Line 3 rebuild raises environmental concerns


Evelyn Lillemoe

Information from Minnesota Public Radio

The pipeline drips oil onto the earth, wrecked, and in need of removal, yet it stays. A hazard to the environment around it, this pipeline is the existing Line 3.

The fight over this pipeline has been going on for six years. In 2013, Enbridge, a company that transports energy or often builds oil pipelines to do so, publicized its plan for a new Line 3, an oil pipeline that would run through Ojibwe treaty land near Duluth, Minnesota.

Since its announcement, native activists and their allies have been protesting the construction of the pipeline. Sophomore Emily Gisser has become involved in this activism with her family living near the proposed site for the new Line 3.

“I have family living in northern Minnesota in a town called Park Rapids, Minnesota, which is where Enbridge [has] one of their main centers,” Gisser said. “So, I heard about the protests and stuff through that.”

Gisser is a member of the Stop Line 3 organization and
primarily is a donor that works to spread awareness around the issue.

“I think part of the turbulence of this issue is beyond supposed economic benefits and things like that,” Gisser said.

She noted that media coverage doesn’t capture the full picture: “There’s a lot of environmental and human rights issues Line 3 poses that haven’t been acknowledged as much.”

According to the Stop Line 3 website, there is already an existing Line 3, one that pumps oil across Fond du Lac and Leech Lake reservations. This pipeline is old, breaking down and has already leaked, there is reason to assume it will cause further damage.

“The current Line 3 was built in 1961. It’s breaking, its bursting, it’s malfunctioning, it’s leaking crude oil into the Boundary Waters watershed, into biodiverse areas, it’s just really really detrimental to the environment,” Gisser said. “The plan for the new Line 3 is to just desert the current line, and then build a new one and attack in an entirely new corridor, so they would just leave the mess that’s happening right now not fix it because that’s ‘too expensive,” Gisser said.

The Ojibwe people have not condoned the construction of the pipeline on their land and there is still push back from their communities. Treaties between the U.S. government and the native groups legally attribute this land to the Ojibwe, though their rightful ties to the land span far past European colonization.

There’s a lot of environmental and human rights issues with line 3.

— Emily Gisser

The Stop Line 3 website reads “the right to self-determination and self-government guaranteed to tribal nations by the US Constitution and affirmed repeatedly by the US Supreme Court. The State of MN does not have the consent of the impacted tribes along the route, and does not have jurisdiction on tribal lands, including ceded territories. This
is modern-day colonialism for the purposes of resource extraction and corporate profit,” meaning that if Enbridge proceeds with its plans to build the pipeline it will be in violation of the law.

“The current Line 3 cuts through two reservations and treaty land, dating from like the 1850s. There’s lots of liability within who can work on the reservations and who can’t,” Gisser said. “And then there’s also just the issue that the natural resources on the reservations, which are so important to native culture, and just their existence as a whole, that it’s just completely disregarded through the pipelines.”

The pipeline will also have detrimental environmental impacts. The environmental impact study conducted on the pipeline reported that if built, the oil the pipeline would transport could fuel the emission of 193 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Climate change, though most often the by product of white colonialism, disproportionately affects communities of color. For decades Native people have
fought for environmental justice and defended their rights to land, even as they are one of the most affected groups in the climate crisis.

Protests have occurred around the state. On, Oct. 30 protesters gathered at the governor’s mansion to call for action and on Nov. 5 a group shut down the opening of a new Chase bank location in St. Paul to protest Chase’s continued financing of Line 3.

“I think it’s so important to advocate to stop Line 3 because by doing that you cover the environmental concerns, you cover the fact that native rights and recognition are pretty limited in this state. It just hits so many really important causes,” Gisser said.

Many public figures have pledged their support to Stop Line 3, including presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren. The next steps in the fight against Line 3 will likely include more protests organized across the state. For more information on rallies and the pipeline visit the @StopLine3 Facebook.

This article was originally published in the November print issue of The Rubicon.