Native American fight against Trudeau-backed Line 3 pipeline set to intensify

On November 29, the day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, he also announced his government's approval of the lesser-known 760,000 barrel per day Enbridge Line 3 pipeline.

The approval of the Calgary-based Enbridge Line 3 pipeline means the building of 1,600 kilometres of new pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior Wisconsin, which is situated on the western tip of Lake Superior. The original 390,000 barrel per day Line 3 pipeline was built in 1968 and will now be decommissioned and left underground. The new larger pipeline would carry 760,000 barrel per day and would have the capacity to carry diluted bitumen for 50-60 years. Enbridge admits the pipeline would mean 19 to 26 megatonnes of upstream greenhouse gas emissions each year.

The CBC has reported, "Line 3 already has presidential approval, but the replacement project must undergo separate permitting processes in the U.S. [including in Minnesota where there is significant opposition] before construction can begin." Enbridge wants to replace the entire pipeline by December 2017.

Now Argus Media reports, "Enbridge's $7.5bn plan to replace its aging Line 3 crude pipeline has avoided the limelight of other projects, like Energy Transfer's Dakota Access pipeline or TransCanada's Keystone XL. But that may soon change. Fresh off a successful effort to delay the [Dakota Access pipeline], Native American and environmental groups are working to thwart plans for the [Line 3] pipeline. The proposed new route crosses grasslands in Minnesota and could threaten downstream waterways and violate treaty rights to fish, hunt and gather crops, including wild rice, opponents contend."

The article highlights, "Several tribes, which include Ojibwe groups, also known as Chippewa, have harvested wild rice in the region since the mid-1700s, a staple crop of significant spiritual and cultural value. The Minnesota Chippewa Tribal Executive Committee said in a 30 November resolution that the US Army Corps of Engineers should develop new permitting processes under the Clean Water Act for wild rice waters."

Winona LaDuke has commented, “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of protecting our sacred manoomin (wild rice) which is at the root of our cultural and spiritual ways of life with mother earth we call bimaadiziwin, living our life in a good way." Kevin Lee, an attorney with the Minnesota Centre for Environmental Advocacy, says, "The new route travels through a rich water environment and over some of the state's most pristine land." And Frank Bibeau, a member of the Chippewa tribe and an attorney for Honor the Earth, says, "We will be trying to kill off their project every day."

The Ochapowace, Keeseekoose, George Gordon and Pasqua First Nations in Saskatchewan have all expressed concerns about the Line 3 pipeline, as has the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. The heavy oil pipeline would pass nearby Regina and Brandon, communities where the Council of Canadians has chapters.

The Council of Canadians first expressed opposition to the building of the Line 3 pipeline in a March 2014 blog.