Legislators visit Palisade Line 3 river crossing

Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth and other workers at the Water Protector Welcome Center north of Palisade welcomed returning and new Minnesota legislators who visited the Line 3 Mississippi River crossing north of Palisade on Dec. 20. At left is Rep.-elect Heather Keeler from Dist. 4A. LaDuke is third from the left.

Incoming Minnesota State Representatives Aisha Gomez, Cedrick Fraizer, Jess Hanson, Kaela Berg, Koahly Her and Heather Keeler traveled from their districts Dec. 20, just two days after a worker death in Hill City.

Enbridge confirmed Dec. 20 that a worker died Dec. 18, at the Hill City construction yard, part of the company’s Line 3 Replacement Project.

“Our hearts go out to the worker’s family, friends and co-workers,” said Juli Kellner, the company’s communications supervisor. “Grief counseling is being made available for workers and members of the team.”

No details were available about what caused the fatality and work resumed Saturday.

Efforts by the Age to establish whether the worker was from the area and what caused the accident were unsuccessful.

Kellner referred all further questions about the accident to the county medical examiner and/or coroner, but no further information was available by press deadline.

Kellner said in the press release that Enbridge had reviewed safety procedures with all employees.

“Safety standards and protocols were reinforced as work paused across the project for a safety stand down,” Kellner said.

The legislators came to see for themselves what is happening where Enbridge Energy is staging a drill rig in preparation for drilling underneath the Mississippi River north of Palisade.

This was the second contingent of legislators to visit since the Nov. 14 official start of construction on the replacement pipeline.

The legislators came to the Water Protectors welcome center, and met with Honor the Earth Executive Director Winona LaDuke and other water protectors, receiving updates on how the Line 3 project is progressing.

LaDuke expressed sorrow and regret over the death of the Enbridge contract worker Dec. 18 in Hill City.

She talked about how the agreed-upon procedure for cultural resources protection has not been taking place, causing issues for tribes along the 340-mile route across northern Minnesota.

“There are 300 miles of this pipeline that have not been built yet,” said LaDuke. “These companies (Enbridge Energy and Precision Pipeline) are trying to push this pipeline through fast, possibly at the cost of safety.”

Representative-elect Heather Keeler from District 4A in Moorhead introduced herself to the group as the first indigenous female legislator from northern Minnesota to be elected to serve in the legislature.

She was accompanied by her son, an enrolled member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe.

“The incoming class of legislators is excited to get to work,” said Keeler.  “We have heard about this project and wanted to see for ourselves what is happening up here.”

Aisha Gomez is a representative elect who was visiting from District 62B in south Minneapolis.

“I appreciate the opportunity to learn, connect and use my position to stop what I understand to be the  intersection of a climate catastrophe with racism and injustice,” she said.

After legislators introduced themselves individually, they walked along Hwy. 10  – Great River Road – to the pipeline easement.

The drill pad constructed by Enbridge was surrounded by a chain link fence with a solid gate, so legislators approached to peek through and get a look at the drill pad.

At that point an Enbridge security employee in a private vehicle contacted law enforcement. A Minnesota DNR conservation officer appeared and told the legislators they would receive citations if they did not leave the area.

Kellner was not at the event, but she provided the following statement afterward.

With regard to the cultural resources issue, Kellner reiterated the extensive tribal cultural resources survey work that has been led by the Fond du Lac band.

She also reiterated that the six pipelines of the Enbridge mainline system currently cross the Mississippi River repeatedly, and have done so safely for more than 70 years.

“For those same seven decades Enbridge pipelines have safely coexisted with some of Minnesota’s most productive wild rice beds,” Kellner said.

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