In this report, ACKnowl-EJ collaborating researcher Zachary Dove details ongoing resistance to the construction of Enbridge Line 3, a pipeline replacement project threatening Indigenous Anishinaabe territory. For more information and related materials please see the case documented on the Environmental Justice Atlas here.
Anishinaabeg Frontline Resistance and Legal Opposition to Line 3 ‘Replacement’
The Makwa Initiative- Anishinaabe protectors of sacred land and rice lakes- set up a frontline resistance camp in February 2017 on a Minnesota reservation near the construction of Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Project (L3RP) across the Wisconsin border. The Makwa Initiative is one of three Anishinaabe-led frontline resistance camps using non-violent direct action and other forms of mobilization to stop the L3RP. The Initiative reflects the spirit of past and ongoing indigenous land (re)occupations– especially more recently those that aim to stop destructive resource extraction projects, revive traditional cultural and governance practices and reassert sovereignty. More succinctly, the Camp is “a space for people to come together, to practice and protect our treaty rights and make sure that Line 3 does not get constructed.”
In addition to frontline resistance, the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Red Lake Band of Ojibwe, and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe are intervening in Minnesota’s public review process in opposition to the project. Other organizations that are intervening in opposition include NGOs such as Honor the Earth, Youth Climate Intervenors, and the Sierra Club as well as landowners and lake associations. The Bands and these groups have filed separate legal briefs to convince the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) – the project’s last regulatory hurdle- to reject the L3RP.
Accelerating the Export of the Tar Sands through Anishinaabe Treaty Territory
Enbridge is proposing a $7.5 billion project – the “largest project in Enbridge history” – to add 1,031 miles (1,660 km) of new pipeline that will expand their capacity to transport diluted bitumen and other crude oil from Alberta’s Tar Sands to the U.S. and beyond. The project threatens important hydrological areas and will have significant adverse cumulative impacts on the Ojibwe and other Anishinaabe in addition to other First Nations and low-income communities along and near the route.
Enbridge says they want to ‘replace’ an already existing Line 3, which was constructed in the 1960’s using defective coating materials and bonding methods (p. 22). This existing Line 3 has “experienced an accelerated rate of deterioration” that threatens the integrity of the pipeline. A Consent Decree with the U.S. Department of Justice requires Enbridge to restrict the operation of the line to 390,000 barrels per day (bpd) of light crude and to seek approval to replace it (see p. 116). However despite its classification as ‘replacement’, the L3RP will be an entirely new and slightly larger pipeline (see p. 8) that will restore the line to its original capacity of 760,000 bpd.
As for the existing Line 3, Enbridge plans to leave it in the ground, which would save the company over a billion dollars (see 8-15). Due to the pipeline’s deteriorated state, there are multiple possible sources of soil and groundwater contamination, and pipe segments could turn into water conduits over time and drain water-based ecosystems (see p. 8-7). Landowners in Minnesota are concerned that they will be responsible for contamination and future drainage.
The L3RP is proposed to stretch from Hardisty, Alberta, to the Enbridge hub in Superior, Wisconsin. Enbridge’s preferred route diverges from the existing Line 3 at Clearbrook, Minnesota. This diversion will create a new pipeline corridor through Anishinaabe treaty territories, where band members retain rights to hunt, fish, and harvest manoomin (wild rice) on ceded territory. An administrative judge issued a non-binding recommendation to approve the L3RP, but only if it is constructed within the existing corridor. If Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) accepts this recommendation, the Leech Lake and Fond du Lac Bands will have the ability to stop the project, as the existing corridor passes through their reservations.
In response to numerous shortcomings with Minnesota’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and the state’s regulatory process, the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe prepared an alternative impact statement in collaboration with Honor the Earth, called the Anishinaabeg Cumulative Impact Statement. The Statement integrates Indigenous science and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), the absence of which “leads to the approval of projects that continue the legacy of colonization and genocide experienced by Indigenous Peoples.” The cumulative impacts of the L3RP are “understood in the context of the Anishinaabe responsibility to land and relations and the impact of the historical trauma the Anishinaabe people have faced.” According to the Statement, while there has been a:
“significant loss of traditional cultural properties since the signing of the treaties… there is much that has been retained. Most significantly, the concentration of high-quality lakes, rivers, and streams in the heart of the 1855 treaty area [c]ontains a high number of manoomin waterbodies, historic manoomin camps, and is crisscrossed by historic trade and migration routes… [The] indirect and cumulative effect of [losing this area], in addition to direct impact of pipeline construction, operation and potential release, would have a significant and adverse economic, social, medicinal and religious impact on the Band members, other tribal communities and low-income communities.” (Chapter 6, emphasis and hyperlinks added)
The EIS recognizes that the L3RP will have ”disproportionately high and adverse impacts” on the Ojibwe, although it ultimately dismisses these impacts. It also recognizes “the link between an influx of temporary workers and the potential for an associated increase in sex trafficking, which is well documented, particularly among Native populations” (p. 11-20). The ‘man camp’ phenomenon threatens to “pollute the land by day, and women and children by night.”
