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Water Protectors Protesting at Willow River Warn Line 3 ‘Is a Catastrophic Threat’

Water protectors protested against Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline on July 6, 2021, in and around Willow River in Minnesota. (Photo: Keri Pickett)

By Jessica Corbett | Common Dreams

The Indigenous-led fight against Line 3 continued Tuesday as water protectors descended on the area of Willow River where Canadian energy giant Enbridge is working to install a “climate-wrecking” tar sands pipeline to replace one that was built in the 1960s.

Water protectors attached themselves to drilling equipment and built blockades on access roads in an effort to halt construction in Minnesota on Tuesday, according to a statement from organizers.

Pipeline opponents also joined Indigenous leaders Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, and Tania Aubid to stand in the river in prayer.

“We the people are here in the river because the rivers belong to the fish, they belong to the animals, and they belong to the people—and they don’t belong to Enbridge,” LaDuke said in a video from the river shared on social media.

Speaking from the river, which is part of the Mississippi watershed, Aubid said: “Minnesota, you will be held accountable along with the federal and Canadian governments for the genocide of Mother Earth.”

“We cannot allow them to take these rivers,” Taysha Martineau, a water protector of the Fond du Lac Tribe who has helped build Camp Migizi, said about Tuesday’s direct action.

“Enbridge was given a cease-and-desist notice in order to protect the ceremonial lodge,” Martineau explained. “The state of Minnesota has refused to abide by that order and so action was taken. Abide by the order or we will continue to use people’s power to shut it down.”

An unnamed water protector locked down in Minnesota declared that “Line 3 is a catastrophic threat to the land, the water, the people, wild rice, and the climate.”

“This pipeline violates the treaty rights of the Anishinaabe and is not being built with Indigenous consent,” the water protector noted, before taking aim at the company behind it:

Enbridge has a long history of spills, many of which occur in the first 10 years of a pipeline operating. They do not care about the land, the people, or their workers. They only care about the money, so we are putting pressure on their pocketbooks by slowing the progress of Line 3 until we stop it altogether. Polluted water, land, and rapid climate change are threats to us all, and Line 3 will cause unpredictable levels of damage if it becomes active.

“Actions like this one are a fight for all of our survival,” the activist added, “and should be seen as nothing less.”

In a series of tweets from the river Tuesday, Honor the Earth raised concerns that “a spot in the river is warmer, and appears to have been polluted with drilling mud.”

The advocacy group shared a photo of a nearby container labeled “spill kit,” and said that there was “no one working to contain this drilling mud from washing downstream and polluting the river.”

According to the Line 3 resistance movement, as of Tuesday, more than 500 people have been arrested for protesting the pipeline. As Common Dreams reported last week, some of them now face felony charges.

Under pressure from Indigenous leaders and climate justice advocates, the Minneapolis City Council last week unanimously passed a resolution opposing the pipeline, calling on elected leaders who can stop it to do so immediately, and requesting that the city’s mayor and police chief refuse to participate in a law enforcement coalition formed in response to protests.

“This water we protect serves the people of your city,” LaDuke said last week of the development in Minneapolis. “Together we need to stop the last tar sands pipeline.”

Despite running on a broad promise to tackle the global climate emergency, to which the fossil fuel industry substantially contributed, President Joe Biden has so far refused to stop the project.

In fact, last month Biden’s Department of Justice filed a legal brief in support of the federal government’s approval of the project under former President Donald Trump.

Tara Houska, the founder of the Giniw Collective, called the DOJ’s move “a horrific failure of the government’s duty to tribal nations, to climate science, to the sacred.”

Wen Stephenson, who protested against Enbridge in Massachusetts last week, wrote for The Nation Tuesday that “the Giniw Collective and #StopLine3 campaign are demanding that the Biden administration suspend the project and order a review of the water-crossing permits issued under Trump.”

As Stephenson reports:

The state-level environmental impact statement (EIS), they point out, failed to consider the risks of (all but inevitable) oil spills; the impacts on “tribal cultural resources,” such as wild rice beds sacred to Anishinaabe people; as well as the project’s impact on climate change. If Biden orders a review and applies the same standard that compelled the Obama administration to reject the Keystone XL pipeline (to which Biden himself delivered the coup de grace upon taking office), then, as Houska says, “There’s no way it’s going to pass the test.”

