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MN Tribal Opposition Continues over Oil Pipeline Expansion

Tribal groups are calling for a Minnesota oil pipeline expansion to halt permanently. (iStockphoto)
Tribal groups are calling for a Minnesota oil pipeline expansion to halt permanently. (iStockphoto)
February 25, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. - A new oil pipeline project for Northern Minnesota is being delayed an extra two years, but tribal groups say that's not enough.

The proposed Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline and a replacement for an existing line have been pushed back until 2019, because the Minnesota Supreme Court has ordered the company to finish an environmental impact study first.

Winona LaDuke, executive director of the Native-led environmental group Honor the Earth, says two new reservations would be affected by the proposed oil pipeline expansions.

"The pipelines would cross through the middle of the heart of our wild rice territory, the most sacred food of our people," she says. "We don't like the pipelines in our territory, we don't want the risk and we also don't like the fact they cause climate change."

LaDuke's group and others have taken Enbridge to court over the pipeline projects, saying they violate treaty agreements.

Enbridge, however, argues new lines are the safest way to deliver oil from North Dakota's Williston Basin.

Andy Pearson, Midwest tar sands coordinator for the group MN350, co-authored a recent report in which he argues the Enbridge project would pose a threat to tribal peoples.

Pearson says the wild rice is not only a cultural necessity for these groups, but also an economic one. According to Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources, about 4,000 people hand-harvest the rice each year.

"The ability of a single project to take away or damage such a fundamental right, and a right that really is relied on as a means of getting by for so many, is to us an unacceptable threat," says Pearson. "As is the climate issue."

Both Pearson and LaDuke are asking Enbridge to completely halt the project and focus instead on expanding its solar power and clean energy projects.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN