• September 3, 2021

Congressmen urge Biden to stop pipeline on visit to Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and his progressive allies in Congress on Friday urged President Joe Biden to halt construction of the Enbridge Energy Line 3 replacement, even as the project nears completion and the options to stop it decrease.

Omar was joined by US Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Cori Bush of Missouri, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Minnesota State Senator Mary Kunesh at a press conference in Minneapolis. Democratic women called on Biden to revoke a federal water quality permit and halt the project, as the president did with the Keystone XL pipeline the day he took office.

Ahead of a planned weekend trip to northern Minnesota, where the pipeline is being upgraded, Omar and his allies echoed arguments by indigenous and environmental activists that the pipeline project would worsen climate change, violate rights. of Native American treaties and would risk spills in waters where Native Americans hunt, fish and gather wild rice.

“We are here because the climate crisis is here,” said Omar. “The climate crisis is now. The climate crisis is happening and the last thing we have to do is allow the same criminals who created this crisis to build more fossil fuel infrastructure. “

The visit comes days after Omar sent a letter signed by nearly 50 state legislators and members of Congress asking the Biden administration to meet with tribal leaders.

The heads of several Minnesota state agencies this week rejected various points in Omar’s letter, saying that he was exaggerating the amount of water Enbridge had pumped from construction trenches amid the current drought and that the amount was actually within the range. approved limits. They also said that claims in Omar’s letter that law enforcement used police dogs to intimidate protesters and fired “less lethal” rubber bullets at protesters were false.

Pipeline supporters, including Republican United States Rep. Pete Stauber of Minnesota, state legislators and pipeline workers, held a press conference on Capitol Hill in St. Paul early Friday to praise the jobs the pipeline has brought. to the region. Jason George, a business agent for Local 49 of the International Union of Operational Engineers, which has a couple thousand members on the project, called Omar’s letter an attack on the pipeline workers.

Enbridge spokeswoman Juli Kellner said Omar and his allies were “misinformed,” citing the letter from Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s commissioners. Kellner said six years of reviews, court decisions and permit approvals refute claims that Line 3 would violate treaty rights or harm the region’s environment.

“Replacing Line 3 has brought us all to work together: communities, tribes, unions, contractors, elected officials, businesses, organizations, voices from the industry, and the support of thousands of people,” said Kellner. “We encourage legislators to get the facts about Line 3, tour a workplace, and meet some of the tribal monitors and the thousands of unionized workers building Line 3.”

As opponents of Line 3 continue to organize despite shrinking options to stop the project, including a large rally last week when more than 1,000 protesters arrived at the Capitol, the replacement pipeline is nearly complete.

Reports released Wednesday indicated that Enbridge has told carriers that it will begin offering a 620,000 barrel-a-day capacity from October. Kellner declined to confirm the October start date, but said Line 3 is expected to be fully operational at 760,000 barrels a day in the fourth quarter of this year.

Earlier on Friday, indigenous activists held a conference call to release a letter from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination asking the United States to respond to allegations of human rights abuses against the Anishinaabe people in Northern Minnesota due to the construction of Line 3.

Winona LaDuke, executive director of the indigenous environmental group Honor the Earth, said affected tribes can sue the United States in international court if the federal government does not respond to the UN committee’s letter.

“What we want is an environmental impact statement and stop the project before this corporation makes a billion dollars a year in profit from the destruction of our people,” he said. “We intend to continue looking for international solutions.”

Also Friday, a federal judge rejected an effort by the state Department of Natural Resources to overturn a new “rights of nature” lawsuit against the pipeline. The lawsuit, which names Manoomin, the Ojibwe word for wild rice as one of the plaintiffs, will proceed in tribal court.

Line 3 begins in Alberta and cuts a corner of North Dakota before crossing northern Minnesota en route to the Enbridge terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. The 337-mile (542.35-kilometer) segment in Minnesota is the last remaining step to replace the deteriorating pipeline, which was built in the 1960s.


Mohamed Ibrahim is a member of the staff of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on uncovered topics.

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