According to Stephenson, who concluded with a call for solidarity with Line 3’s opponents, “What Enbridge is doing on Anishinaabe land in Minnesota, and what the fossil fuel industry and its political and financial backers are doing to drive global climate catastrophe, amounts to nothing less than a continuation of the genocide against the Indigenous peoples of the Americas and the Global South that began half a millennium ago.”


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Indigenous Women Invite Deb Haaland to See Devastation of Line 3 for Herself

Secretary Deb Haaland Budget Testimony. ( Photo via Flickr)

By Kenny Stancil | Common Dreams

A group of Indigenous women opposed to the Line 3 pipeline on Thursday invited Interior Secretary Deb Haaland—the first Native American woman to hold her Cabinet position and a professed critic of fossil fuel infrastructure on public and tribal lands—to visit northern Minnesota and “learn more about the impacts” of the tar sands project first-hand.

“We would be honored to host you in our territories and share further about our treaty rights, the violation of free, prior, and informed consent now occurring, the importance of wild rice to our communities, and the impacts of Line 3.”
—Letter to Interior Secretary Haaland

“The Line 3 pipeline project poses a significant threat to water, Indigenous Treaty rights, and worsens the global climate crisis,” the group wrote in a letter (pdf) addressed to Haaland. “Line 3 is being constructed in Minnesota on Indigenous lands without consent from local tribes and public officials, and without a federal environmental review.”

As the group noted, “Enbridge’s new pipeline route crosses the 1854 and 1855 Treaty territories, 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 our people’s ability to exercise these rights.”

“The White Earth Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians wrote (pdf) to President Joe Biden informing him these sovereign nations do not consent to Line 3 and have enacted multiple resolutions opposing the project, and requesting President Biden respect treaty rights,” the group added. “So far, President Biden and the Army Corps of Engineers haven’t listened to our voices—we are hoping they will listen to yours.”

The invitation was sent by Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation), Giniw Collective; Winona LaDuke (White Earth Nation), Honor the Earth; Taysha Martineau (The Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa), Camp Migizi; Sasha Beaulieu (Red Lake Nation), Red Lake Treaty Camp; Simone Senogles (Red Lake Nation), Indigenous Environmental Network and RISE Coalition; and Joye Braun (Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe), Indigenous Environmental Network.

The letter states:

The Army Corps of Engineers must immediately reevaluate and suspend or revoke Enbridge’s Line 3 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 risks of oil spills, climate change effects, and consequences to 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.

The new Line 3 route will run from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to the shores of Lake Superior, crossing 227 lakes and rivers, including the headwaters of the Mississippi River and rivers that feed directly into Lake Superior, putting all those waterways at imminent risk of a spill from the 760,000 barrels of tar sands oil that would flow daily.

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 to achieve international climate goals. Line 3 would release emissions equivalent to building 50 new coal plants, costing society more than $287 billion in climate impacts in just its first 30 years of operation.

Line 3 will increase tar sands export by 370,000 barrels per day. In the most severe drought we have seen in this time, Enbridge plans to take 630 million gallons of water from the fish and the wild rice. All of this puts our pristine ecosystems on the verge of collapse, with significant impacts on federally protected areas including major waterfowl production areas, and forested areas.

Not only does the spill-prone pipeline—which scientists and activists have described as a “climate time bomb”—threaten local ecosystems and communities while exacerbating the carbon pollution driving planetary heating, but opponents say it also puts Indigenous people at risk of physical and sexual violence.

“It is well documented that ‘man camps’ set up along the pipeline route are directly linked with increased rates of drug use, sex trafficking, and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls,” the group wrote. “Already this year, two Line 3 pipeline workers in Itasca County, Minnesota were arrested and charged with human trafficking, and specifically, solicitation of a minor.”

The Indigenous leaders vowed the coalition opposed to the project would continue direct actions against the pipeline while legal challenges make their way through the courts.

