New Lawsuit Filed Against Line 3, While Protests Heat Up

Celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio, Katy Perry, and Amy Schumer have asked President Biden “to stop construction of Line 3 immediately.”

Environmental activists carry a large snake pipeline as they protest against the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline on May 7, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Environmental activists carry a large snake pipeline as they protest against the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline on May 7, 2021 in Washington, DC. .

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Opponents of Line 3 this week filed a lawsuit with the Minnesota Supreme Court in a new bid to stop construction of the controversial pipeline, while protesters have accused law enforcement of carrying out a “counterinsurgency” campaign.

The plaintiffs include two Native American groups (White Earth Band of Ojibwe and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa) and four environmental organizations (Honor the Earth, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Headwaters, and Youth Climate Intervenors). The lawsuit argues that when they approved the project, regulators failed to prove that there is strong demand for the tar sands oil that Canada’s Enbridge will transport through the pipeline. 

“Minnesota decision makers have repeatedly failed to protect the health of our communities, clean water, and climate by allowing Enbridge to trample on Indigenous treaty rights for the sake of a tar sands pipeline we don’t even need,” said Margaret Levin, State Director of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter. 

“We will continue to make our case in court that the permits for this dirty tar sands pipeline should never have been approved, but with construction underway, there is no time to waste,” Levin added.

An appellate court upheld the permit in a 2-1 decision last month. By dissenting, Judge Peter Reyes sided with Native American groups, who oppose the pipeline because it would cross ancestral lands over which they have treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather wild rice.

“Enbridge needs Minnesota for its new pipeline … But Enbridge has not shown that Minnesota needs the pipeline,” Reyes wrote.

The plaintiffs are pursuing another legal case at a Washington, D.C., court to thwart construction of the 1,097-mile duct. 

They 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.

Line 3 will replace a pipeline that was built in the 1960s and will be able to carry up to 760,000 barrels of oil a day, about twice as much as the existing pipeline, from Canada to Wisconsin. Enbridge envisions sending some of that oil to the Gulf Coast to export it 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.

More Protests

In recent weeks, activists have joined a variety of demonstrations. They have chained themselves to construction vehicles and the pipeline itself, set up tree sits directly anchored to the pipeline, blocked roads, held a rally at the state Capitol, and gathered at Willow River, one of the more than 200 bodies of water that the pipeline would cross.

“It feels like doing nothing is a greater risk than taking action. We’re in a crisis,” said a protester who crawled inside the pipeline to block construction work.

Protesters, who call themselves “Water Protectors,” say that police have been harassing and surveilling them through a “counterinsurgency” campaign. They estimate that more than 500 protesters have been arrested or issued citations.

Celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio, Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom, Jane Fonda, Joaquin Phoenix, and Amy Schumer wrote a letter to President Biden, asking him “to stop construction of Line 3 immediately.”

“Please end the era of fossil fuel expansion decisively, so we can begin the era of clean energy and climate solutions with all the hope and commitment it requires,” the letter says.

Much of the focus is on getting Biden to intervene.

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.

On top of that, the Associated Press this week revealed the Biden administration has approved approximately 2,500 permits to drill on public and tribal lands in recent few months and is on track to issue a total of at least 6,000 permits this year, the highest number since 2008. 

And with gasoline prices rising in many parts of the country, analysts say that Biden is unlikely to ban drilling in public lands, one of his campaign promises, because such a decision could push fuel prices higher, which would jeopardize post-pandemic economic recovery.

“Every indication is they have no plans of actually fulfilling their campaign promise,” Mitch Jones, policy director for the environmental group Food & Water Watch, told the Associated Press. “The result of that will be continued and increasing development of fossil fuels on public lands, which means more climate change.”