“Pipelines spill, tar sands kill” read one sign from the Hold the Line March to Stop Line 3 on Sept. 28, as activists marched to the state capitol to protest the construction of a new tar sands pipeline in northern Minnesota.
Several environmental advocacy groups including Youth Climate Intervenors and Honor the Earth, united to organize the march, which preceded a public hearing at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown St. Paul..
The proposed pipeline, Line 3, would carry tar sand oil – a type of crude oil – from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin.
Sections of the pipeline have already been built in Wisconsin and Canada. Enbridge, the company behind the operation, has submitted a permitting application to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and is awaiting its approval to complete construction.
Enbridge says that the pipeline is a replacement for an existing pipeline of the same name. The old Line 3, built in 1961, has had numerous ruptures and is now heavily degraded.
Enbridge plans to leave the old pipeline in the ground and build this new line – which will have twice the holding capacity of its predecessor and cross over an entirely new route.
The implications of Enbridge’s proposal are troubling to many Minnesotans. In a document sent to the PUC, the State Commerce Department declared that the risks of the pipeline outweigh its “limited benefits.”
This new pipeline’s proposal has been met with resistance from environmental activists The Thursday march took place just prior to a public hearing and attracted hundreds of concerned citizens.
The hotel hosted the public hearing at 6 p.m., in which community members, selected through a lottery process, had the option to voice their support or concern for the proposal.
Though the tone of the hearing was civil, tension in the room was palpable.
Instead of claps, anti-pipeline activists waved blue and red handkerchiefs to support their allies’ comments. Supporters of the pipeline’s construction – mainly Enbridge employees – stood out in neon green t-shirts printed with the slogan “we support safe energy transport.”
At one point, a comment from a presenting community member along the lines of “who better to build this new pipeline than Enbridge?” prompted a series of guffaws from much of the audience.
The march and public hearing attracted increased attention to the pipeline issue, but activism regarding its construction has been ongoing throughout the past year.
Several members of the Macalester community are involved in Youth Climate Intervenors, a group that has been active in organizing against the pipeline.
“[The Youth Climate Intervenors] filed the petition to intervene [with the pipeline’s construction] on the grounds that, as youth, we will be disproportionately affected by this pipeline,” explained Margaret Breen ’20, a member of the Intervenors, “he judge read through our petition, and accepted us as party status – which was a little unexpected, but also very exciting.”
The Intervenors will be presenting 12 expert witnesses to make a case against the pipeline in upcoming evidentiary hearings from Nov. 1-12.
Those hearings, which can essentially be considered a trial on the pipeline’s construction, will consist of all groups that have been granted party status see testimony from experts who brought forward by all of the groups who have been granted party status in the case.
Akilah Sanders-Reed ’16 works for the environmentally-focused nonprofit Power Shift Network, and is currently working with the Intervenors in their case against the Line 3 pipeline.
“Line 3 is one of the biggest and most active pipeline fights in the country right now,” Sanders-Reed comments, “and has more momentum that any other. If there were a pipeline that Minnesota could deny and thus become a leader in clean energy and respecting indigenous rights, this is it.”