“None of us want further harms or mass arrests for communities on the ground protecting water, the global climate, and Indigenous lands,” the women wrote. “There have been over 500 arrests since construction began in December. Old and young, Indigenous and allied, church and religious people of all walks are engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience to stop the pipeline. We do not want to see an escalation of militarized force against water protectors.”

The letter comes on the heels of a historic weekend of nonviolent, direct action against Line 3. The mass mobilization on June 7—the largest demonstration against the pipeline to date—was brutally repressed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which used low-flying helicopters to kick up sand and debris to force water protectors away from the protest site.

Two days later, the Keystone XL—whose federal permit was rescinded by Biden on the first day of his presidency—was officially declared dead when the corporation behind the tar sands pipeline terminated the project after more than a decade of grassroots organizing, agitation, and tireless opposition by the international climate movement.

That huge victory has only intensified the resolve of Indigenous rights and environmental justice advocates to force Biden to use his executive authority to pull the plug on other destructive fossil fuel projects, including Line 3, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and others advanced during the Trump administration.

“We greatly appreciate your consideration and hope that you will accept this invitation to visit our homelands,” the group said to Haaland. “We would be honored to host you in our territories and share further about our treaty rights, the violation of free, prior, and informed consent now occurring, the importance of wild rice to our communities, and the impacts of Line 3.”


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Water Protectors Gather for ‘Largest Resistance Yet’ to Line 3 as Enbridge Accelerates Pipeline Construction

(Photo: UnicornRiot.Ninja)

By Jake Johnson | Common Dreams

Thousands of people from across the nation are traveling to northern Minnesota this weekend to join Indigenous leaders in what organizers described as the “largest resistance yet” to Line 3, an Enbridge-owned tar sands pipeline whose construction has accelerated in recent days as opponents warn the project poses a threat to waterways and the climate.

The Treaty People Gathering kicked off Saturday, the first of several expected days of action against Enbridge’s multi-billion-dollar project, which aims to replace and expand the Canadian company’s existing pipeline along a route that crosses more than 200 bodies of water and 800 wetlands.

If completed, the pipeline would have the capacity to carry more than 750,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from Alberta, Canada to Wisconsin.

Indigenous leaders have decried the pipeline expansion as a brazen violation of treaty rights that endangers sacred land. Attempts to block the pipeline in court have yet to succeed, leading Line 3 opponents to turn their focus to large-scale protests and civil disobedience.

“We need to protect all that we have left of the sacred gifts and land,” said Dawn Goodwin of the Indigenous-led RISE Coalition. “I said that I would do all that I could. And I have done all that I could in the legal system, thus far following that process. Now, they have failed us through regulatory capture and corporate financing. So now we need you.”

The latest major demonstrations against Line 3 are expected to begin on Monday, with prominent environmentalists such as Jane Fonda and Bill McKibben slated to join Winona LaDuke, Tara Houska, and other Indigenous activists in protesting the spill-prone pipeline.

“Our Mother needs us to be brave, to give voice to the sacred and future generations,” Houska, founder of the Giniw Collective, said in a statement. “We’ve elevated the national profile of Line 3 through people power. [President Joe] Biden hears our voices, but the wetlands and wild rice need action.”

“We cannot mitigate the climate crisis and we cannot stand idly by as DAPL and Line 5 fossil fuels flow illegally, as young people chain themselves to the Mountain Valley pipeline and Line 3,” Houska continued. “Stand up for what is right, stand up for those not yet born.”

Around 250 people have been arrested in demonstrations against Line 3 since construction began last December.

“From April 1 through June 1, work on the pipeline itself ceased due to spring road and environmental restrictions, though Enbridge continued building pumping stations,” Minnesota’s Star Tribune reported Saturday. “Over the past week, the full workforce—which numbers over 4,000—returned as direct pipeline work resumed.”

Hundreds of environmental groups and Indigenous leaders have appealed directly to Biden to intervene against Line 3, just as he pulled the plug on the Keystone XL pipeline shortly after taking office.

In a March letter, a coalition of more than 370 organizations warned Biden that “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.”

But Biden has yet to take any action on Line 3, and just last month his administration formally opposed a shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline, angering environmentalists who said the move flies in the face of the president’s vows to treat the climate crisis as an emergency that requires bold action.

