Enbridge Line 93

Mary Annette Pember
Indian Country Today

ANISHINAABE LANDS — Line 3 is dead. Long live Line 93.

Enbridge’s controversial Line 3 construction project is complete.

“The Line 3 replacement project/Line 93 came into service on Friday, October 1, as expected through N(orth) Dakota and Minnesota,” Juli Kellner, communications specialist for Enbridge, said in an email to Indian Country Today.

And with that, Line 3 will be deactivated, according to Kellner.

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After nearly 8 years of Indigenous and citizen opposition that saw numerous protests and arrests in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and a string of state, federal and tribal court filings, it appears that the corporate giant has won.

Not so, say Indigenous and non-Native water protectors.

As clean-up begins and more construction accidents come to light, water protectors are claiming victory on a number of fronts.

Members of Indigenous advocacy organizations such as Honor the Earth and the Indigenous Environmental Network as well as tribal grassroots pipeline opponents say that the fight against Line 3 helped focus the world’s attention on what they describe as an untenable corporate push to build fossil fuel infrastructure projects at the expense of the environment.

“Line 3 is a crime against the environment and Indigenous rights, waters and lands and it marks the end of the tar sands era — but not the resistance to it,” said Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth.

LaDuke, a citizen of the White Earth Ojibwe Nation, praised the actions of water protectors opposing the pipeline.

“Your brave efforts have reshaped the world’s views on the climate crisis that we are in,” she said.

Signs near the Firelight water protector camp along country Highway 2 near Bagley, Minnesota, on Oct. 4, 2021. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember/Indian Country Today)

Signs near the Firelight water protector camp along country Highway 2 near Bagley, Minnesota, on Oct. 4, 2021. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember/Indian Country Today)

On Oct. 11, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, activists kicked off a week of protests calling out President Joe Biden for failing to stop Line 3, and for failing to meet his promises on addressing climate change and protecting Indigenous treaty rights and lands. On Oct. 14, dozens of Indigenous leaders held a sit-in at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C., in an effort to stop extractive fossil fuel industry projects such as Line 3.

The Indigenous Environmental Network issued a statement questioning Enbridge’s rosy outlook on the project.

“Although Enbridge is pushing the message that Line 3 is a done deal and that they followed all the rules and regulations, we can see even at this late date the continuing harm to our lands and waters,” the statement said. “There have been spills, frac-outs and pierced aquifers even to this day.”

Enbridge’s decision to change the name of Line 3 to Line 93 further confirms what water protectors knew all along, said Taysha Martineau, founder of Camp Migizi, a camp for water protectors opposing Line 3.

“We stated from the beginning that this was an entirely new pipeline project,” said Martineau, a citizen of the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe.

Negative fallout

Although Enbridge has repeatedly framed the pipeline construction as a safety-based replacement project for the 32-inch Line 3, Line 93 is 34 inches wide, allowing it to carry tar sands oil that Line 3 could not.

Leaders of the White Earth and Red Lake Bands of Ojibwe and Line 3 opponents insist that the negative fallout from pipeline construction continues.

Frank Bibeau, attorney for and citizen of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, said the pipeline construction exacerbated already low water levels and endangered the health of manoomin or wild rice.

In a unique rights of nature lawsuit filed in White Earth tribal court, tribal citizens accuse the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources of failing to protect the state’s fresh water by allowing Enbridge to pump up to five million gallons of additional water from construction trenches. That case is ongoing.

In January, Enbridge construction crews accidentally pierced an artesian aquifer near Clearbrook, Minnesota, causing the aquifer to lose about 24 million gallons of groundwater. The Department of Natural Resources learned about the accident in June when independent monitors reported seeing water pooling in ditches, according to a report issued by the agency.

“Enbridge began work at the Clearbrook Terminal site in early 2021 but did not follow the construction plans it provided to the DNR,” according to the report.

