[SUSTAINABILITY & ETHICS] Line 3 brings up environmental issues of the past, present and future
January 24, 2021
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The Canadian energy company, Enbridge Energy, began construction to replace the 338-mile pipeline, called Line 3 in December per a federal consent decree ordered by the Obama administration. It travels 1097 miles from Edmonton, Alberta, to Superior, Wisconsin, and crosses around 800 wetlands. The previous Line 3, built in the 1960s, is currently working at half capacity due to its condition. In the past two months, Indigenous groups and environmental organizations have filed federal lawsuits in an attempt to stop the construction of the pipeline that crosses Indigenous land protected by treaties. Meanwhile, supporters of the pipeline declare it will bring tax revenue to northern Minnesota. There have been 70 public hearings in the last six years, 13500 environmental impact statements, four reviews by independent administration judges, and a 320 route modification that all aided the pipeline in being approved.
Line 3 produces tar sands or oil sands, which generates three times as much pollution as conventional oil production through its complex processes to extract and refine into tar sands. In November, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted a clean water act that allows Enbridge Energy to discharge dredged and fill material into U.S. water from the construction and production of Line 3. Water used in processing tar sands becomes toxic. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources approved a permit for Enbridge Energy to discharge over 630 million gallons of contaminated water into ponds around the Great Lakes that will kill endangered species. 84% of fresh water in North America comes from the Great Lakes. However, two of the watersheds drain into Lake Superior. Enbridge Energy will have to pay the state $2.3 million for its damage. Between 1996 and 2014, pipelines built by Enbridge Energy had around 1000 oil spills. Local Indigenous tribes rely on fishing from local waters that Line 3 runs through, and they use the water to harvest rice. If the pipeline polluted their local water, they would lose two large sources of food.
The Line 3 construction contradicts the Anishinaabe treaty of 1863. Since the beginning of the talk about replacing the pipeline, Indigenous and environmental groups, called Water Protectors, have been protesting and legally trying to block the construction. Anishinaabe people momentarily stopped the construction of the pipeline on Dec. 4 on the Mississippi River’s shores. Through its reconstruction, Line 3 will slightly change its route. The new route bypasses an Ojibwe reservation in northern Minnesota. Fond du Lac Reservation made an agreement with Enbridge to remove the old pipeline from its land and replace it with the newer, safer line. Line 3 will pass through the treaty land that Ojibwe tribes ceded to the federal government in the late 1800s that holds historical and cultural significance for Indigenous people.
The Red Lake and White Earth nations requested Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to end Line 3 construction in mid-December due to the COVID-19 health threat the 4200 pipeline workers brought to the Indigenous communities. Since the beginning of construction in December, COVID-19 cases have increased in the reservations near construction sites.
The national advocacy group, Earth Justice filed a legal challenge in Federal district court on Dec. 24 against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permit for Line 3. They spoke on behalf of the Red Lake and White Earth nations, Honor the Earth, and Sierra Club asking for both temporary and permanent prohibitions on construction. Friends of Headwaters filed another appeal on behalf of themselves, Red Lake Nation and White Earth Nation, Honor the Earth and Sierra Club.
Environmentalist and Indigenous groups are legally fighting and protesting Line 3 every day in northern Minnesota. One pipeline worker died and law enforcement arrested 22 protesters on Dec. 18. The protesters were in a no trespassing construction zone, and one man had sat in a tree platform for 14 days. A sheriff saw a person fastened to a rope that blocked traffic, and another line was connected to the man in the tree. If someone or something pulled the line, the man in the tree stand would fall 30 feet onto the frozen ground, potentially dying. Four of the arrested protesters were from northern Minnesota, 13 were from the metro area, and five were from out of state. Eight more protesters were arrested on Jan. 9 for blocking traffic on U.S. Highway 169.
Before they administered a construction permit, the state required an environmental impact statement (EIS), which found that the previous Line 3 had a carbon output of 193 million tons per year. Its output is equivalent to 50 coal-fired power plants or 38 million vehicles. MN350, an environmental activist group, also completed an assessment on the pipeline and found its yearly carbon output to be greater than the output of the entire state. Line 3 would cost the state $287 billion over the next 30 years. According to the state’s EIS, the new Line 3 would not impact greenhouse gas emissions since it would restore the pipeline to its original capacity and displace crude oil delivered by trucks and trains. If the government destroyed Line 3, it would take 10 trains, each 110 tank cars long, and 4000 tanker trucks daily to make up for the oil the pipeline transports. Line 3 transported 5 billion barrels of oil in 2020.
On President Biden’s first day, Jan. 20, he quashed the permit through an executive order for the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline. The Obama administration rejected the KXL pipeline in Nov. 2015, but former President Trump had signed an executive order to advance it. The Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines are all in construction pipelines that threaten the environment and the lives of Indigenous people and the entirety of Northern America.
Stop Line 3 is hosting a petition to convince Biden to stop construction specifically for Line 3. The petition can be found here: https://www.stopline3.org/news/bi3den-stopline