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Rochester activists join Enbridge protest in Bemidji

August 31, 2018
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Rick Morris

BEMIDJI — Rochester activists joined dozens of opponents to Enbridge Energy’s plan to replace a crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota by blocking a downtown intersection in Bemidji for about four hours Thursday.

Several tribal, religious and environmental activists were briefly detained and cited by police, which broke up the peaceful protest at about 4:30 p.m. They were protesting Enbridge’s proposed replacement of its Line 3 crude oil pipeline. More than 60 people participated, including Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth.

Kamau Wilkins, founder of Rochester for Justice, was at the event and said the planned pipeline would affect people in southern Minnesota. He was not cited nor detained at the event.

“With the large number of hunters, fishermen and farmers in Minnesota … to ignore this is to be a bad neighbor,” he said.

Enbridge proposes rerouting a portion of its Line 3. The pipeline was built in the 1960s and carries crude oil from Alberta, Canada, through North Dakota and Minnesota to its terminal in Superior, Wis.

Enbridge says the replacement line will be safer than the current aging pipeline.

Enbridge’s proposed new route would run through sensitive natural areas in northern Minnesota, including the Mississippi River headwaters, wild rice waters, forests and wetlands, said Rick Morris, Sierra Club Rochester clean energy organizer, who was at the protest.

Morris was briefly detained and cited by police at the protest. He and Wilkins joined protesters in calling for Governor Mark Dayton to issue an executive order stopping the plan.

Morris noted Line 3 the source of largest inland oil spill in U.S. history when a rupture in the line leaked 1.7 million gallons of crude oil near Grand Rapids in March 1991.

“It’s not a matter of if a pipeline leaks, it’s a matter of when and where,” Morris said.

The pipeline still needs state, local and federal permits.

The Public Utilities Commission approved Enbridge’s proposed route in June despite an administrative law judge’s recommendation in April recommended that the Line 3 replacement pipeline move forward, but along the current 50-year-old pipeline right in its existing trench and not Enbridge’s preferred new route.

The existing route runs through two native reservations — Leech Lake and Fond du Lac. The tribes would have the authority to stop the project if it was along that route.

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