Line 3 resistance now focuses on Biden

One piece of broader effort to stop pipelines

Darrell G. Seki Sr., chair of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa and Michael Fairbanks, Chair of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe wrote a strong letter to President Biden last winter asking him to shut down Enbridge Line 3 by executive order.

They asked Biden to respect Tribal sovereignty and treaties. “As elected leaders, we wish to state clearly that the Bands never gave consent for the construction of the pipeline through our treaty lands,” the Feb. 2 letter said. “In fact, the Bands’ governing bodies have each enacted multiple Resolutions throughout the course of the five-year regulatory process in opposition to the 338 miles of pipeline construction through the largest concentration of wild rice watersheds in the United States.”

With Walz being a wallflower in the Line 3 debate, Tribes, water protectors and their allies have ramped up presidential pressure.

Last month, more than 300 organizations “representing Indigenous groups and national and local organizations, sent a letter to the Biden Administration calling on him to immediately suspend or revoke Enbridge’s Line 3 permits,” WECAN reported.

Biden has taken some positive steps, and has had missteps, in the crude oil pipeline department. He hasn’t taken action on Line 3.


Biden issued an executive directive revoking federal permits for the Keystone XL Pipeline in his first day in office, giving hope to Line 3 opponents that he might do the same in Minnesota.

In January, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that found the Dakota Access Pipeline’s (DAPL’s) environmental review was inadequate. It was a victory for the Standing Rock Nation which has opposed the project from the start.

Water protectors hoped the decision would force DAPL to shut down while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted a more robust environmental review. No such luck. The Biden administration decided to allow DAPL to continue operating while the review is underway.

The Sierra Club said Biden failed in his first test on DAPL, saying the pipeline is now operating illegally.

Standing back and looking at the bigger picture, it’s clear that public pressure is working.

Image: Stop Line 3.

The Northern Gateway Pipeline would have carried tar sands crude oil from Alberta to the western port of Kitimat for foreign export. First Nations strongly opposed the project, as did environmental groups. The Canadian government approved the pipeline in June 2014 — subject to 209 conditions, Wikipedia said. “Upon taking office in 2015, Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau imposed a ban on oil tanker traffic on the north coast of British Columbia, effectively killing the project.

TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline proposal also failed. The nearly 2,900 mile pipeline was an effort to get western Canada’s tar sands crude to the eastern seaboard for export. TransCanada filed its application in 2014. It was cancelled in 2017, after Trudeau took office and liberal Parliament members were elected from communities along the pipeline’s proposed route.

Since then, the Trudeau government has become more pipeline friendly.

Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline would have failed had not Trudeau’s government stepped in and bought the pipeline for $4.5 billion.

The Athabascan tar sands are a particularly dirty fossil fuel and expensive to process. Located far from markets, they have added transportation costs. But they also represent the third largest crude oil reserve in the world, and politically they are an economic boost for Alberta.

With Northern Gateway and Energy East scrapped and Keystone XL on hold, there’s undoubtedly more pressure on Trudeau to keep the Enbridge Line 3 operating.

Biden needs to ask himself: If Canadians themselves don’t want Northern Gateway, Energy East, or Trans Mountain, why should their government expect the United States to accept their new pipelines and the burden that come with them?

More obstacles

Line 3 ends at a terminal in Superior, Wisc. From there it becomes Line 5 through northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Line 5 crosses Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in northern Wisconsin, and the Band wants to terminate Enbridge’s easement, which expired in 2013 and hasn’t been renewed. In 2017, Enbridge offered Bad River $24 million to settle, which the Band rejected. A federal lawsuit is still pending.

Note: The vote was taken Jan. 4, 2017.

Once the pipeline crosses the Upper Peninsula, it bends south and eventually runs along the floor of the Straits of Mackinac, 100 feet below the water, through the neck where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has revoked Enbridge’s easement through the Straits and ordered the company to stop operating the pipeline. Her office has described Line 5 threat to the Great Lakes as a “ticking time bomb.”

Enbridge is ignoring her order.

Cited in the revocation, for the first time in the history of Line 5, Michigan’s administration officially acknowledged nearly 200-year-old Indigenous Chippewa and Ottawa treaty rights as one of the reasons to shut down the pipeline project and protect Great Lakes ecology and fisheries.

Michigan Radio
Straits of Mackinac (Wikipedia)

The Trudeau government already has told the Biden administration that the continued operation of Line 5 is “non-negotiable,” the Financial Post reports.

To address possible oil spills in the Great Lakes, Enbridge has proposed drilling a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac, which raises a whole other set of worries.

We will report updates.

More conflicts loom

Current Mainline Corridor route (orange) and proposed route for new Line 3 (green).

An under reported aspect of the Line 3 debate is how the state’s Line 3 decision will affect the other crude oil pipelines in Enbridge’s mainline corridor — a corridor passing through both reservation lands and treaty territory.

This debate isn’t just about Line 3, but Lines 1, 2B, 4 and 67, all crude oil pipelines. (A sixth pipeline, Line 13, carries diluent north to Alberta, a toxic product used to dilute the tar sands oil to make if flow more easily through the pipes.)

Enbridge rerouted Line 3 because the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe refused to agree to have the new Line 3 run through its lands.

Enbridge’s easements through Leech Lake end soon, creating a crisis for the mainline corridor in less than a decade. Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly wrote in her report and recommendations on Line 3:

In 2029, Enbridge’s easements with the federal government, allowing it to run six pipelines through the two Indian Reservations [Leech Lake and Fond du Lac], will expire. Thus, sometime before 2029, [Enbridge] will need to either renegotiate those easements with the Tribes and the federal government; or remove those lines from the Reservations. Approval of the Project, as proposed, would result in a partially new oil pipeline corridor being created in the State where Applicant could someday request to relocate its other pipelines. This is especially true if negotiations with the Tribes before 2029 are unsuccessful. (page 10)

In the worst possible case where Enbridge does get Line 3 built, expect Enbridge to apply for those reroutes soon.

Should that happen, expect resistance to continue.

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