Enbridge Line 3 pipeline receives final approval; opposition vows to fight on

    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.

    This story has been updated.

    State regulators lifted the last roadblock Monday for Enbridge to begin construction on a controversial $2.6 billion crude oil pipeline. 

    The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency granted Alberta-based Enbridge a stormwater permit for its Line 3 pipeline, which is slated to replace an existing pipeline across northern Minnesota. 

    The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and Army Corps of Engineers gave their final approvals last week. The Red Lake Band of Chippewa and the White Earth Band of Ojibwe are fighting the permits, requesting a stay of approval, citing the pending outcome of a Minnesota Supreme Court of Appeals case.

    The existing pipeline crosses the Leech Lake and Fond Du Lac reservations. The Line 3 replacement — the largest proposed in Enbridge’s history — will cross the Fond du Lac reservation but lie south of Leech Lake when built.* It will connect oil fields in Alberta to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin, with small segments of the line in North Dakota. Tribal councils of both have approved the plan. 

    Though the final permit means construction can begin, the pipeline still faces steep opposition. 

    Advocates say that the pipeline will create new construction jobs — 4,200 by Enbridge’s estimate — and safer transportation for crude oil than rail or the existing pipeline. Opponents, however, cite tribal sovereignty and climate change as reasons to halt the line’s construction. 

    The majority of an MPCA advisory group resigned over the pipeline earlier this month, according to the Bemidji Pioneer

    Members of MPCA’s Environmental Justice Advisory Group called the agency’s approval of Line 3 “the final straw.”

    “We cannot continue to legitimize and provide cover for the MPCA’s war on Black and brown people,” the collective resignation letter read. “Line 3 will mean violated treaty rights, heightened risk of sexual trafficking and sexual violence, and an insult to the three tribal nations that strongly oppose its construction.”

    Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan has also articulated her disapproval of the pipeline. 

    “As many people know, I have long expressed opposition to the Line 3 project and my position has not changed,” she said in a statement to Native News Online

    Oil companies must use significant energy just to extract the oil from fields in Alberta — unlike in other oil-producing regions like Saudi Arabia — which is why it is a target of environmentalists. 

    In a recent statement, Gov. Tim Walz said he supports the ongoing permitting process, including the MPCA’s actions: “We follow the law, we follow the science, and we follow the process.” 

    The division in Walz’s own administration highlights the gulf in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party over Line 3 — environmentalists and some tribal activists have been in conflict with the building trades lobby over the project for years. 

    *An earlier version of this story misstated the route of the new pipeline. 

    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.