This Midwestern Pipeline Approval Just Pissed Off a Lot of People

These water protectors don’t play.
These water protectors don’t play.
Photo: AP

Shit’s about to go down in Minnesota. The state’s Public Utilities Commission just approved a brand spanking new pipeline, and people are pissed. I’m talking Standing Rock-level of pissed.


Line 3 is technically a pipeline replacement from energy company Enbridge, but it’d be an entirely new pipeline carrying nearly double the amount of oil the old one did. Environmentalists and tribes across the Midwest have been fighting the pipeline for months, and they won’t stop now.

“They have gotten their Standing Rock,” Winona Laduke, executive director of indigenous environmental group Honor the Earth, told Reuters. “We will do everything that is needed to stop this pipeline.”

The commission approved the route Enbridge preferred, which leads the 1,031-mile long line to the outskirts of a few Native American reservations: Fond du Lac, White Earth, and Red Lake. That means roughly 760,000 barrels of oil—which is coming all the way from the Alberta tar sands in Canada—will flow under these ancient sacred lands a day. Sure, the pipeline won’t run through official tribal lands, but spills don’t know human-made boundaries.

That’s why tribes and allies have been organizing hard since last year. They’ve set up camps, taken direct action, and even faced arrests. “People are prepared to stand and engage in civil disobedience to protect their homelands and protect their treaty territory,” Tara Houska, an organizer with Honor the Earth, told InsideClimate News. “We will do what it takes.”

Opponents don’t think the state needs this pipeline. And the state’s Department of Commerce apparently doesn’t think so, either. The department’s testimony in October was clear that Enbridge hadn’t shown why the state needs this new pipeline, particularly when it comes to oil demand. Plus, the original Line 3 could’ve kept running. Enbridge argues it’s about safety because the older pipeline is, well, old.

Many folks worry this new pipeline, like others before it, could spill. An oil spill wouldn’t just threaten tribal lands. It could threaten their water and wild rice fields that provide a traditional meal for the Anishinaabeg people, who make up the U.S. and Canadian tribes in the Great Lakes region.


Protestors stood outside the commission’s building in St. Paul Thursday with a sign that read, “Expect Resistance.” Inside the hearing, Tania Aubid, a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, shouted, “You have just declared war on the Ojibwe!” reports The Associated Press. The state is already bracing for a response similar to Standing Rock when the Dakota Access Pipeline was moving through the approval process.

This was a major approval the project needed to move forward, but it still needs some state water and soil permits before it’s final, according to InsideClimate News. Opponents’ concerns weren’t enough to sway the commission, but maybe the other agencies will be more willing to listen. Regardless, they better get ready for some serious backlash.


Yessenia Funes is climate editor at Atmos Magazine. She loves Earther forever.


Joe Black

There is very little doubt that this and other high cost solutions for fossil fuels will be worthless in about 7-12 years. Not worth the money to build more and maintain existing.

There’s a very real grab going on in the oil industry. They are basically grabbing anything that is not nailed down while it’s worth something. Anything. The margins involved are ridiculously low compared to the more accessible sources from the past. They require massive volume to maintain the profits they enjoy so much.