally for large-scale protests and civil disobedience.
Leading opponent Winona LaDuke, founder of Indigenous environmental group Honor the Earth, said she expects thousands from across the state and country to join the protests along the way. in northern Minnesota.
The two sides are also awaiting a major ruling from the Minnesota Court of Appeals in June on a legal challenge by environmental and tribal groups seeking to overturn approval of the project by state regulators. Opponents are also hoping Democratic Governor Tim Walz and President Joe Biden will intervene.
“I expect that unless Walz stops the project, over 1,000 people will be arrested,” LaDuke said.
Line 3 carries Canadian crude from Alberta. It cuts a corner of North Dakota on its way through northern Minnesota to the Enbridge terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. Enbridge says the 1960s pipeline is deteriorating and can only operate at about half of its original capacity. He says the new line, made of stronger steel, will better protect the environment while restoring capacity and ensuring reliable deliveries to US refineries.
The replacement segments of Canada and Wisconsin already transport oil. The Minnesota section is about 60% complete as a construction hiatus scheduled for the spring thaw ends on June 1. Enbridge plans to complete the work and bring the line into service in the fourth quarter, said Mike Fernandez, director of communications for the Calgary-based company. .
This adds to the urgency for opponents, who are organizing a “rally of the peoples of the treaty” for June 5 and 8 and are preparing for mass arrests. More than 250 “water protectors” have already been arrested since major construction work began in December.
Opposition claims that the replacement pipeline, which would carry oil from the Canadian tar sands and regular crude, would worsen climate change and risk dumping in sensitive areas where Native Americans harvest wild rice, hunt, fish, gather plants. medicinal plants and claim treaty rights.
“We will come together in northern Minnesota to put our bodies on the line, to stop construction and tell the world that the time for oil sands pipelines is over,” the organizers say on their website. “Only a major, nonviolent uprising – including direct action – will propel this issue to the top of the nation’s consciousness and force Biden to act.”
More than 300 groups delivered a letter to the Biden administration on Thursday calling on the president to order the Army Corps of Engineers to suspend or revoke Enbridge’s federal permit for drinking water for the project.
“Due to the urgency of the climate crisis and the fact that indigenous leaders did not consent to the Line 3 project, large-scale non-violent civil disobedience is now being organized for early June along the route of the pipeline. of line 3 “, they warned the President.
They urged Biden to follow the example he set on day one of his administration, when he canceled the contentious Keystone XL pipeline over climate change concerns.
Biden hasn’t taken a position on Line 3, while Walz lets the court process unfold. The Biden administration refused to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline, which is owned by another company and was the subject of major protests near the Standing Rock Reservation in the Dakotas in 2016 and 2017. In Michigan, Enbridge is defying an order of democrats. Governor Gretchen Whitmer must close his Line 5 due to the risk of a spill in a channel connecting two Great Lakes.
Enbridge, which updated the total estimated cost in February to $ 7.3 billion, touted the economic benefits of Line 3. Fernandez said employment on the project will rise to 4,000 as work at large scale will resume. More than half of the workforce is from Minnesota, with most of the rest from neighboring states. About 500 are Native Americans, many of whom have been specially trained for the project. He estimated the total local benefit to be over $ 250 million.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals is expected to rule by June 21 on whether Enbridge has sufficiently demonstrated a long-term need for the project. The Independent Utilities Commission approved the project, but the State Department of Commerce, two tribes and other opponents say the company’s demand projections did not meet legal requirements. Enbridge and the PUC say the projections complied.
Opponents are not disclosing many details of their plans for protests, as law enforcement is also preparing, but say they are determined to step up the fight as the final phase of construction approaches.
“I think there will be a pretty strong resistance,” LaDuke said. “I really have no idea what this will look like.”
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