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As spring thaws the Minnesota ice, a new pipeline battle fires up

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Originally built in the 1960s, the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline winds 1,097 miles from the oil sands of Canada to Superior, Wisconsin. Of the approximately 340 miles through Minnesota, the spare pipe it includes new sections and additional capacity and is cutting down some of the most pristine forests and wetlands in North America. In small camps along the way, a small but growing group of protesters is out to stop them, driven by old prophecies and the promises of a new president.
In the tribal tradition of the Ojibwe, an environmental moment was predicted at the time of the Seventh Fire, when “the fair-skinned race will have a chance to choose between two roads,” one green and lush, the other black and charred. A wrong decision, it was warned, “would cause much suffering and death to all the people of Earth.” The Ojibwe they are one of the largest groups of Native Americans in northern Mexico with tribal members stretching from present-day Ontario in eastern Canada to Montana.

While half a dozen elderly women of the tribe sing and pray alongside the frozen Mississippi, it is obvious that for some bands the struggle is sacred and eternal. The question is how many will join them in the face of the toughest legal challenges, rising police pressure and the limits of the pandemic.

“So far, more than 130 people have been arrested in recent months,” lawyer and tribal activist Tara Houska told CNN. Some are physically arrested at construction sites, but police are also looking at social media news channels to identify protesters raping the rape and send appointments by mail. Before walking down the icy river, Houska attended his hearing with a judge on Zoom and was ordered on $ 6,000 bail.

Tribal lawyer and activist Tara Houska says protesters believe they are fighting for something bigger than themselves.

“They seem to think it will deter us from protecting the earth. It fundamentally fails what water protectors do, who are willing to set us free, our bodies and our personal comfort to achieve something greater than ourselves. said Houska.

After living in Washington and fighting Dakota Access and Keystone XL, he now hopes this move will help convince the Biden administration that the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency during the administration of Trump were poor in their environmental impact studies and were too hasty in issuing permits.

But Canadian gas pipeline giant Enbridge insists it passed all federal, state and tribal tests. The company has rushed to complete the pipeline before politics or the courts stop it. Of those 340 miles across the country of 10,000 lakes, more than 40% are already on land.

Much of the new pipeline is already buried and in place underground, according to Enbridge.

“Line 3 isn’t like the Keystone XL pipeline,” Enbridge general manager Mike Fernandez told CNN. “It already exists. And it’s already an energy lifeline for literally millions of people in the United States and Canada. And the reality is that even though we’re seeing great growth in renewable energy, we’re still going to need fossil fuels for 40 years. to come.”

But since Biden built the first White House with a climate agenda for all agencies, the biggest argument against the pipeline may be about the type of energy that runs through line 3. Unlike Texas crude oil hidden in rock bags, Alberta oil is part of Canadian soil under the forest boreal. It cannot be pumped unless it is steamed. As a result, it is the dirtiest and most destructive fossil fuel after coal.
A large excavator loaded a truck with oil sands at the Suncor mine in Alberta in 2009.

A journey into the bituminous sands stuns the mind with its scale. The massive, man-made pits crawl with large dumplings, full of what makes you feel too much cookie dough and smell of asphalt.

Tens of thousands of tons are transported each day to extensive processing plants where the boil is boiled and blown up with water from the Athabasca River heated with natural gas. To separate flammable bitumen from dirt and clay, six liters of fresh water are needed to produce a liter of bituminous sand gasoline and the lakes needed to contain the resulting toxic waste are one of the largest artificial creations in the world. history.

The sheer amount of energy needed to turn sticky earth into liquid fuel not only makes Alberta tar sand more expensive, it produces 15% more carbon pollution than the planet cooks, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The replacement of line 3 created thousands of temporary jobs.

But for workers building line 3, the pipes are safer and cleaner than transporting oil by truck or train. And if you stop line 3, they argue, it does nothing to stop the voraciousness of global demand for the type of fuels they burn.

“I think frankly people have been drawn to the pipes because it’s easy to fight the pipes,” Kevin Pranis told the International Union of North American Workers as the cranes lifted 25,000-pound pipes whenever the city ​​buses.

“The truth is that carbon emissions don’t come from pipes. They come from cars. So if you really wanted to go straight to the source, you can protest car dealers and protest gas stations. But the problem is, people like car dealers and gas stations and they would be very angry about it. “

Kevin Pranis said building pipelines is a good job for workers and that the oil it passes through is only harmful to the environment when used by consumers.

While most of the 5,200 people building Line 3 come from oil states like Texas and Louisiana, “about 400 will be Native Americans,” Fernandez told me. “We met with all the First Nations along this pipeline. We listened and as a result, there are approximately 320 route modifications.”

Enbridge tribal relations suffered in February, when two men working on line 3 were trapped in a human trafficking jam created to protect underage indigenous girls.

“The two people who were arrested have been fired.” Fernandez said. “We do not tolerate this type of activity or behavior and he has forced us to go to one of the contractors to tell him, ‘This is our expectation, that they are trained to a certain level.’

The pipeline winds through a & quot;  energy corridor & quot;  along with power lines.

Follow the pipeline route and feelings may change depending on the tribe or mile.

“Do you think people who fight at home, who run out of gas without heat, are thinking about climate change?” said Jim Jones. “They’re thinking about how they’ll heat the house and put food on the table.”

As a member of Ojibwe’s Leech Lake Band and a former state cultural anthropology expert, Enbridge hired Jones to walk the pipeline route and ensure the violation of indigenous spaces or ruins.

Jim Jones examined the Enbridge route to direct the pipeline from important Native American sites.

“I am at peace that I have done my best to protect what is important to us,” he said. “And I can honestly tell you that, to date, nothing of historical context has been unearthed or disturbed.”

After the Fond du Lac band from Lake Superior Chippewa reached an agreement with Enbridge to run part of line 3 through their reserve, tribal leaders said they were putting themselves in an impossible position. Some tribes worked with Enbridge on the route, while others like Winona LaDuke of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe have nothing but contempt for Enbridge.

LaDuke laughed when he was told about Jones’ promise. “Look for pot fragments and arrowheads. We’re living people.”

Winona LaDuke says she is not allowed to be unloaded to be arrested while protesting Enbridge line 3.

LaDuke is a longtime environmental activist who ran twice in the vice presidency with the Ralph Nader Green Party ticket, but after fighting for indigenous rights against extractive energy companies for years, she never imagined that the struggle would come to him.

“Enbridge wants to criminalize us,” he said. “I’m a grandmother, you know, she graduated from Harvard and I ran twice for vice president, at what point did I become a criminal? I just wonder, ‘What risk should we Americans take?’ so you can have a Canadian multinational? a little richer at the end of the era of bituminous sands? “

He helped convince a friendly local to sell them a small piece of land where the pipe crosses the Mississippi, and as the weather warms, protesters expect their number of tents, yurts and fishing huts with ice grows faster than Enbridge can drill under the frozen. Mississippi.

Pipe for Line 3 is laid through the forests of northern Minnesota.

“Our people say,‘ You can’t fight Mother Nature. You can’t win, and we’re getting us hit. So why change the equivalent of 50 new coal-fired power plants? “LaDuke said, pointing to line 3.

“Bituminous sands are the weapon. This is the trigger.”

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