In the latest court ruling Monday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the decision by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission allowing Enbridge permits for its Line 3 Replacement Project.
The decision was issued Monday morning about 10 a.m. after the hearing June 10. A decision was expected by June 21.
The decision was met by support from those working on the project – and by opposition from the environmentalists that continued to protest last week.
The Laborers’ International Union of North America issued a statement following the announcement, with president and business manager Joel Smith offering his take.
“The ruling is yet another reminder that the project, which will reduce spill risks and protect tribal resources by moving the pipeline off the Leech Lake Reservation, has met every legal test (so far),” Smith said. “Opponents had their day in court, and now it’s time to work together to ensure that the project is completed in a safe and timely manner.”
Meanwhile, opponents issued a release expressing disappointment.
“We are sorely disappointed in this decision that allows the state of Minnesota under Gov. Walz to continue to shove a pipeline through Ojibwe lands and waters at a time of escalating climate crisis,” said Winona LaDuke, executive director and co-founder of Honor the Earth. “One immediate result is that hundreds of more arrests of water protectors will occur because of this in the deep north. We stand with the insightful dissension offered in the decision by Judge Reyes: ‘This case is about substitution. Substituting supply for demand. Substituting ‘shippers’ for ‘refineries.’ Substituting ‘pipeline capacity’ for ‘crude oil.’ Substituting conclusory, unsupported demand assumptions for reviewable ‘long-range energy demand forecasts.’ And substituting an agency’s will for its judgment.’”
As Enbridge moved out of its scheduled break of construction work on the Line 3 Replacement Project, protests picked up over the last week.
In a gathering of more than 2,000 activists along the Minnesota length of the pipeline, the self-named water protectors took action June 7 to halt construction.
According to a press release, a large gathering called “Treaty People Against Line 3” began June 5 in northeast Minnesota. Action culminated at the Two Inlets pipeline area, where reportedly hundreds chained themselves to the pump station – a location northwest of the Park Rapids area.
Among those in attendance at the gathering were Rosanna Arquette and Jane Fonda.
LaDuke also issued a statement last week.
“This is, in the end, intended to be a 915,000-barrel-a-day tar sands pipeline, the largest tar sands pipeline in the world and the most expensive,” LaDuke said. “It’s now a $9 billion project. Enbridge, the Canadian corporation, has been bringing oil into this country for years. They’re responsible for 75% of the tar sands oil that comes into the country, and they want to shove it through these lines.”
Numerous arrests were made, with several housed at the Aitkin County Jail. Aitkin County Sheriff Dan Guida said last week that the county was simply housing the arrested for Hubbard County, though there appeared to be one person booked from Aitkin County as well.
Police also tried to remove a protestor inhabiting a hand-made lodge along the Mississippi River near the Welcome Lodge of the water protectors – a site on Great River Road near Palisade.
The woman showed a letter from the 1855 Treaty Authority and was allowed to remain on site, as shown in a live Facebook video. Law enforcement then left the site.
In response to the action last week, a group called Respect Minnesota called on the protesters to stop threatening workers and the jobs they are doing.
The group, which is a collective of small businesses, communities, counties and chambers of commerce, are acknowledging the right to free speech but speaking against the increased intensity of the protests.
“I would like to commend the workers on Line 3 for the way they handled the disruption by the protesters in a professional manner,” said Joe Kramer, special pipeline representative for the International Union of Operating Engineers and one of the founding members of Respect Minnesota. “The Respect Minnesota pledge that each worker took during the on-boarding process proves that they are committed to respecting one another’s opinion and to treating all communities that have welcomed them equally with respect.”