Similar in size and purpose to the recently defeated Keystone XL pipeline, Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline is proposed to transport tar sands oil over 1000 miles, from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, through the heart of Anishinaabe territory and some of the best lakes and wild rice beds in the world. They call it the “Line 3 Replacement,” but don’t be fooled. It is a new pipeline. The existing Line 3 crosses 300+ miles of Northern Minnesota, through the Leech Lake and Fond du Lac reservations. That line is old and crumbling, but instead of removing it, they want simply to abandon it and build a new one in a brand new corridor. The proposed new route endangers the Great Lakes, home to one fifth of the world’s fresh water, and some of the most delicate soils, aquifers and pristine lakes in northern Minnesota, It also threatens critical resources on Ojibwe treaty lands, where tribal members retain the rights to hunt, fish, gather, hold ceremony, and travel. It is our responsibility as water protectors to prevent this. Tribal governments, environmental organizations, and community members are uniting to stop Line 3. We expect a protracted legal and regulatory battle in the coming years.
A New Pipeline, Not a Replacement
At a cost of $7.5 billion, Line 3 would be the largest project in Enbridge’s history, and one of the largest crude oil pipelines in the continent, carrying 760,000 barrels per day of tar sands, the dirtiest fuel on the planet. Enbridge calls this a “replacement,” but the new pipe would be larger (36” instead of 34”), carry nearly twice the volume of oil, and establish an entirely new corridor through Northern Minnesota. That’s not a “replacement,” that’s a new line.
Sandpiper is Dead, but Line 3 Remains
Enbridge’s Line 3 has already faced 2 years of fierce resistance in the Great Lakes, led by Ojibwe tribes and grassroots groups like Honor the Earth, MN350, and Friends of the Headwaters. For 4 years, we fought the proposed Sandpiper pipeline, which would have established the new Line 3 corridor. Eventually, MN combined the Sandpiper and Line 3 applications into one regulatory process, and a successful 2015 Friends of the Headwaters lawsuit forced them to conduct a full, cumulative Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on both lines. In August 2016, we defeated the Sandpiper, but the battle against Line 3 remains. Minnesota is currently writing its EIS for Line 3, after months of battle over what the study would include and who would perform the analyses. The draft EIS is scheduled for April 2017 and the public will be able to omment at public hearings. A final permit decision is expected in Spring 2018.
• Abandonment - Line 3 was built in 1961 and now has significant structural problems. Enbridge estimates over 900 integrity “anomalies” in the pipeline, and is operating the line at reduced pressures. But instead of fixing or removing it, they want simply to walk away, and unfortunately there is no federal or state regulation to prevent tribes and landowners from the extreme financial and ecological liability this poses. The MN Public Utilities Commission (PUC), has the power and responsibility to regulate abandonment, but because Line 3 is the first oil pipeline to be abandoned in the state, there is a risk that the PUC will avoid its responsibility and set dangerous precedent. We think Enbridge should clean up its mess, and put Minnesotans to work doing it.
• Inevitable Spills: It’s not a matter of if the pipeline will spill, but when. Enbridge promises pipeline safety, but history suggests otherwise. They've had over 800 spills in the last 15 years, including the largest inland oil spill in US history (1.2 million gallons) on the Kalamazoo River in 2010.
• Treaty Rights Violations:: The US government has a responsibility under federal law to honor the rights guaranteed to tribal members in their treaties. The proposed Line 3 corridor would violate the treaty rights of the Anishinaabeg by endangering primary areas of hunting, fishing, wild rice, and cultural resources in the 1855 treaty territory. The US Supreme Court has upheld the rights of native peoples to hunt, fish, and subsist off the land. Line 3 threatens the culture, way of life, and physical survival of the Ojibwe people.
• PropertyRights: If MN approves Line3, Enbridge will receive powers of eminent domain, on grounds that it is a public utility providing a public benefit. This would allow them to take property without landowner consent, just as governments do to build roads and other public infrastructure. This is a problem: Enbridge is a private Canadian corporation that will earn billions in profit by shipping privately owned oil for privately owned oil companies.