MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Minnesota’s US MP Ilhan Omar and her progressive allies in Congress called on President Joe Biden on Friday to halt construction of Enbridge Energy’s Line 3, even if the project is nearing completion and the options are to keep it to stop dwindling.
Omar was accompanied by US MPs Rashida Tlaib from Michigan, Cori Bush from Missouri and Ayanna Pressley from Massachusetts, and Minnesota Senator Mary Kunesh at a press conference in Minneapolis. The Democratic women called on Biden to revoke a state water quality permit and stop the project, as the president did with the Keystone XL pipeline on the day he took office.
Prior to a planned weekend trip to northern Minnesota to upgrade the pipeline, Omar and her allies reiterated the arguments made by indigenous peoples and environmental activists that the pipeline project would aggravate climate change, violate Native American contract rights, and risk water leakage where indigenous peoples hunt, fish and collect wild rice.
“We’re 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 criminals who caused this crisis to build more fossil fuel infrastructure. “
The visit comes days after Omar sent a letter signed by nearly 50 lawmakers and members of Congress urging the Biden government to meet with tribal leaders.
The heads of several Minnesota state agencies this week denied several points in Omar’s letter, saying that the amount of water Enbridge has pumped from the trenches amid the current drought is an exaggeration and that the amount is in fact within the approved limits. They also said allegations in Omar’s letter that law enforcement officers used police dogs to intimidate protesters and fired “less lethal” rubber bullets at protesters were false.
Pipeline supporters, including Minnesota Republican MP Pete Stauber, state lawmakers and pipeline workers, held a press conference at the Capitol in St. Paul on Friday to commend the jobs the pipeline has brought to the area. Jason George, business agent for Local 49 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, which has several thousand members on the project, described Omar’s letter as an attack on pipeline workers.
Enbridge spokeswoman Juli Kellner called Omar and her allies “misinformed” and quoted the letter from Democratic Governor Tim Walz’s commissioners. Kellner said six years of reviews, court rulings, and permits disprove claims that Line 3 violates contract rights or harms the region’s environment.
“Replacing Line 3 got us all to work together – communities, tribes, unions, contractors, elected officials, corporations, organizations, industry voices and the support of thousands of individuals,” said Kellner. “We encourage lawmakers to learn the facts about Line 3, tour a construction site, and meet some of the tribal watchers and the thousands of union workers who are building Line 3.”
With opponents of Line 3 continuing to organize despite dwindling options to stop the project – including a large rally last week when more than 1,000 demonstrators came to the Capitol – the replacement pipeline is almost ready.
Reports released on Wednesday showed that Enbridge had advised shippers that it will be offering 620,000 barrels per day capacity from October. Kellner declined to confirm the launch date in October, but said Line 3 will be fully operational by the fourth quarter of this year at 760,000 barrels a day.
The previous Friday, Indigenous activists held a conference call to release a letter from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination calling on the US to respond to allegations of human rights violations against Anishinaabe in northern Minnesota for the construction of Line 3.
Winona LaDuke, executive director of indigenous environmental group Honor the Earth, said the tribes concerned could sue the United States in international courts if the federal government does not respond to the UN committee’s letter.
“What we want is an environmental statement and a halt to the project before this company can make a billion dollars in profit annually from destroying our people,” she said. “We intend to continue to pursue international redress.”
Also on Friday, a federal judge denied an attempt by the State Department of Natural Resources to reject a novel “natural rights lawsuit” against the pipeline. The lawsuit, in which Manoomin – the Ojibwe word for wild rice – is named as one of the plaintiffs, is being tried in a tribal court.
Line 3 begins in Alberta and cuts a corner of North Dakota before crossing northern Minnesota on its way to the Enbridge terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. The 542.35 kilometer segment in Minnesota is the final remaining step to replace the deteriorating pipeline that was built in the 1960s.
Mohamed Ibrahim is a corps member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a not-for-profit national utility that places journalists on local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.