U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, fellow congressional Democrats and scores of Minnesota state lawmakers on Monday called for "urgent intervention" from President Joe Biden on Enbridge's nearly completed Line 3 oil pipeline project.
The 63 elected officials — mostly DFL state legislators — signed a letter to Biden on Monday that continued an ongoing chorus of demands for government action on the $3 billion-plus project.
"In recent weeks, we have seen concerning violations of treaty rights by public agencies and private actors, ongoing violence against Indigenous women, and environmental impacts that will have long-lasting impacts on hunting, fishing, and wild rice gathering as we grapple with the climate crisis," the lawmakers wrote.
The letter, which was also signed by fellow Minnesota Democrat U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, asks that the U.S. Interior Department "uphold the rights guaranteed to Indigenous people under federal treaties and fulfill Tribal requests for a government-to-government meeting concerning Line 3."
Calgary-based Enbridge received its final permits late last year after a six-year battle through Minnesota's regulatory process. The new 340-mile pipeline is 90% complete across northern Minnesota and will transport oil from Canada to Superior, Wis. It will replace the original Line 3 pipeline, which is corroding and can operate only at limited capacity. Enbridge says its new pipeline will improve safety and boost the company's earnings by restoring the full flow of oil.
Opponents had hoped the Biden administration would quash Line 3 by intervening in a federal lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers, which in November granted a critical water and wetlands construction permit for the project.
Environmental groups and Ojibwe tribes say the permit contains deficiencies and should be rescinded by the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. The Army Corps strongly defended its decision to grant the permit in a key court filing in late June.
The letter sent to Biden on Monday cited climate concerns, pointing to severe drought conditions across much of Minnesota and to recent wildfires. The lawmakers took issue with a recent Minnesota Department of Natural Resources decision to let Enbridge remove 4.5 billion gallons of water from seasonal wetlands during construction of the line.
"When such massive environmental changes during construction are weighed alongside the long-term impacts of climate change driven by ongoing Line 3-related emissions, it appears clear that we are not upholding our obligations under treaties to preserve ecosystems that are economically and culturally vital to Indigenous nations," the letter reads.
More than 70 pipeline opponents were arrested during demonstrations last week in St. Paul, with most of the arrests taking place Saturday outside Gov. Tim Walz's Summit Avenue residence. Two demonstrators locked themselves to the front gate of the mansion and when authorities tried to disperse the crowd, "a large number of people chose to continue to hold space near the gate," a spokesperson for the protest organizers said in an e-mail.
The letter that Omar and McCollum signed raised concerns that $2 million in payments from Enbridge to law enforcement for police activity against the protesters has created a conflict of interest.
An initial version of the letter also noted that the increase in temporary residents working on the pipeline in the region has led to safety risks, such as the summer arrests of two Line 3 workers in a human trafficking sting and nearly 800 COVID-19 infections among pipeline workers.
Staff writers Mike Hughlett, Shannon Prather and Kristen Leigh Painter contributed to this report.
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