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The Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline was built in 1968 and carries extremely polluting tar sands oil from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin. Over the past 53 years, the pipeline has been the source of at least 16 major oil spills in the Upper Midwest, such as in 1991, when the pipeline burst and spilled 1.7 million gallons of oil into the Prairie River. In 2014, Enbridge proposed a new route for Line 3 that crossed much of Northern Minnesota, including wild rice beds, fishing grounds and other critical food sources of the Ojibwe tribes, such as the Fond du Lac, Mille Lacs, Leech Lake, Red Lake and White Earth bands, as well as burial grounds and reservations. This new pipeline would also carry over 700,000 barrels of tar sands oil from Alberta to Wisconsin every day, not to mention the fact that pipeline construction has often been linked to the further exacerbation of human trafficking as well as the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and Two-Spirit people.
Over this past spring and summer, protests erupted in Northern Minnesota over the pipeline. These protests have been met with police brutality, such as tear gas and rubber bullets, and harsh legal penalties, such as stiff fines and over 100 arrests. On Aug. 11, Hubbard County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to protesters chaining themselves to pipeline equipment by torturing them and leaving some protestors with potentially permanent facial paralysis. Tara Houska, an Indigenous activist, reported in August having been held in solitary confinement for multiple days and denied medical care.
These protests have been led by Indigenous leaders such as Tara Houska of the Couchiching First Nation and Winona LaDuke of the White Earth Band, and supported by elected officials such as Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley of Boston, Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis and Cori Bush of St. Louis, who traveled to Northern Minnesota in early September to support the protests, and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City, who was not able to attend due to flooding in her district from the climate change fueled Hurricane Ida, which slammed into Louisiana and traveled to New York at the beginning of this month.
During the 2018 Midterm Elections and the 2020 Presidential Election, Democrats talked a lot about believing in science, unlike the Grand Old Party (GOP), who either deny or downplay climate change. Former President Donald Trump described climate change as “a hoax, manufactured by the Chinese” during a 2016 debate, and in 2014, then-candidate and now-Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa claimed that she “can’t say one way or another what is the direct impact, whether it’s man-made or not.” Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma brought a snowball onto the Senate floor as proof that climate change is bogus in February 2015. Who ever heard of snow in February? These statements are 100% false and not supported by the vast majority of scientists. Coincidentally, over their careers, Senator Ernst has accepted nearly $500,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry while Senator Inhofe has accepted nearly $2,300,000 from oil and gas, almost $600,000 from the airline industry and around $400,000 each from the car industry and mining industry, respectively. I’m sure there’s no causation there at all. On the other hand, President Joe Biden has described climate change as “the existential threat of our time,” and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz declared last week as “Minnesota Climate Week.”
However, actions speak louder than words. President Biden, Governor Walz and the Democratic Controlled House and Senate have the power to cancel this project, which Joe Biden proved when he canceled the Keystone XL Pipeline on the first day of his presidency. Instead, Biden’s Attorney General, Merrick Garland, has defended the pipeline in court, while Walz has confirmed his refusal to act during a Minnesota Public Radio interview and fled an event after a condescending response when confronted by water protectors in early September. Democrat and Minnesota’s Attorney General, Keith Ellison, has claimed he “doesn’t like” Line 3 and claims to have no authority to do anything about it and has, accordingly, taken no visible action to address it.
Since September 2020, we have seen wildfires and drought ravage the western United States; wildfire smoke choke out the skies in Washington, Oregon and California; a polar vortex lead to record snowfall in Texas and all around the U.S.; and record hurricanes and cyclones including Hurricane Ida, which devastated New Orleans and New York in September, Tropical Storm Grace, which slammed into Haiti in August, and Cyclone Seroja, which led to torrential rains and 150 deaths in Indonesia and East Timor this spring. There was also the devastating heat wave that struck Oregon, Washington and British Columbia at the end of June, leading to hundreds of deaths, extreme landslides in the Himalayan Mountain Range, temperatures of 118 degrees in the Arctic circle and an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that makes it certain we will see 1.5 degrees Celsius of global temperature rise, no matter what we do. We are in a climate emergency, and our leaders must act. It is one thing to say you believe in science; it is another thing to do something about the existential crisis of our time. Joe Biden must shut down Enbridge Line 3, but that can only be the beginning.
Tim Walz’s office phone number is 651-201-3400. Nancy Pelosi’s is 202-225-4965. You can contact Minnesota’s Democratic Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar at 202-224-5641 and 202-224-3244 respectively. Keith Ellison’s is 800-657-3787. Rep. Cori Bush, a top Line 3 opponent, has a pretty accessible office as well, and might be able to help you take more action. Her local office is 314-955-9980.
Finally, I write this article in honor of LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux and a water protector who used her property as a protest camp against the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016-2017. Allard tragically died of a glioblastoma at the age of 64 on April 10 of this year. Let’s honor her memory by continuing her fight for the planet she loved.