“President Biden did the right thing when he canceled the Keystone XL pipeline early on in his term,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted on Friday. “Now he must do the right thing and cancel Line 3. I renew my calls to end this destructive, unnecessary giveaway to Big Oil.”


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‘No Time Left for Business as Usual’: Climate Activists Plan Day of Mass Civil Disobedience to #ShutDownDC

By Jake Johnson | Common Dreams

Environmental activists are hoping to bring Washington, D.C. to a “gridlocked standstill” next month with a massive act of civil disobedience aimed at disrupting business as usual and getting the attention of members of Congress standing in the way of bold climate action.

The #ShutDownDC day of action, scheduled for Sept. 23, is expected to include blockades at key intersections throughout the U.S. capital, according to a press release from the coalition of advocacy groups that organized the protest.

“The severity of the issue and the complete lack of response from elected officials necessitates mass civil disobedience,” Kathleen Brophy, an organizer with 350.org, said in a statement.

The civil disobedience is expected to come during a week of youth-led global climate strikes, which are set to begin Sept. 20 and continue through Sept. 27.

Sean Haskett of the youth-led Sunrise Movement told The Guardian on Wednesday that the goal of the #ShutDownDC action is to “disrupt the workings of power.”

“There’s a tremendous amount of power that drives through those streets and parks next to those sidewalks and walks into those buildings,” said Haskett. “We want them to think about what they’re doing with that power.”

The coalition behind the protest—which includes prominent organizations such as Extinction Rebellion D.C., Movement for a People’s Party, and CodePink—acknowledged the blockades will likely “cause massive disruption to people who bear little responsibility for the climate catastrophe we are facing.”

“But we will also cause massive disruption for politicians, huge corporations, and the lobbyists who control our government,” the groups said on the website for the action. “We need to fundamentally change the power structure of the United States if we want to stop the climate crisis, and shutting down D.C. is a big step in the right direction.”

According to organizers, the D.C. action will mark the beginning of an “international wave of citywide climate shutdowns” in major cities across the world, including London, Paris, and Berlin.

“There’s no time left for business as usual; the climate crisis is here,” the D.C. coalition said. “This is the mass uprising that everyone with climate anxiety has been waiting for. This is an uprising for life itself, fighting back against the forces of destruction.”

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‘Unprecedented’ Youth Climate Case Against Government Moves Forward

Youth Climate Case

By Nadia Prupis | Common Dreams

A federal judge in Oregon on Friday ruled that the lawsuit brought against the U.S. government by a group of youths last August can go to trial—a huge victory for the case climate activists are calling “the most important lawsuit on the planet right now.”

The lawsuit, filed by 21 plaintiffs ages 8-19, and climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, states that the federal government is violating their right to life, liberty, and property, as well as their right to public trust resources, by enabling continued fossil fuel extraction and use.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin in Eugene, who called the case “unprecedented,” rejected motions by federal lawyers and representatives of fossil fuel groups to dismiss the lawsuit. He stated in his decision (pdf) that the plaintiffs “give this debate justiciability by asserting harms that befall or will befall them personally and to a greater extent than older segments of society.”

There is a need for a court to assess the “constitutional parameters of the actions or inactions taken by the government,” Coffin said.

Philip Gregory, who represents the plaintiffs, said in a statement that the decision is “one of the most significant in our nation’s history.”

“The court upheld our claims that the federal government intensified the danger to our plaintiffs’ lives, liberty, and property…. The next step is for the court to order our government to cease jeopardizing the climate system for present and future generations,” Gregory said. “The court gave America’s youth a fair opportunity to be heard.”

Lawyers for the fossil fuel groups said the lawsuit posed a “direct, substantial threat” to their businesses, an argument Coffin rejected. The defendants have 14 days to file objections to the ruling.

One plaintiff, Kelsey Juliana, said the decision “marks a tipping point on the scales of justice…. This will be the trial of the century that will determine if we have a right to a livable future, or if corporate power will continue to deny our rights for the sake of their own wealth.”

The decision was lauded by environmental activists.

“This is as important a court case as the planet has yet seen,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of climate group 350.org. “To watch the next generation stand up for every generation that will follow is as moving as it is significant.”

Read more great articles at Common Dreams.