Story at a glance
- Indigenous and environmental activists are fighting the update of the Line 3 tar sands pipeline.
- Canadian energy company Enbridge says its construction plans are in line with Indigenous treaty obligations and environmental reviews.
- This follows the permanent halt on the Keystone XL pipeline construction.
More than 100 protestors were arrested while demonstrating against the Line 3 oil pipeline expansion, which would reportedly cut through Indigenous lands when running through Canada and the Midwestern U.S.
One of the leading organizations spearheading protests, the Giniw Collective, tweeted that more than 100 demonstrators were arrested as of June 7.
Set to run between Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, and Superior, Wis., the contested construction is actually a proposed update on the existing Line 3 tar sands pipeline. The new route would include pumping stations where crude oil would be sourced, and add a new 36-inch pipe across a total of 364 miles across North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The new construction has garnered pushback from Indigenous and environmental activists, who say the pipeline would run through wetlands and treaty territory of the indigenous Anishinaabe peoples, disrupting their agriculture practices and threatening their water supply.
Protests escalated when demonstrators physically bound themselves to construction equipment, disrupting the development of the pipeline. In response, officers from the Department of Homeland Security’s Border Patrol flew a helicopter close to the crowd in a bid to clear the scene.
DHS/Border Patrol is using helicopter rotor wash to try to clear out activists out from an occupied #Line3 pump station north of Park Rapids. More than 24 activists are locked down to equipment inside. @MPRnews pic.twitter.com/ArTN6FAqwC— Evan Frost (@efrostee) June 7, 2021
The move was met with immediate criticism from activists.
"CBP [U.S. Customer and Border Protection] needs to take the dust out of their eyes," Joye Braun, a front-line community organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network told the Grand Forks Herald. "Just because they're a federal office or federal department does not make them immune to violating human rights, and that's exactly what they did."
Local law enforcement the Northern Lights Task Force (NLTF) responded to the incident in a statement on Facebook, saying that many protesters “did not abide by the law” and forced police to intervene.
"On June 7, 179 people were booked into area detention centers and 68 people were issued citations," the group said. The charges generally included unlawful assembly or public nuisance.
“The NLTF supported those who wished to lawfully exercise their First Amendment Rights,” the statement reads.
Enbridge, the company behind the development of Line 3, has pushed back on the narrative that the pipeline is hazardous to tribal lands and the environment.
Officials wrote that Enbridge has consulted with tribal leadership among the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe reservation and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, saying that multiple tribes have a stake in the pipeline’s development and work and that treaty areas from the 1800s were reviewed to preserve cultural lands.
The company also stated that it has accounted for all environmental concerns and secured the proper permits for construction. It also said that with improvements conducted on Line 3, access to natural gas can be expanded to rural and Indigenous communities.
Turmoil over the new Line 3 development comes as the Keystone XL pipeline was formally canceled by fellow Canadian energy company, TC Energy. This resolution came after years of fighting between activists, oil industry officials and governments as to whether Keystone should be completed.
Many of the concerns featured in the Keystone XL debate are similar to those of Line 3’s. Indigenous land rights, water supply integrity, and environmental safety were all topics of debate.
Critics are quick to link the two, with activist organization 350.org creating a petition asking President Biden to shut down the pipeline altogether. Enbridge was also responsible for the Kalamazoo oil spill in 2010, prompting concerns over another inland spill.
“Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement is Keystone XL by a different name,” the petition reads. “They are both proposed 36” transborder pipelines which would carry heavy tar sands crude oil from Canada through the United States and across sensitive water, land, and cultural resources, with some oil potentially bound for export.”