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Open Letter to Joe Biden: Act Now to Stop the Line 3 Pipeline

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Biden,

We write to urge you to take swift action to revoke the Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline’s permits and stop its construction. Line 3 is a threat to water, Indigenous rights, and our global climate, and its rushed construction in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is an extreme danger to Minnesotan communities and energy workers alike.

We urge you to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to immediately reevaluate and suspend or revoke the Line 3 project’s Clean Water Act Section 404 permit. The Army Corps failed to consider significant information on Line 3’s impacts in reaching its original determination, including the risk of oil spills, climate change impacts, and impacts on Indigenous peoples. The Army Corps also refused to prepare a federal Environmental Impact Statement for Line 3,despite overwhelming evidence that the project would have significant impacts.

Additionally, we urge you to revoke or amend Line 3’s presidential permit, as you did for Keystone XL, to make it clear that the permit does not authorize this massive expansion. Your rejection of the Keystone XL’s pipeline’s presidential permit was a clear signal that the Biden administration represents a break from the fossil fuel giveaways of the Trump administration. Line 3 would be the same diameter as Keystone XL, would carry the same heavy tar sands oil through the Midwest, and was also inappropriately permitted by the Trump administration. As you indicated in your Day One Executive Order, “the United States must […] exercise vigorous climate leadership in order to achieve a significant increase in global climate action and put the world on a sustainable climate pathway. Leaving the Keystone XL pipeline permit in place would not be consistent with my Administration’s economic and climate imperatives.” The same logic applies to Line 3, which would lock in fossil fuel dependence for decades to come.

Since 2014, thousands of Minnesotans have shown up at hearings, talked to neighbors, written letters, and organized in their communities to oppose Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline. Hundreds of thousands of Americans across the country, from all walks of life, have joined them in opposing the project. Line 3 is a clear danger to their climate, water, and land, and would undermine the Indigenous rights of the Anishinaabe people.

Climate scientists warn that we must keep the vast majority of known fossil fuels reserves in the ground, and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions before 2030.​[1]​ Analysis has shown that building Line 3 would unlock the emissions equivalent to building 50 coal plants,​[2]​ costing society more than $287 billion in climate impacts in just its first 30 years of operation. Adding such fuel to the fire in the midst of our climate crisis is unacceptable. Simply put: No one can be a leader on climate change and support the Line 3 project — a choice must be made.

The proposed route for Line 3 crosses 227 lakes and rivers, including the Mississippi River and rivers that feed directly into Lake Superior, putting those waterways at risk of a spill from the 760,000 barrels of tar sands oil that would flow through Line 3 every day. Tar sands oil sinks in water, making it nearly impossible to clean up from wetland areas.​[3]​ A spill could destroy prize fishing lakes and sacred wild rice beds, and gut the local economy.

Enbridge’s negligent 2010 spill of over 1 million gallons of tar sands oil from its aging Line 6B into the Kalamazoo River demonstrated the immensity of this threat, with a cleanup cost of over $1.2 billion.​[4]​ Enbridge’s newer pipelines are no safer than its old ones. Since 2002, the company’s pipelines have had 73 spills due to equipment installed less than 10 years before the incident.​[5]​ The existing Line 3 pipeline was constructed in the 1960s and has deteriorated to a point that it is only able to operate at partial capacity — 390,000 barrels per day — due to structural concerns. Given these risks, this old and deteriorating tar sands pipeline should be shut down for safety reasons, not given the green light to double capacity and reroute through the pristine forests and waterways of the Great Lakes region. Enbridge should not be trusted near precious bodies of water like the Mississippi River.

Enbridge’s route crosses the 1854 and 1855 treaty territory where Anishinaabe people retain the right to hunt, fish, gather medicines, and harvest wild rice. The impact of construction — or worse, an oil spill — would permanently damage their ability to exercise these rights. Three Tribal governments and hundreds of Anishinaabe and Dakota community members in Minnesota are actively opposing this pipeline. Building Line 3 would carry on a legacy of state-and U.S. government-sanctioned oppression of Indigenous people, directly contradicting your important promises to strengthen Nation-to-Nation relationships with Tribal Nations and Indigenous peoples.

In the largest public comment period on Line 3 in Minnesota, 94% of the comments submitted opposed construction of the pipeline.​[6]​ Your administration’s announcements on protecting our nation’s lakes and rivers, cleaning up aging and retired fossil fuel infrastructure currently polluting delicate environments, and moving to a clean energy economy powered by good,union jobs show the direction the United States is heading. With these commitments to building the energy economy of the future, we must not continue to allow fossil fuel companies to move forward with dangerous projects like Line 3 that would last many decades.

According to the state of Minnesota’s own analysis, Enbridge failed to demonstrate Line 3 was needed, and didn’t provide a legally required oil demand forecast — a part of the process that is even more critical in a world of rapidly changing oil markets and climate policy. The Minnesota Department of Commerce recommended that Line 3 be denied approval,​[7]​ and the judge responsible for presiding over the case issued a legal recommendation that Enbridge’s proposal did not meet the standards set by state law.

We urge you and all federal leadership to stand firm against the Line 3 pipeline and act now to halt its construction. The pipeline’s construction is an urgent threat to the waters of Minnesota and Lake Superior, as well as to our global climate. The facts are not in Enbridge’s favor, and the time for climate action is now. A thoughtful, science-based approach shows a clear conclusion: Line 3 must not be built.


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Gina McCarthy, White House National Climate Advisor
Ali A. Zaidi, White House Deputy National Climate Advisor
John F. Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate
Brenda Mallory, nominee for Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality
Lt. General Scott A. Spellmon, Commanding General, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

[1] “​Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5ºC​,” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
[2] “​A Giant Step Backward: Carbon Impact of the Line 3 Pipeline​,” MN350
[3] “​Spills of Diluted Bitumen from Pipelines: A Comparative Study of Environmental Fate,Effects, and Response​,” National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
[4] “​New price tag for Kalamazoo River oil spill cleanup: $1.21 billion​,” ​Michigan Live
[5] “​Dangerous Pipelines: Enbridge’s History of Spills Threatens Minnesota Waters​,” Greenpeace USA
[6] “​Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law in the Matter of the Line 3 Project​,” Minnesota Public Utilities Commission
[7] “​Minnesota Dept of Commerce again appeals approval of Enbridge pipeline​,” ​Star Tribune