Editor’s note: The following article was signed by members of the Minnesota faith community. They are listed below.
Dear members of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission:
We are leaders from many religious traditions. We are rabbis, imams, priests, pastors, deacons, elders, and others, among thousands of people of faith and conscience who oppose the Enbridge Energy Line 3 pipeline. Today we speak to you with one voice asking you to reject the Line 3 replacement because of the harm it would do to the Anishinaabe people.
The proposed Line 3 pipeline would carry toxic heavy crude oil 337 miles through northern Minnesota, threatening our state’s clean lakes and rivers. In so doing, it threatens Native treaty rights and lifeways. Line 3 would run through the Mississippi headwaters and through many waters that grow wild rice. This is a sacred food to the Anishinaabe.
The Anishinaabe signed treaties with the U.S. government that guaranteed they retained rights to hunt, fish and gather throughout large areas of northern Minnesota — including lands Line 3 would cross. The state review process should have addressed these critical treaty issues head-on instead of sidestepping them. Approving Line 3 would continue a long tradition of taking positions against politically marginalized Indigenous communities and putting the burden on them to fight for their rights in court.
Enbridge has a history of pipeline spills, and any spill in wild-rice areas would be devastating. Even if there were no spills (an implausible outcome), this pipeline would be a massive new investment in fossil-fuel infrastructure at a time when the threat of climate change requires a new direction. Climate change poses a grave threat to Minnesota’s people and ecosystems. Worse, climate change disproportionately harms poor people, Indigenous people and people of color. Faith leaders worldwide have spoken about the need to take urgent action on climate change, in statements such as the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change; a Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis; “The Time to Act is Now: A Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change”; “Bhumi Devi ki Jai!: A Hindu Declaration on Climate Change”; and Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ encyclical.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce concluded that this pipeline is not needed for regional energy needs. We acknowledge that some people support the project because of the construction jobs it would create; however, Line 3 is a step in the wrong direction. We need new jobs as part of a “just transition” to a new renewable-energy economy, with construction projects that make Minnesota a better home for everyone.
At its core, this is a moral issue. Many of us signing this letter come from Christian and other traditions that in recent years have taken formal positions acknowledging the role of our faith institutions in the mistreatment and deep trauma done to Indigenous peoples. (These include the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church USA, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Community of Christ, the United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church.) We have committed ourselves to seeking ways forward for healing and repair. Our signatures here represent an effort to live out that commitment.
Leaders from many religious traditions traveled to North Dakota in 2016 to support the Standing Rock Nation as it tried to stop the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). Some national religious leaders took formal positions in support of Standing Rock. At Standing Rock, the world was reminded of the fundamental truth that water is life. People of faith know this deeply — our connection to creation is not simply as consumers of it. It is a sacred duty to protect life on Earth for its own sake.
Many of the actions of faith leaders at Standing Rock didn’t come until after DAPL was being built and there was conflict on the ground. All signers of this letter wish to join together in stating our clear opposition to Line 3 and ensuring that it is never approved. We are ready to open a new chapter in how we treat our environment and how we relate with our Indigenous neighbors.
Signatories include: Bishop Ann Svennungsen, Minneapolis Area Synod, ELCA; the Rev. Brian N. Prior, bishop, Episcopal Church in Minnesota; Imam Asad Zaman, executive director, Muslim American Society; elder Elona Street-Stewart, synod executive, Synod of Lakes and Prairies, PCUSA; Rabbi Alexander Davis, Beth El Synagogue and Minnesota Rabbinical Association co-chair; Bishop Bruce R. Ough, Dakota-Minnesota area, United Methodist Church; the Rev. Sharon Prestemon, conference minister of the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ; Julia Nerbonne, executive director, Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light; and the Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, CEO, Minnesota Council of Churches, and steering committee member, the Poor People’s Campaign. A longer list of signatories is at tinyurl.com/line3-opposition.