Most people have heard of the Dakota Access pipeline, but many Minnesotans may not know that Enbridge, one of the companies behind DAPL, is proposing an enormous pipeline expansion through our state. Enbridge wants to construct a new pipeline called “Line 3” to carry tar-sands oil from Alberta to Superior, Wis.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will hold hearings on the pipeline proposal this fall and will decide whether to permit it in 2018. While citizens may testify at the hearings, some parties have been formally recognized as “intervenors,” based on having submitted petitions declaring that the project would directly affect them. Intervenors will participate officially in court proceedings, representing their specific opposition to Line 3.
The Line 3 pipeline would have many harmful effects. High on the list: It would contribute to climate change by expanding fossil-fuel infrastructure and dependency. Therefore, 12 other young people and I petitioned to intervene together in these legal proceedings, because the advancement of climate change would directly, personally and adversely affect our future health, opportunities, livelihoods and well-being. As young people who value clean water and air, and who would like to count on healthy, thriving futures, we feel our voices should be heard in this process. We call ourselves the “youth climate intervenors,” and on July 3, a judge affirmed the merits of our argument, officially granting us intervenor status.
Young people have never formally intervened in a U.S. pipeline review process, yet we bring unique positions to the table that no other group brings. Because the pipeline would be in use for decades and potentially in the ground indefinitely, young people would experience the greatest burden of its impacts. We will have to live the longest with the consequences of today’s decisions.
While climate change affects everyone in many shared ways, for this process the 13 youth intervenors present specific and personal ways in which climate change will affect each of us, including a higher likelihood of health challenges, increased financial strain, and loss of culturally key foods and landscapes. While I personally share in most of those, and in other impacts represented by our group, I choose to speak about the impact on my personal well-being from the alteration of our state’s landscape. I have been fortunate to grow up spending extensive time in nature, particularly in Minnesota’s northern forests. There I experience a sense of inner peace, wholeness and self-identity that I don’t find elsewhere. I hope to continue having this experience and someday raise children to have it also. But climate change threatens to drastically alter Minnesota’s ecosystems, possibly even eliminating boreal forests — my favorite natural setting of all.
Many argue that the pipeline is necessary because of our oil dependency and that if Line 3 weren’t built, trucks or trains would carry the oil through Minnesota, posing greater environmental risks. However, Enbridge has excess pipeline capacity. Six other pipelines carry oil through Minnesota with the capacity for up to 2.85 million barrels of oil daily, yet they normally operate with room to carry up to 470,000 additional barrels per day. Moreover, the Annual Energy Outlook from the U.S. Energy Information Administration has shown that U.S. oil consumption rates are lower than once predicted and that they are on a trajectory to decline further due to increased energy efficiency as well as natural gas and renewable-energy usage.
Line 3 construction would lock us into a future of tar-sands oil extraction for decades. Yet our country has a long history of visionary innovation that is key to our prosperity and worldwide leadership. Instead of spending vast sums to build more fossil-fuel infrastructure that deepens our fossil-fuel dependency, we should invest in our future — in renewable energy sources and infrastructure that provide lasting jobs, support families and communities, and drive the economy.
As a young person wanting to be excited for my future, the choice to fight this pipeline is crystal clear, not only because it exacerbates the climate crisis. I don’t support an oil pipeline running through Minnesota’s cleanest waters, burdening local landowners, threatening catastrophic spills, and defiling Anishinabe treaty lands and precious ecosystems. In order to protect our future and that of our state, the youth climate intervenors ask that Gov. Mark Dayton stand with us by upholding his commitment to stopping climate change and opposing Line 3. Furthermore, we urge the Public Utilities Commission to consider the impacts of the Line 3 project — on individuals, young people and our state — and decline the permit.
Sophia Manolis is a rising junior at Minneapolis South High School and one of 13 youth climate intervenors who are legally opposing Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline proposal.