The Battle Against Line 3 It's not just a pipeline, it's the future of the planet.

AuthorRussell, Scott

On a warming April Saturday with Lake Superior still showing ice, twenty people from the Twin Cities area traveled to Duluth, Minnesota, to meet with members of the Ginew Collective, an indigenous women-led frontline group working to stop Enbridge's proposed Line 3 crude oil pipeline. The new and larger pipeline would replace an old and failing one. It would transport up to 915,000 barrels of highly dirty tar sands oil per day across 340 miles of northern Minnesota, threaten some of the state's cleanest lakes and streams, arguably violate treaty rights, and help accelerate climate damage.

People in the group, myself included, had different affiliations: MN350, Science for the People, Healing Minnesota Stories, Northfield Against Line 3. It was an opportunity for us to build relationships with Ginew members and support their work.

I was there as a member of the Sierra Club's North Star Chapter, which, like these other groups, opposes the project.

Technically, Enbridge says it won't start Line 3 construction until it has all its permits, which it expects by late this year. But it's already begun preconstruction work, such as moving pipe into storage yards, sparking protests. State officials have also indicated that surveying and geotechnical boring are allowed preconstruction activities. Bottom line: Enbridge is moving forward as if the project is inevitable.

Enbridge has started "preconstruction" work on Line 3 even though it still needs numerous state and federal permits and faces multiple lawsuits. This effort is opposed by the Ginew Collective.

We traveled to Duluth expecting a strategy session. But when we arrived, we learned that trains had brought oil pipelines under the cover of night to the Carlton rail yard, and trucks were moving them to storage yards.

We got paper and markers and hastily made signs. We discussed doing a low-risk action, one that would not lead to tickets or arrests. We drove to the rail yard, stood on the right of way, held up our signs, and waited for trucks to leave so we could follow and find their destination.

Work in the rail yard stopped. We waited. No trucks moved. Some Ginew members left to check out known pipe yards. Others of us shared trail mix, chatted, and waited some more. We probably delayed pipeline-moving work three to four hours, a small victory.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved Line 3's certificate of need and route permit last year, but it's not a done deal. Opponents have filed multiple lawsuits to stop it in the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Line 3 still needs permits for the project's 227 water crossings, including the Mississippi headwaters.

Siddharth Iyengar, a Ph.D. student in ecology at the University of Minnesota and organizer for Science for the People, a group of scientists and STEM educators pushing for social and environmental justice, found the Duluth trip valuable. It helped him see Enbridge's strategy "to build this into reality," despite the ongoing legal and permit challenges.

Paige Carlson of MN350, the state affiliate of the climate change activist group, said it was helpful to go to the rail yard and see the clean, green, unused pipes stacked up. It felt more tangible than emailing legislators or protesting at the capital, and made her realize that "action can be taken here, in this place, to stop exactly these pipes from being put into this ground."


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