The fire season in the western United States is ablaze. Temperatures in the southwest soar. Towns in Germany begin their recovery from 1,000-year floods. Multinational companies continue their pursuit of building oil pipelines through water reserves and sacred sites in Minnesota.
Many of you will recall the massive protests over the Keystone XL pipeline (now canceled) and the Dakota Access Pipeline (now in operation) over the past several years. Regardless of the political party or administration in power, fossil fuel companies continue to receive permitted approval for their projects.
Currently, on the White Earth Indian Reservation in northwestern Minnesota, yet another standoff between indigenous water protectors and an oil company, this time the Canadian multinational company Enbridge, is taking place. Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline runs from Hardisty, Alberta, to Superior, Wisconsin, transporting Alberta Tar Sands to the shore of Lake Superior.
The Alberta Tar Sands is the largest deposit of crude bitumen in the world. This semi-solid rock crude oil requires a pit mining technique to extract. The viscous crude is in effect dug out of the ground, leaving tailing ponds that pollute the region’s soil and water, making it the “dirtiest” oil production in the world.
The Line 3 pipeline began operation in 1968, maintaining a total length of 1,031 miles. In 2014, a new segment of the line was proposed through the far northern area of Minnesota. This new segment passes through an area adjacent to Ojibwe land, bisecting dozens of streams and tributaries of the Mississippi River in addition to traditional wild rice fields of great value and sustenance to Native peoples.
In its first 23 years of operation, 24 leaks occurred on the Line 3 pipeline, all from the same seam failure, resulting in 5.7 million gallons of oil spilling from the line. In 1991, Line 3 ruptured near Grand Rapids, Minnesota, spilling 1.7 million gallons of crude oil into the Prairie River — the largest inland oil spill in United States history. Between 1999 and 2010, Line 3 has had at least 800 oil spills.
Opposition to Line 3 by Native peoples, environmentalists and Minnesota government officials began with the announcement of the new project. During the period of public input, nearly 70,000 citizens responded, and 68,244 (97%) voiced their objection. Despite the nearly unanimous opposition to expanding Line 3, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved the project in 2018. Construction began in December 2020.
Today, more than 250 water protectors and other protestors have been arrested. Former 1996 and 2000 Vice Presidential candidate Winona LaDuke (Green Party) of the White Earth Ojibwe Nation was one of the water protectors jailed.
Multinational companies continue their race for profits as the climate crisis relentlessly threatens all of humanity. Regardless of whether Obama, Trump or Biden is president, the song remains the same.