Line 3 Civil Disobedience Continues, Pushing Back on a Flawed, Immoral Decision

Water Protectors opposing the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline blocked a bridge near Bemidji Tuesday, erecting a tepee and holding a water ceremony, according to an MPR story.

No arrests were made, but it’s the latest in a series of actions against the pipeline. On Sept. 11, water protectors disrupted and delayed a Minnesota Public Utilities Commission vote on Line 3 permit conditions. On Aug. 29, water protectors blocked a Bemidji intersection for four hours. Other volunteers took their laptops and tablets to Gov. Mark Daytons’ reception room and live streamed the event, an effort to pressure him to get off the fence and take a stand against Line 3. In Bemidji, 26 people received disorderly conduct citations and face mandatory court appearances.

Sadly, Dayton remains silent on whether he thinks Minnesotans should have this crude oil pipeline shoved down their proverbial throats.

Work to stop this project is ongoing. Here’s a few action steps:

  • Sign a petition telling Gov. Dayton that Line 3 is a danger to our community.
  • Sign a Pledge of Resistance to Line 3, with options ranging from hosting an event to participating in a direct action.
  • Call Dayton’s Office directly: 651-201-3400

Where Things Stand

Sign worn on the back of a water protector’s shirt at a recent PUC hearing.

The PUC tentatively approved Line 3 in June, imposing five conditions that Enbridge had to meet for final approval. Among them, the company has to provide guarantees it would have the financial ability to pay for major spill clean-ups. (Note: The public is not privy to Enbridge’s insurance policies, which the company claims are “trade secrets.” Honor the Earth has filed a motion with the PUC to force Enbridge to disclose its coverage.)

The PUC was expected to vote Sept. 11 on the details of Enbridge’s financial guarantee and other conditions. That meeting got shut down, but will get rescheduled soon. In all likelihood, the PUC will continue to green-light the project.

Next, expect intervenors opposing the pipeline to ask the PUC to reconsider its vote. This is highly unlikely to happen, but it is a key procedural step that allows opponents to sue in court to stop the project.

Line 3 construction isn’t expected to start for at least a month. Enbridge still needs to secure a series of local, state and federal permits. That said, whenever construction starts, civil disobedience will escalate.

Sierra Club National Leaders Take a Stand

Sierra Club President Loren Blackford.

Those risking arrest at the Aug. 29 Bemidji action included indigenous leaders, members of the faith communities, and environmental leaders. The Sierra Club had a notable presence.

Loren Blackford, national president of the Sierra Club and Nellis Kennedy-Howard, the Sierra Club’s Director of Equity, Inclusion and Justice, participated in the action. Blackford wrote a recent blog on her and the organization’s participation, headlined: “Civilly Disobedient, Morally Imperative.” It says:

This action was a big deal for the Sierra Club—and for me personally. I was always the kid who would never break the rules. To this day, disobedience goes against the grain of who I perceive myself to be. Similarly, the Sierra Club has explicitly prohibited civil disobedience until this policy was changed by the Board of Directors in February 2017. Only twice before in our history has the board voted to allow an act of civil disobedience: once in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, and again a few years later to help protect voting rights.

This summer, after the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted to approve Enbridge, Inc.’s proposed enlargement of the Line 3 pipeline, which would more than double the volume of dirty tar sands crude flowing through Line 3 and endanger some of the state’s most vital water resources, we decided to once again take part in an act of civil disobedience.

The Sierra Club also produced a one-minute video on the action, encouraging its members and the public to oppose the project.

(Full disclosure: The blog’s author volunteers for the Sierra Club and also participated in this action.)

In Spite Of …

The civil disobedience is a response to the PUC’s deeply flawed process and an immoral decision.

This blog has written extensively about the PUC’s flawed logic. Here is the short version: In spite of the significant environmental damage Line 3 would cause ($287 billion in climate changes costs over 30 years), in spite of legitimate and unanswered questions around treaty rights, in spite the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s opposition to the project, in spite of overwhelming public opposition, in spite of the fact that clean water is a limited and shrinking resource, in spite of the risks to the Mississippi River and wild rice, in spite of the fact that the Administrative Law Judge reviewing this case recommended against the PUC-approved route — the PUC voted to approve it pretty much the way Enbridge wanted it.

And it boils down to this: International oil companies — the oil producers and the oil buyers — said they wanted and needed the pipeline. Apparently that was sufficient for the PUC approval, a body theoretically watching out for Minnesota’s best interests.

As my friend Natalie puts it: “If a pipeline gets approved simply because international companies say they want it and need it, our criteria are morally bankrupt.”

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