Enbridge erected a protective boom, shown here on Oct. 4, 2021,  around a frac-out of drilling fluid along the Mississippi River near Solway, Minnesota. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember/Indian Country Today)

Enbridge erected a protective boom, shown here on Oct. 4, 2021, around a frac-out of drilling fluid along the Mississippi River near Solway, Minnesota. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember/Indian Country Today)

In September, the agency ordered Enbridge to pay $3.32 million in penalties, including $300,000 to pay for loss of groundwater as well as create a restoration plan to stop the groundwater flow within 30 days. The agency is also investigating two additional sites of artesian aquifer breaches by the company, but did not disclose the locations.

The Department of Natural Resources has referred the breaches to the Clearwater County attorney where the company could face criminal charges.

On Oct. 17, the agency reported that Enbridge failed to meet a deadline to clean up the ruptured aquifer near Clearbrook and announced that Enbridge must pay compensation for the additional time it takes to stop the flow of groundwater.

Kellner said the company is working with state and local officials.

“Enbridge is fully cooperating with the Minnesota DNR in correcting uncontrolled groundwater flows at Clearbrook and is working with the DNR as two other locations are being evaluated,” she wrote.

Enbridge tanks sit at the company's terminal in Superior, Wisconsin, on Oct. 8, 2021, the destination of petroleum products flowing through the newly completed Line 93. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember/Indian Country Today)

Enbridge tanks sit at the company’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin, on Oct. 8, 2021, the destination of petroleum products flowing through the newly completed Line 93. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember/Indian Country Today)

LaDuke called the company’s failure to meet the deadline alarming.

“If Enbridge can’t meet basic safety requirements, they should not be allowed to operate a pipeline,” she said. “It doesn’t bode well for the future.”

In August, the Minnesota Public Pollution Control Agency reported that Enbridge created 28 spills of drilling mud during the summer. The agency confirmed the spills in response to a letter from Minnesota Democratic Farm Labor Party lawmakers demanding an accurate account of the spills.

“Our friends have reported frac-outs further down from the headwaters of the Mississippi,” Bibeau said.

“We are looking into doing a thermal imaging flight over the pipeline to see where all the damage is because we don’t think the DNR or the Public Pollution Control Agency is actually investigating these locations,” he said.

Earlier this month, Ron Turney of the Indigenous Environmental Network and members of Honor the Earth took Indian Country Today via canoe to an Enbridge frac-out location near the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

Turney, a citizen of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, has been using a drone camera to monitor the pipeline. The location, near Solway, Minnesota, is not accessible on foot or visible from the road. A large boom surrounded the area where opaque white material appeared to rest on top of the water.

Igniting a movement

On Oct. 2, Honor the Earth sponsored a celebration on Madeline Island in Wisconsin of traditional Ojibwe subsistence food and activities as a means to celebrate water protector victories fighting Line 3.

The event coincided with Treaty Day, a commemoration of the signing of the Treaty of 1854 at the town of LaPointe on Madeline Island. In this treaty, the Ojibwe established reservations in their traditional homelands and retained rights to hunt, fish and gather.

Water protector celebration

Water protectors gathered at Madeline Island in Wisconsin in October 2021.

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Madeline Island or Mooningwanekaaning, “home of the yellow-breasted flicker,” is considered a sacred place by Ojibwe and the birthplace of the tribe’s traditional religion.

About 150 people gathered to share traditional activities such as butchering sturgeon, parching wild rice, feasting, dancing, singing and playing lacrosse.

“We used to survive on this island,” said Paul DeMain, a citizen of the Ojibwe and Oneida tribes and an Honor the Earth board member who was among those at the celebration. “To me, it’s a productive fortress, a place of healing.”

DeMain said water protectors were bound to lose in the massively unequal fight with a global corporate giant such as Enbridge. Among the victories, however, was that the fight focused the world’s attention on the impact of ongoing reliance on fossil fuel on climate change and the preservation of the Earth.

“We came here to celebrate our victories over the fossil fuel industry, our survival and to heal our trauma of watching our people get arrested, harassed, beaten and hurt,” DeMain said.

“We came here to show we could feast in camaraderie with the rich, poor, Indigenous and non-Indigenous and work on forging a path ahead.”

This article contains material from The Associated Press. 

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