Line 3 pipeline opponents say project threatens Biden’s climate legacy
(WASHINGTON) – Building an oil pipeline in the heart of America has become one of the country’s most controversial environmental battles.
The 1,000-mile Line 3 pipeline transports oil from the Canadian tar sands – a high-emitting fossil fuel often described as the dirtiest oil in the world – through native lands and waters, including waters vulnerable headwaters of the Mississippi River.
The project has been the target of several court battles and a massive campaign of civil disobedience waged for years by Indigenous women in Minnesota, resulting in nearly 900 arrests, including dozens around the United States Capitol earlier this month. .
âTo see the expansion of the Line 3 oil sands into sensitive wetlands while there is massive drought is truly shocking and it should be for anyone who cares about the climate,â Tara Houska, tribal lawyer who fought the project for years and co-founded an opposition group Line 3, ABC News said.
Enbridge, the Canadian company responsible for the pipeline, describes Line 3 as a safety-focused replacement of an aging pipeline first installed in the 1960s.
“We decided that it would be better for us, better for society, better for the communities through which the pipeline passes to consider replacing this pipeline,” Enbridge communications director Mike Fernandez told ABC News.
However, many critics qualify the project as an extension. More than a third of the new Line 3 follows an entirely new route and the new, wider pipe will roughly double the operating capacity of the old version, according to official documents.
Enbridge says they are restoring the line’s historic capacity that has not been operational for more than a decade. The move comes after some leading scientists called for a moratorium on oil sands growth.
âClimate scientists say, ‘Leave the tar sands in the ground.’ Period, âsaid Laura Triplett, an environmental scientist from Gustavus Adolphus College who testified against Line 3 during the clearance process.
Oil began to flow into the controversial pipeline on October 1, marking a long-awaited victory for its business owner and a devastating defeat for his opponents, who had pleaded with the Biden administration to stop the project.
âI’m appalled at the lack of action on something like this,â Houska said. âYou can’t be the climate president when you authorize one of the largest oil sands infrastructure projects in North America. This is its climatic legacy, âshe said.
The White House declined to provide a representative to interview for this report and did not respond to a request for comment.
Biden and the tar sands
Oil from Canada’s tar sands requires more emissions to extract and transport than conventional oil. It also results in more carbon emissions when burned, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
During the election campaign, President Joe Biden described the Keystone XL pipeline as “tar sands that we don’t need – which are actually very, very polluting.” He canceled Keystone XL shortly after taking office, but has so far refused to intervene against Line 3, and his Justice Department has defended the project in court.
âWhen I think about how much carbon is going to be emitted from this, I literally feel nauseous,â Triplett told ABC News.
Line 3 could emit between 35 and 193 million tonnes of CO2 per year, according to the project’s environmental impact study – the latter being the equivalent of 45 new coal-fired power plants put into service or 38 million cars added. to the road, according to several independent scientists.
âIf this pipeline is to work and bring these tar sands to market, we have an even bigger job to do, reducing emissions elsewhere,â said Triplett.
Enbridge argues that if the pipeline were not built, oil would have to come to market through even more energy-intensive means such as trucks or railroads.
Triplett says there are roadmaps for how the United States can transition to a low-carbon economy. “But none of these plans include building a whole new big pipeline to bring oil from the tar sands to market,” she said. âIt’s not part of any transition. It’s terrifying.
Divide communities on its way
On the ground, the project divided the local indigenous communities in its path. Three tribes – the Red Lake Nation, the White Earth Nation and the Ojibwe des Mille Lacs Band – have opposed the project throughout the project and have taken legal action to stop construction. Tribes say the project violates their treaty rights and fear the pipeline may eventually sink, contaminating sacred waters and vital wild rice fields.
Two other local tribes – the Fond du Lac Band and the Leech Lake Band – have entered into agreements with Enbridge to allow Line 3 to cross their reserves. They also agreed not to oppose the project, in exchange for an undisclosed sum of money and pledges of future infrastructure investments, according to local reports. In May 2021, Enbridge said it had spent $ 250 million with tribal nations, communities and entrepreneurs.
