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We Don’t Need More Pipelines, We Need Courage to Stop Them

by Diana Best

June 29, 2018

Yesterday, Minnesota commissioners approved Enbridge's Line 3 tar sands pipeline — ignoring Indigenous rights and the voices of thousands of people. But the movement to resist this pipeline is loud, and is only getting louder.

Enbridge's Line 3 expansion under construction.

Yesterday, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted to approve the Certificate of Need and Route permit for Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline.  

The decision was made by appointed commissioners in a hearing room packed with representatives from Indigenous Nations, organizations like Honor the Earth, Minnesotra350, and the Powershift Network, and Minnesotans of all ages, including the youth, and countless others watching the live stream around the country.  

As it became clear that the commissioners were approaching an approval for the Enbridge pipeline to move forward, emotions ran high — one commissioner discussed her reasoning for approving the pipeline while holding back tears. People hugged and consoled each other in the hallway. Another woman in the crowd stood up and said, “You have just declared war on the Ojibwe.”  Outside, a protester on a tripod held up the message, “Expect Resistance.” Winona LaDuke said, in response, “We are going to continue to stand on the right side of history, because someone has to stand for the water, for future generations. What they have done to us is egregious,” and called on Water Protectors to come to Minnesota to make a stand.

Press conference following the certificate of need approval.

Posted by MN350: Building a Climate Movement in Minnesota on Thursday, June 28, 2018

Even the Governor of Minnesota, in a public statement following the PUC’s decision said, “The PUC’s decision is not the final approval of this pipeline. Rather, it only allows Enbridge to begin to apply for at least 29 required federal, state, and local permits. … Approvals are by no means assured, and they would require any such project to meet Minnesota’s highest standards, protecting all our state’s earth, air, water, natural resources, and cultural heritage.”

While these decisions are cloaked in process, the results impact people deeply, whether it’s the continued dismissal of treaty rights and the threat of spills, or that young people know each decision we make to build new fossil fuel infrastructure is another step towards what increasingly feels like inevitable climate catastrophe.

Despite the vocal opposition of Indigenous tribes, the extensive evidence and expert testimony against the need for the pipeline, the thousands of Minnesotans who will be at risk of potential spill, and the growing global movement against the expansion of tar sands oil — this pipeline was approved to move forward, with , the commissioners seemingly unable to take a courageous stand in light of the overwhelming opposition to the new project.

The Line 3 pipeline threatens the rights of sovereign Indigenous Nations and the health and safety of individuals and communities across the region. It would cross numerous biodiverse waterways and headwaters critical for drinking water. Any spill from this pipeline would be disastrous — putting important wild rice beds, wildlife, drinking water, and local economy at risk. Unfortunately, it isn’t a matter of if there will be a spill on this pipeline, but when.

MAP From Honor the Earth

Enbridge does not have a clean record when it comes to spills on their existing pipeline network. Looking at spill record data in the U.S. from 2010 to 2017, Enbridge and its subsidiaries and joint ventures had 147 spills totaling 40,794 barrels of hazardous liquids. Of those spills 137 were crude oil, 7 were refined petroleum products and 3 were HVL. One of the worst incidents occured in 2010, when 20,000 barrels spilled into the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Michigan, impacting hundreds of residents with a multi-year, billion dollar remediation effort.

It is no wonder that people in Minnesota, civil society organizations, and Tribal governments alike have been opposed to this pipeline since it was first proposed.

But the Indigenous-led movement to oppose destructive tar sands oil pipelines, backed by tens of thousands of allies and individuals across the state of Minnesota, Canada, the continent, and around the world, will not be deterred.

Together we have stopped pipelines before, and we will do it again.  Outside, a protester on a tripod held up the message, “Expect Resistance.”  Winona LaDuke said, in response, “We are going to continue to stand on the right side of history, because someone has to stand for the water, for future generations. What they have done to us is egregious,” and called on Water Protectors to come to Minnesota to make a stand.

Even the Governor of Minnesota, in a public statement following the PUC’s decision said, “The PUC’s decision is not the final approval of this pipeline. Rather, it only allows Enbridge to begin to apply for at least 29 required federal, state, and local permits. … Approvals are by no means assured, and they would require any such project to meet Minnesota’s highest standards, protecting all our state’s earth, air, water, natural resources, and cultural heritage.”

Let this serve as a warning to the banks and companies backing these destructive projects: oil pipelines that threaten water, violate Indigenous rights, and put the environment at risk of oil spills  — including Line 3, Keystone XL, and the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline — will continue to face a growing resistance. These projects will remain a reputational and financial liability.  The courage of the movement is greater than can be imagined, and this resistance continues to grow.

Tell the Dirty Dozen banks not to fund pipelines that threaten our water, human rights, and Indigenous sovereignty!

Here is some additional background on the Line 3 pipeline. Visit www.StopLine3.org for more information and background from our allies.

Diana Best

By Diana Best

Diana Best is a senior climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace USA, based in Denver, Colorado. She began working with Greenpeace in 2008 on federal climate legislation and has since worked on reforming federal fossil fuel leasing programs and fighting new infrastructure projects around the United States. She is currently leading Greenpeace’s “Hold the Line” work aimed at halting the political and social influence of the oil industry during Trump’s administration.

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