The biggest pipeline protest since Dakota Access is taking shape in northern Minnesota, where opponents are seeking to mobilize thousands of protesters to disrupt construction on the Alberta-to-Wisconsin project known as Line 3.
Enbridge Energy, the Canadian company that owns the pipeline, ramped up work Tuesday on a critical stretch of the $4 billion pipeline replacement even as dozens of environmental groups, backed by celebrities and liberal Democrats, prepared for a mass show of opposition scheduled to spike this weekend.
The objective is to make enough noise — or create enough chaos — to persuade President Biden to revoke the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit.
“It never has happened on a project like this, and not just on pipelines, but on any U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project,” said Mike Fernandez, Enbridge senior vice president for communications. “To be pulled at this stage would be unprecedented.”
He said the upgrade of the 337-mile Minnesota segment of the 1,097-mile oil pipeline is 60% complete. Most of the remaining work is scheduled for the summer.
The enormous undertaking involves a union workforce of up to 5,500 that began in December after six years of regulatory hearings and environmental studies.
The new pipeline is thicker and the alloy stronger, and the pump stations and computerization behind it are “state of the art,” the company spokesman said.
“This is a win-win-win on a number of different levels,” said Mr. Fernandez. “The worst thing that could possibly happen would be that somehow they stop this, and then what happens is the new project stops with some of these holes open, and we’re still running the oil through the old pipeline.”
For opponents, the goal is not merely to stop Line 3 but to dismantle the entire fossil-fuel-based economy.
“There’s this understanding that it’s just another pipeline, and there are so many pipelines in the ground, and this one is just a replacement, it’s meant for safety,” Tara Houska, the founder of Giniw Collective, said on a May 20 organizing call.
“No, the issue is that human beings are killing themselves and that we’re doing the same status quo that we’ve been doing since colonization began.” …snip…
Fighting on multiple fronts
The difference with Line 3 is that everyone sees it coming. Enbridge has contributed $750,000 to a fund set up by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to cover additional policing costs associated with the construction.
Even without Mr. Biden‘s support, pipeline opponents could shut down the project with a win in any of their three lawsuits.
A decision is due June 21 in a state lawsuit to force the Minnesota PUC to conduct a revamped environmental impact study with an emphasis on climate change.
Organizers of the Treaty People Gathering have made it easier for outside protesters. They plan to provide two meals a day, assist with camping accommodations and child care, help arrange carpools and “solidarity caravans,” and schedule buses from the District of Columbia, South Carolina, and Washington state.
“There’s 22 rivers that need to be protected. A good showing is important, and probably a prolonged showing because they will try to cross those rivers in July,” Ms. LaDuke told would-be “water protectors.” “So we are out there on the public lands calling people to the public lands to defend our water, and I’m asking you all to come up. That’s how things change.”
Pipeline opponents have billed their effort as an indigenous uprising, but Enbridge has secured the backing of the two tribes that matter most: the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.
The pipeline runs through the reservations of both tribes. To win their support, Mr. Fernandez said, Enbridge conducted a “tribal cultural asset study” along the full length of the project in Minnesota. The company used tribal groups to conduct the survey and hired tribal monitors at the construction sites.
Enbridge has spent about $250 million to ensure that the project would benefit the tribes economically. It trained about 500 indigenous workers and brought on subcontractors, exceeding its original commitment of $150 million.
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