Enbridge’s agreement with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe included the removal of most of the old Line 3 pipeline from the reserve and the construction of the new pipeline on the lands to the south. Details of the deal are not public, but the Bemidji Pioneer reported that Enbridge has agreed to a broad engagement with the tribe to work on green energy projects.
The Leech Lake Band did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
In the case of the Fond du Lac Band – which initially opposed the project – leaders say the tribe found itself in a difficult position after authorities in Minnesota forced them to choose between allowing the pipeline to follow its existing route through the reserve or accept a route south of the reserve that would still pass through treaty territory, where tribal citizens hunt, fish and congregate.
“There is no perfect result here,” Tribal Council Chairman Kevin Dupuis Sr. told MPR News at the time of the deal. âAll remaining options threaten the environment for all and the livelihoods of indigenous people in Minnesota. “
Fond du Lac member Rob Abramowski, who grew up on the reserve and worked on Enbridge projects for years, including Line 3, welcomed the project.
“Enbridge has done everything possible to encourage Indigenous people to work on the pipeline,” said Abramowski, who is one of 500 Native Americans out of the roughly 4,000 temporary workers that Enbridge hired to build Line 3, according to the ‘business.
Abramowski says the jobs are more than temporary. âBecause of the experience they get here today, they can take it as far as they want,â he told ABC News. Abramowski believes the new pipeline will be safer and less likely to leak, but most importantly for him is that his tribe now appears to have a seat at the table.
âThe major part is that my reserve chiefs have a say in what happens here, not only today, but in the future,â he said.
Other Fond du Lac members see things differently.
âThe Fond du Lac Band cannot speak for all the other Anishinaabe nations,â Taysha Martineau, another Fond Du Lac member and leading Line 3 opponent, told ABC News.
âWhen they approved Line 3 and started construction, they took away the voice of the nation as a whole,â Martineau said.
The Fond du Lac Band Tribal Business Council declined ABC News’ request for an interview and did not respond to a request for comment.
Houska, from a small town in northern Minnesota, co-founded one of the best-known groups for direct action: Camp Namewag. A former Obama White House intern and later Native American affairs adviser to the Bernie Sanders campaign, Houska says she was “involved in the process as much as anyone.”
âWhat I observed over time was such a gradual process in her approach, which was incredibly ineffective in solving existential problems like a habitable planet to live on,â she said.
Spills, past and present
Enbridge’s pipelines resulted in two of the largest oil spills on land in US history. In 2010, an Enbridge pipeline spilled nearly 1 million gallons of tar sands oil into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, as Enbridge pipeline controllers ignored repeated leak warnings for 17 hours before to shut down the pipeline, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Enbridge chief executive Mike Fernandez says the company spent $ 5 million to clean up the spill and learned valuable lessons that resulted in the hiring and training of more staff. âIt was a big wake-up call for us as a company,â he said.
However, incidents during the construction of Line 3 have left opponents less optimistic. Authorities in Minnesota have reported 28 known spills of drilling fluids during construction, including one spill upstream of the Mississippi. Enbridge was also fined $ 3.3 million for illegally drilling an aquifer in January, which resulted in the loss of at least 24 million gallons of water.
âWe were drilling, we found the problem. We took the matter to the State Department of Natural Resources, âFernandez told ABC News. “They imposed a fine and we are going to pay it.”
Despite the project going live this month, opposition groups have pledged to continue fighting Line 3, saying their efforts have forced the fossil fuel industry to expect increased resistance in coming years.
âThey know we are a threat to their bottom line. And this indigenous resistance and all the people who feel inspired by this resistance are very threatening, âHouska said.
âI think we’re that stubborn thorn that just won’t go away. I mean, I think that reflects enough of the natives in general, âshe said. âWe suffered a genocide, then a cultural genocide, then a displacement or a displacement. We’re still here after all of this. And we are not leaving.
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