Activists Vow to Fight Line 3 Pipeline

The Biden administration indicated it supports the construction of a pipeline to transport heavy crude oil from Canada through parts of the Midwest.

Environmental activists protest against the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline
Environmental activists protest against the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline on May 7, 2021 in Washington, DC. .

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A decision by the Biden administration to authorize the construction of a $7.3 billion pipeline that will transport oil from Canada to Wisconsin has enraged environmentalists who have vowed to continue opposing the project in the courts and on the frontlines.

In a court filing last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers indicated it does not plan to cancel a water permit allowing Canada’s Enbridge to continue building the 340-mile stretch of the pipeline that crosses through northern Minnesota.

Until now, the federal government had not taken a position regarding the Line 3 pipeline but that changed with the filing.

“Biden administration stands behind federal permits for Line 3,” reported the Star Tribune last week.

The 1,097-mile duct will carry heavy tar-sands oil from Canada’s Alberta province to refineries in southern Ontario before crossing through North Dakota and Minnesota and ending at Superior, Wisconsin. 

Line 3 will replace a pipeline that was built in the 1960s. It will be able to carry up to 760,000 barrels of oil a day, about twice as much as the existing pipeline. Enbridge envisions sending some of that crude oil to the Gulf Coast, from where it would be exported to other countries.

According to the company, construction of the duct is finished in Canada, as well as in Wisconsin and North Dakota, and about 60% complete in Minnesota. Enbridge says construction is generating thousands of jobs, that the new pipeline will be safer than the existing one, and the state’s economy will benefit because it will receive some $35 million a year in property taxes.

But environmentalists and Native Americans fiercely oppose the project and have vowed to fight Enbridge both in the courts and through protests along the pipeline route this summer.

Enbridge says some of its five construction sites have been targeted, resulting in damage to some of its equipment.

“To date, protests have had little impact on the project’s construction schedule which is on track to be completed and in service in the fourth quarter of this year,” the company said in a press release in early June.

The protests made headlines in recent weeks due to the high number of arrests but also thanks to actor and activist Jane Fonda, who has joined some demonstrations. 

“I am sickened and deeply disappointed that President Biden has given the go-ahead to Enbridge Line 3 in Minnesota. This belies his promises on the campaign trail to follow science and stop new fossil fuel development and cut our carbon emissions in half by 2030,” she tweeted on Sunday.

Ancestral Lands

Two Chippewa and Ojibwe Indigenous tribes (the Red Lake and White Earth Ojibwe) and three environmental groups (Honor the Earth, the Sierra Club, and Friends of the Headwaters) have filed a lawsuit against the Corps in a Washington, D.C., court in a bid to thwart the project. 

The plaintiffs oppose the pipeline because it could accidentally spill oil on a watershed that feeds into the Mississippi River as well as a wild rice growing area. They argue that instead of giving the go-ahead to a pipeline that will lead to more greenhouse gas emissions, the government should accelerate renewable energy investments.

Native American tribes oppose the pipeline because it will cross one Ojibwe reservation as well as ancestral lands over which they have treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather wild rice.

Honor the Earth founder Winona LaDuke said the Corps failed to carry out a thorough environmental assessment.

“The Corps also failed to consider that construction of Line 3 would cause massive destruction to wetlands and waterways, including the wasteful use of billions of gallons of water,” LaDuke wrote last week.

The environmentalist and author called on the Biden administration to intervene in the ongoing lawsuit.

“The administration can advise the court that climate and environmental justice analysis was required before issuing the permit, and it can exercise its authority to take back the permit for review in the public interest.”

Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline soon after taking office in January but has not done the same regarding two other controversial pipelines: Dakota Access and Line 3. Both of these ducts would run through or near Indian reservations.

LaDuke noted that during his campaign, Biden vowed to support Indigenous communities and called on him to show “his commitments to Native people and climate and environmental justice over Big Oil by taking action on the Line 3 pipeline.”

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