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Construction has begun on the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota, despite widespread opposition from tribes, the environmental community, and public health experts and growing protests.

Protesters gathered at Gichi-gami (Lake Superior) in 2019 to protest the proposed Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline.
Fibonacci Blue
A few hundred people gathered on the shore of Gichi-gami (Lake Superior) to protest the proposed Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline. Duluth, Minn. September 27, 2019 .

The project, led by the energy company Enbridge, received its final permit approvals from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the Army Corps of Engineers in November. The Line 3 pipeline is harmful to the environment, disregards indigenous sovereignty, and poses a serious public health threat.

Designed to carry 760,000 barrels of tar sands crude oil from Canada per day, double the capacity of the existing pipeline, the Line 3 pipeline will have devastating environmental impacts and contribute to the worsening climate crisis. The new pipeline route will cross 78 miles of wetlands and more than 200 bodies of water, including the Mississippi River twice. Pipelines, including others that Enbridge have built, are notorious for spills, causing long-term harm to communities.

Even if Line 3 does not leak, it would be the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the state, the equivalent of constructing 50 new coal plants. A life-cycle analysis of the pipeline completed by the State of Minnesota, which includes projected emissions from construction, extraction, transportation, and eventual use, shows an estimated societal cost of $287 billion over the next 30 years—not including the impacts of a warming world.

March on Enbridge to protest Line 3 pipeline
Rainforest Action Network
March on Enbridge to protest Line 3 pipeline. Clearbrook, Minn. October 14, 2019

The project also puts Indigenous cultural sites and practices, along with long-established treaty rights, at risk. The Treaty of 1855 protects the rights of the Ojibwe people to hunt and gather in the wild rice lakes in northern Minnesota, yet there are 20 such fragile sites found within just one mile of the proposed Line 3 route. Pipeline construction workers are also housed in “man camps,” which are known to contribute to the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. The public safety and health implications of such a project occurring near tribal lands during a pandemic, in addition to the risks posed to cultural and subsistence practices, have resulted in widespread Indigenous resistance.

As construction begins, thousands of out-of-state pipeline workers have begun moving to northern Minnesota, an area already hit hard by rising COVID-19 cases and inadequate health facilities. Health professionals have raised concerns of a potential superspreader event and called on Governor Tim Walz (MN) to halt construction during the pandemic. Twin Cities physician Laalitha Surapaneni emphasized this point at a recent Line 3 Virtual Rally, stating “the bottom line is there is no safe way to build a pipeline of this magnitude in a pandemic.”

There are several pending lawsuits opposing construction of the pipeline—including ones led by tribes, youth, and the Minnesota Department of Commerce. They will make their way through the courts in the coming months. Enbridge hopes to complete construction in the next six to nine months, the same timeframe in which these cases will be heard, rendering the final decisions potentially irrelevant. FCNL calls on the State of Minnesota and President-elect Biden to uphold the integrity of our legal processes and issue a stay on construction while these cases are heard.

Mariah Shriner

Mariah Shriner

Program Assistant, Sustainable Energy & Environment
Mariah Shriner serves as the program assistant for the sustainable energy and environment team. Mariah lobbies members of Congress, advocating for bipartisan responses to climate change and support for climate justice.

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