Treaty People Gathering draws thousands to stand against Line 3

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Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Last weekend, northern Minnesota was the site where the Treaty People Gathering, an activist mobilization against the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, began. More than two thousand people from around the country assembled in the forests near Park Rapids to protest the pipeline, share knowledge and solidarity, and in some cases physically blockade construction.

The Gathering was spearheaded by native women from multiple organizations that have fought this tar sands oil pipeline that is a violation of tribal sovereignty, a danger to indigenous resources like wild rice that are guaranteed by treaties, and a threat to the planet. MEP staff members Steve Morse and Sara Wolff along with dozens of coalition members stood with people from around the state and across the country to call on our leaders to stop this pipeline.

Many who stood up at the Treaty People Gathering were met with arrests, riot gear, and a federal Homeland Security helicopter hovering close to the ground above protesters, resulting in harmful flying sand and debris. More than 200 people were arrested by the combined law enforcement task force defending Enbridge’s interests. And there are many who continue to stand – as of this writing, there are multiple camps along the planned route for the pipeline where people are continuing to put themselves in its path.

Why now

The fight against Line 3 has been a long one, and will continue as long as it remains a threat. The Canadian tar sands oil carried by Line 3 would generate greenhouse gas emissions greater than Minnesota’s entire economy combined – a disaster for a planet that needs desperately to retire old fossil fuel infrastructure, not build new pipelines.

Enbridge recently restarted construction on Line 3 this month after the spring thaw, and it will soon reach the Mississippi, where water protectors are camped to resist them. It’s a critical stage for this pipeline, which would carry some of the dirtiest oil on earth. But while some activists are focused on blocking construction, the other side of the fight is with the government authorities that are allowing this pipeline to happen.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals will announce a decision on Monday morning regarding appeals concerning the Certificate of Need, Route Permit and Environmental Impact Statement.  A challenge to the water quality permit granted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will be heard by the Court later this month. A challenge in federal court is underway as well.

The very nature of the legal fights against Line 3 underscore the flaws in the process itself. State authorities – the Pollution Control Agency, the Public Utilities Commission, and the Department of Natural Resources – have plowed ahead with granting certificates and permits as if there is no off-ramp for the project, no amount of harm that is too great for the State of Minnesota to bear. Despite the fact that the people and resources of Minnesota should be their priority, state agencies have acted as if Enbridge is their client, as if the pipeline is inevitable, as if they have no option but to grant the permits.

While many of our laws were built to protect the interests of fossil fuel companies, Minnesota also has laws that should’ve stopped this project in its tracks. These laws were ignored. (See this fact-sheet showing how the Pollution Control Agency ignored state law in order to approve the water quality permit.)

But decision-makers hands are not tied. 

Governor Walz could recognize that the Pollution Control Agency did not follow the law and direct this state agency to settle the legal challenge to this permit (upcoming later this month) by revoking it. 

President Biden could revoke the Army Corps of Engineers permit granted by the Trump Administration because it failed to perform an environmental impact statement that considered the violation of treaty rights, risks from oil spills, or the pipeline’s impacts on climate.  

We call on Governor Walz and President Biden to honor treaties, follow the law and act for our collective future over fossil fuel industry interests. It is not too late. “The time is always right to do what is right.” 

Last month the IEA report made clear that holding climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius requires there be no new investment in fossil fuel infrastructure starting now. 

This week TC Energy, the backer of the Keystone XL pipeline, announced it was killing its pursuit of the project that President Biden thwarted when he revoked its permits on his first day as President. TC Energy could have waited for another change in administration before giving up — this project has been in the works for ten years. But it decided to pull the plug. 

Enbridge has systems, dollars, and political influence on its side (the company was the single largest spender on lobbying in Minnesota only a couple of years ago.) But those — in Minnesota and around the country — who stand against it have people power. We believe that the leaders of the Treaty People Gathering are right: Line 3 is a violation of the treaties, a danger to us all, and it will not be allowed to stand.

Read More:
Minnesota Reformer: “From near and far: Meet the ‘water protectors’ protesting Enbridge’s Line 3”
More about the Gathering and how to help: 

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