More than 500 religious leaders have signed a petition against Enbridge's proposed new oil pipeline across northern Minnesota, with several delivering a letter Monday afternoon to Gov. Mark Dayton and state utility regulators.
The letter, signed by regional Protestant leaders and ministers of several faiths, called the proposed new Line 3 a "moral issue" — a threat to the environment and Minnesota's Ojibwe.
Enbridge wants to build a new pipeline across northern Minnesota to replace its current Line 3, which is aging, corroding and operating at just over half-capacity due to safety concerns. The new pipeline, which would restore the full flow of oil from Canada, would run through a region of lakes, rivers and wild rice waters. Wild rice is culturally sacred to the Ojibwe.
"The threat of spills in these water-rich areas puts this project in violation of indigenous treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather," Julia Nerbonne, executive director of Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, said in a news release. The group of over 400 congregations works on sustainable energy and global warming issues.
Enbridge, in a statement, said that "from the beginning, respecting tribal sovereignty was a key factor in designing our new pipeline route, which has been developed through extensive study and is the result of significant input from stakeholders across Minnesota."
If the company's proposed route is approved, the new Line 3 would cross treaty lands, but not any reservations. The current Line 3 traverses two reservations.
Signatories of the petition include the bishop of the Minneapolis Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (the nation's largest Lutheran synod); the bishop of the Minnesota-Dakotas region of the United Methodist Church; the bishop of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota; and the head of the Minnesota Conference of the United Church of Christ.
More than 100 protesters affiliated with the religious leaders' petition congregated Monday in a park near the State Capitol.
After a three-year regulatory process, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to decide later this month on the new Line 3's fate.
The new pipeline would follow Enbridge's corridor of six pipelines — including current Line 3 — to Clearbrook, but would then jut south toward Park Rapids before heading east to the company's terminal in Superior, Wis.
Environmental groups and American Indian bands oppose a new Line 3, saying it will open a new region of water bodies to degradation from potential oil spills, as well as contribute to global warming.
Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge is North America's largest pipeline operator, and the new Line 3 — with a cost of over $2 billion in Minnesota — is a major project. Several county governments in northern Minnesota support the pipeline, as does the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the state's construction unions. New Line 3 would create over 4,000 construction jobs, Enbridge says.