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Enbridge’s Line 3 crude oil pipeline: nothing but trouble for Minnesota

Mark Blinch
Enbridge, a Canadian energy transportation company, is proposing to expand its tar sands crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.

We’re not supposed to swim or fish in 40 percent of Minnesota’s waters, Gov. Mark Dayton says, because they are so polluted. Forty percent! This year, he wisely set a goal of improving water quality by 25 percent by 2025.

Isabel Watson

“Clean water is your right, it is also your responsibility and mine too,” Dayton said, according to a Minnesota Daily story.

This will take a lot of work – Dayton’s plan requires farmers, scientists, business leaders, and others to collaborate on water quality policies and investments.

An unnecessary project

We bring this to mind because Enbridge, a Canadian energy transportation company, is proposing to expand its tar sands crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota. It’s called Enbridge Line 3. As a high school student and recent college grad, we know it is too big of a risk to take to expand pipeline infrastructure in our state. Not only is this project unnecessary, it is irresponsible to allow this expansion that threatens so much of Minnesota's precious waters, wilderness and communities, and in turn our futures.

Elana Zien

Why would any of our state leaders consider a tar sands oil pipeline when one major rupture could undo so much work and public expense to clean up our state’s waters?

Let’s start with the obvious. Water is essential for life and increasingly scarce. The Washington Post reports that the Colorado River is drying up because of growing water demands in the southwest United States. The Huffington Post reports that water could soon be unaffordable for millions of Americans.

Alberta to Wisconsin

Built in the 1960s, Line 3 carries crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wisconsin. It includes a 300-plus mile stretch across northern Minnesota. There is no question that the current Line 3 is old and failing. The question is whether Minnesota will approve Enbridge’s aggressive expansion and rerouting plans.

Please join us in thanking Gov. Dayton for his efforts to clean up the state’s waters, and ask him and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to reject Enbridge’s proposal. Let’s continue our state’s great legacy of protecting our environment.

Three quick points.

First, neither Minnesota nor the United States needs this project for our energy security. Sierra Club research shows that in 2016 Minnesota’s petroleum fuel use was down 19 percent from its 2004 peak. (Insert applause.) And while it is true that our country still imports crude oil, we are importing more than we need. Since 2011, the United States has been a net exporter of refined oil; our export volume has grown annually.

This project benefits corporate profits, not Minnesotans.

Environmental issues

Second, environmental concerns abound.

  • Enbridge proposes rerouting a long stretch of Line 3. The new route crosses the Mississippi headwaters region. It’s hard to think of a worse place to put an oil pipeline than through the Mississippi headwaters.
  • Spill cleanups would be difficult and damaging. Tar sands crude doesn’t float on the water; it is heavy and sinks. Cleanup requires dredging.
  • Enbridge doesn’t have a great track record. In 2010, an Enbridge pipeline ruptured near Marshall, Michigan, contaminating Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River, according to a U.S. Environmental Agency report. From 2010 to 2014 Enbridge dredged up more than 1.2 million gallons of oil from the river.
  • Enbridge plans to abandon a significant stretch of the old Line 3, leaving it in the ground, violating the kindergarten rule: “Clean up your own mess.”

Third, the proposal violates Anishinaabeg treaty rights. Specifically, the Anishinaabeg (also known as Ojibwe) have rights under the Treaty of 1855 to hunt, fish, and gather wild rice through much of northern Minnesota. Minnesota’s leaders need to take these treaty rights seriously in reviewing Enbridge’s proposal, including tribal consultation.

To get involved, go here

Isabel Watson and Elana Zien are co-chairs of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter’s Beyond Oil and Tar Sands Committee. Watson is a high school senior at the School of Environmental Studies at the Minnesota Zoo. Zien is a recent graduate of the University of Iowa.

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