The Potluck

Construction of the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline is underway — but opponents are prepped for a fight

By: - December 7, 2020 8:01 am
Peggy Flanagan MMIW

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, a member of the White Earth Nation, remains opposed to the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, even as the Walz administration has granted permits. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Construction of the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline is underway — but opposition continues. 

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission denied a request to halt construction of the Line 3 pipeline at a special meeting Friday. 

The White Earth and Red Lake asked the PUC to cease construction, citing pending litigation and the pandemic, but the 4-1 vote means that Enbridge, which received a final permit and began pipeline construction last week, can continue working on the replacement pipeline. 

But the construction won’t be without obstacles.

The pipeline has faced fierce opposition from environmentalists, Indigenous rights advocates and even health care providers, who said the pipeline’s thousands of workers could worsen the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Earlier this week, several entities filed a lawsuit in the Minnesota Court of Appeals contesting Line 3’s construction, and on Friday several protesters climbed trees set to be logged for the pipeline’s pathway. The tree climbing could indicate the potential for larger disruptions as construction begins in earnest, as happened with the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, which started with a few dozen protesters but grew to hundreds.

The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, which represents over 40,000 members, sent a letter to Gov. Tim Walz urging his administration to halt construction.

Signed by Gary Frazier, the executive director of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, the letter requested that Walz use his executive authority to reverse the PUC’s approval of the pipeline, more seriously prioritize public input and consider the long-term environmental impacts of the pipeline. 

“There is no resource more important to our existence than clean water and unpolluted land and Line 3 poses an existential threat to our well-being,” the letter reads.

The letter also said that although the members of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and other Minnesotans have voiced concerns and intervened in court, that input was largely disregarded.

Although Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan has voiced opposition to the pipeline, it’s unlikely that Walz will overturn the recent decision and has said that he supports the permitting process.

The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe comprises six constituent Bands of Anishinaabe, including Bois Forte, Fond du Lac, Grand Portage, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs and White Earth.

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Dylan Miettinen
Dylan Miettinen

Dylan Miettinen is a Reformer intern. A fourth-year student at the University of Minnesota, he was born and raised in Omaha, Neb. He currently serves as the editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, the Minnesota Daily. He's also worked for CNN, the Minnesota Media and Publishing Association and the Fiction/Non/Fiction podcast.