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Tribal Leaders Condemn Final Permit for MN Pipeline


Tuesday, December 1, 2020   

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Construction could begin very soon to replace a major oil pipeline in northern Minnesota. State regulators gave final permit approval on Monday, despite strong opposition from tribal leaders and environmental groups.

Canadian firm Enbridge Energy says its Line 3 pipeline is in dire need of a safer replacement and for years, has sought approval from the state in a closely watched process. Monday's action from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency puts the project on the road toward breaking ground.

Winona LaDuke, a Native American activist and executive director of the group Honor the Earth, said apart from the environmental harm, construction will start in areas where residents are vulnerable to COVID.

"The 4,200 workers that are coming in, largely from out of state, into northern communities that have very few health facilities," LaDuke said.

Last week, two tribes requested another state agency stay its approval while a legal challenge plays out in an appeals court.

Supporters of the Line 3 project say it will bring much-needed work to a hard-hit region in the economic crisis, and that it received a lengthy review so it can meet environmental standards.

LaDuke and other opponents say the review process was incomplete and based on unreliable information. Meanwhile, she said there are better ways to put individuals in this field to work.

"You know, you've got city after city with crumbling infrastructure in this country. Those are the pipes we need," she said. "And we're going to need more of them because of climate change."

As for the environmental concerns, opponents say the $2.6 billion project will add scores of new waterways to a path of potential pipeline spills and negatively affect wild rice beds.

This fall, state regulators approved other permits, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave its endorsement.

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