Fond du Lac Band Chairman Explains Decision to Allow New Oil Pipeline to Cross Reservation Lands

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa explained why it approved a new Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline to cross its reservation in a Saturday Facebook Post. It reads in part:

Route Segment 21 (in orange) reuses the existing pipeline trench through the Reservation. Black is Enbridge’s preferred route, which skits the Reservation to the south. (Map is from the Line 3 Final Environmental Impact Statement.)

“We reached an agreement after very extensive work to make sure that the construction and operation of these pipelines best protects the Fond du Lac Band’s needs, rights, and interests, and the community at large,” said Devin Dupuis, Chairman of the Fond du Lac Band. “Our first priority is and has always been to protect our people, our homeland, our Treaty rights, our culture, traditions, and our way of life — ‘inaadiziwin.‘ …

The agreement allows Replacement Line 3 to be built along the existing corridor through the Reservation with a comprehensive set of safety, environmental, economic, and financial benefits to the Band. These are benefits that would not be possible if Line 3 was built outside the Reservation.

The benefits include:

  • Protection of important wild rice waters, lands and natural resources in the 1854 Ceded Territory.
  • Removal of the old Line 3 replacing it with a safer pipe and making other needed repairs to other lines.
  • With the changes to the pipeline, Band members will have access to wildlife and portions of the Reservation that have been inaccessible.
  • Enbridge will comply with Band laws, as well as federal and state laws for environmental protection and safety.
  • Compensating the Band for the costs of having the pipelines located through the Reservation.
  • Contracting, training and job opportunities for Band members.

Line 3 is one of several pipelines running through Enbridge’s Main Line corridor. The agreement extends Enbridge’s easement for all pipelines for an additional 10 years. The easement was set to expire in 2029 and it will now expire in 2039.

Comments: Fond du Lac’s big wins include the financial compensation Enbridge will pay for the easement. That figure is confidential, according to a letter the Band and Enbridge jointly sent to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The Band’s decision also avoids creating a brand new pipeline corridor just south of the Reservation — and all of the negative environmental impacts that would create.

Enbridge’s wins are the new easement and an agreement from Fond du Lac that it will not “participate in any opposition to the project.” This means that the Band can’t sue to stop the pipeline, arguing it violates the Band’s treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather along the pipeline’s route in the area covered by the 1854 Treaty. These rights to hunt, fish and gather outside the Reservation have been a big point on contention in the PUC hearings.

Regarding Enbridge’s agreement to remove the old Line 3 from tribal lands, Ennbridge would have had to do that anyway. The PUC decision approving the pipeline said all landowners affected by the pipeline would be given the option to have it removed or receive a monetary settlement to leave it in place.

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