Accordingly, there are impacts from construction in addition to impacts from spills. In concerns submitted to Canada’s National Energy Board, the Opachowake First Nation discussed how they were impacted by a 1999 spill from the existing Line 3: “[t]hese impacts are economic, financial, emotional, lasting and devastating beyond description.”
Some types of crude oil increase the severity of these impacts. Due to the dense, viscous, and adhesive nature of diluted bitumen, it interacts with the environment differently than other types of crude oil. According to a recent National Academy of Sciences study, “spills of diluted bitumen pose particular challenges when they reach water bodies. In some cases, the residues can submerge or sink to the bottom of the water body” (p. 3). The study states that there are “few effective techniques for detection, containment, and recovery of oil that is submerged in the water column” (p. 4). According to Enbridge, the type of crude oil the L3RP will ship depends on shipper demand. However, Enbridge CEO Al Monaco admitted in a conference call that “my lean would be more towards the heavier side”, a reference to processed/diluted bitumen. According to an agreement between Enbridge and the Representative Shipper Group, the L3RP is assumed to transport 65% heavy/ 35% light crude oil. Enbridge’s proposed route threatens the largest wild rice lake in the world, the headwaters of the Mississippi River, and Lake Superior. A spill would be devastating for these hydrological areas.
Most assessments of individual pipeline projects also fail to account for the full costs of the Tar Sands, which also include impacts to communities located near extraction areas and refineries, populations around the world that are vulnerable to climate disruption, and future generations that will experience the effects of current carbon emissions (see #9).
Regulatory Uncertainty in Minnesota, Enbridge’s ‘Respect’ for the Public Process
The L3RP has yet to obtain regulatory approval in Minnesota, which contains the majority of the U.S. portion of the pipeline. The project is currently waiting on obtaining a Certificate of Need and a Route Permit from Minnesota’s PUC. The PUC will make a decision on June 20th.
There is no certainty that the PUC will decide in Enbridge’s favor. The Minnesota Department of Commerce is opposed to the project, and testified that “Enbridge has not established a need for the proposed project; the pipeline would primarily benefit areas outside Minnesota; and serious environmental and socioeconomic risks and effects outweigh limited benefits.”
However, having received regulatory approval from Canada’s National Energy Board and in North Dakota and Wisconsin, the pipeline is already under construction in Wisconsin and Canada. Furthermore, Enbridge has already purchased most of the pipe for the Minnesota segment of the L3RP (Paragraph 41, p. 21), is storing the pipe in the state under permits that were applied for before the environmental review was completed, and has already conducted pre-construction work in Minnesota. For the Anishinaabe and many other Minnesotans, this overconfidence is interpreted as Enbridge’s flagrant disregard for the public regulatory process.
Enbridge has a recent history of starting construction work without required permits. Due to the location of Superior, WI (which is nestled between hundreds of miles of Minnesota border and Lake Superior) there is no realistic way for the L3RP to bypass Minnesota. The question then is what will Enbridge and the Canadian oil producers that are funding the project (see Section C, p. 119) do if the PUC does not issue a Certificate of Need or a favorable Route Permit? Will they elect to abandon the project, taking a loss on the construction work already completed and materials already paid for? Or, will they attempt to construct the Minnesota section regardless, and deal with the consequences as part of the cost of doing business? According to the testimony of Enbridge employees, construction in Canada and Wisconsin will be completed regardless of project approval in Minnesota (see paragraph 40, p. 21). But what is the use of a pipeline with a 300+ mile gap in its midsection?
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) ordered that a full cultural resources survey didn’t need to be included in the Final EIS. The EIS is also criticized for failing to consider cumulative impacts, ‘uppipe’ and ‘downpipe’ impacts, or impacts to future generations. The Minnesota Department of Commerce’s Tribal Liaison resigned primarily due to “the failure of the state of Minnesota to fulfill its obligations of good faith and fair dealing with the tribes in connection with the Line 3 project”.