Media Warns Pipeline Chaos Could be Coming to MN

The national media has already written the first chapter of a potentially protracted standoff in northern Minnesota over the recently approved Enbridge 3 pipeline. The Wall Street Journal warns that environmental extremists intend to make a last stand over the pipeline that promises to bring well-paying jobs and economic prosperity to some of the poorest counties in the state.

Weeks after Minnesota regulators approved the replacement of an oil pipeline that crosses the state, Native American and environmental groups are starting to oppose the project with a similar playbook to a failed effort to stop the Dakota Access pipeline.

Winona LaDuke, who lives 30 miles from the pipeline’s route on the White Earth reservation of the Ojibwe tribe, said three small protest camps have sprung up. To draw more protesters, she is planning a public campaign that includes a concert with the Indigo Girls in Duluth later this month, followed by a ride on horseback along the pipeline’s route.

“All of us were at Standing Rock,” the site of the Dakota Access pipeline protests, said Ms. LaDuke, a co-founder of Honor the Earth, a Native American environmental group. “They’re a long ways from getting a pipe.”

But the replacement pipeline, finally approved after more than two years of holdups by state regulators, may present a tougher draw for activists due to its environmental benefits.

Opponents are focused on stopping the replacement, but many want the existing line shut as well.

At the end of June, Minnesota utility regulators approved the project, which will diverge from the old route. Dan Lipschultz, a state utility commissioner, said the existing “highly corroded” line poses a danger to the environment and culturally sensitive areas.

“It feels like a gun to our head that somehow compels us to approve a new line because of the risks of that existing pipeline,” he said.

Of course, the Dayton administration could also still make life difficult. Enbridge needs numerous permits from the state and feds in order to construct the line. Meantime, authorities continue to make plans to prevent protesters from disrupting operations and protect workers.

Local sheriffs are preparing for potential protests, getting guidance from counterparts in North Dakota and speaking to people on both sides of the issue. “Our hope and prayers, if you will, are that things will be very calm and orderly,” said Bill Hutton, executive director of the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association.

The pipeline replacement project will cost $2.6 billion in Minnesota alone. But opponents insist there’s no need for the pipeline because there’s plenty of oil already available for Minnesotans’ needs, including the gas they rely on to drive to protests and file appeals.