Will Line 3 Approvals Bring Dakota Access Pipeline Styled Protests?

Last week, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued key permits for the Line 3 oil pipeline. Enbridge, the company who operates Line 3, must now secure a stormwater permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Obtaining this permit will allow the project to begin construction, but it may also bring about protests akin to those that occurred at the construction site at the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

DAPL Protests

In 2016, thousands of protestors from around the country set up camp near the Standing Rock Indian reservation to protest the construction of DAPL. This pipeline, which completed construction after the Trump Administration approved the necessary permits, transports 570,000 barrels of oil per day, but the DAPL protests lingered on for months and at times, became violent.

Authorities say pipeline protestors burned several pieces of construction equipment to stall work on the pipeline, as you can see from the picture below.

Not only were the protests destructive to construction equipment, they were also destructive to the environment. The Washington Times notes that these so-called “Water Protectors” did not appear to be concerned about the environmental impact of their encampment.

According to the Washington Times:

“Clean-up crews are racing to clear acres of debris at the largest Dakota Access protest camp before the spring thaw turns the snowy, trash-covered plains into an environmental disaster area.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Friday that the camp, located on federal land, would be closed Feb. 22 in order to “prevent injuries and significant environmental damage in the likely event of flooding in this area” at the mouth of the Cannonball River in North Dakota.

“Without proper remediation, debris, trash, and untreated waste will wash into the Cannonball River and Lake Oahe,” the Corps said in its statement.”

The photo below shows some the mess left behind once the protestors. This article from The Atlantic has more photos, if you’re interested in seeing them.

Minnesota Environmental Groups Already Planning Similar Protests

If all of the necessary permits for Line 3 are obtained, it appears likely that anti-pipeline groups in Minnesota will seek to use similar tactics to delay the project. For example, MN350 has a signup for volunteers who will “put my body on the line” to stop Line 3.  Other anti-pipeline activists have also suggested that a DAPL-type protest could spring up along the route for the pipeline.

What About COVID?

Due to COVID, Governor Walz is currently telling us that the size of public gatherings, such as weddings and funerals will be limited to 50 people, and that we should have no more than 10 people or three households present for the holidays. But will anti-pipeline protestors be held to the same standard? This remains a key question, because if COVID makes it too dangerous for us to see our family and friends during the holidays, then it surely too dangerous for thousands of people, many of whom would be from out of state, to gather and protest one of the most thoroughly reviewed environmental projects in the history of Minnesota.