While the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Project hit its scheduled spring pause last week, activists vowed to continue fighting against the pipeline replacement.
Tuesday was scheduled to be the first day of a court hearing challenging the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approval of the Line 3 project in the state court of appeals.
A decision is expected in June, or maybe sooner.
In the meantime, Enbridge announced March 11 it was nearing the 50% completion phase of the pipeline replacement project. However, a scheduled spring two-month stop due to seasonal environmental restrictions goes into effect April 1.
Construction will continue at the eight Line 3 pump station facilities, but activists continued to make their voices heard in a number of protests last week.
Actress Jane Fonda visited Park Rapids March 15 to offer support for those fighting the pipeline. Fonda posted to Instagram following the event, pointing out the dangers of transporting the tar sands oil across both indigenous lands and the Mississippi headwaters area.
She alleged that the activists, also called water protectors, are being harassed by the local police as well as strip-searched.
“This is part of a very dangerous and anti-democratic national trend where law enforcement, commissioned with state authority to arrest and use force, are being deployed with those extraordinary powers against the civilian population in service to private interests,” Fonda said in her Instagram post.
Meanwhile, protestors locked themselves to each other the morning of March 18 in Swatara, blocking work at one of the pump stations.
Aitkin County Sheriff Dan Guida confirmed that eight were arrested. A number of activists were released from the Aitkin County Jail Friday afternoon.
A press release from the public relations firm representing the Stop Line 3 coalition, issued that day, said that the water protectors would fight their charges in court.
It said dozens were pledging to take their legal cases to trial over charges received while protesting the construction of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline. The release said that more than 200 people have already been arrested in Anishinaabe treaty territory across northern Minnesota and those people are taking a “Defendant Pledge of Solidarity.”
“The pledge demands that the prosecution drop all charges against defendants, cease to hold arrestees overnight in jail during a pandemic, and release arrestees on their own recognizance without bail conditions,” the release stated. “Defendants are prepared to seek trials in Aitkin, Carlton, Cass, Clearwater, Hubbard and Itasca counties.”
The replacement project has drawn considerable attention in the area, with a section of the work going through northern Aitkin County. While opponents have raised concerns about the environment, supporters – and Enbridge – continue to reassure the public that all requirements and conditions have been met for the work to proceed safely.