Over 50 water protectors successfully stopped work at an Enbridge office on Aug. 19, 2019. Photo courtesy of @ResistLine3.
Members of Rising Tide Chicago recently returned from a weekend action camp to support the resistance against the Line 3 tar sands pipeline in what’s now known as northern Minnesota. It was a humbling weekend of deep reflection in solidarity, and we were grateful to learn so much from the leadership of Indigenous elders who hosted the camp. This pipeline poses an immense threat to Indigenous sovereignty, irreplaceable water sources and our climate — and Rising Tide Chicago is eager to join the growing resistance. While Line 3 does not cross into Illinois, we all share a watershed — one that happens to be home to a fifth of the world’s freshwater, which 40 million people rely on every day.
What is Line 3?
Canadian company Enbridge already built a first Line 3 pipeline in the 1960’s, similar in size and purpose to Keystone XL, but are choosing to let that deteriorate in the ground and disrupt the area again with this longer and bigger (36-inch) pipeline. This new Line 3, proposed in 2014, would carry one of the dirtiest forms of oil, tar sands oil, 1,000 miles from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin.
Water is Life: Uphold Treaty Rights & Stop Oil Spills
While at the action camp, we learned about the importance of treaties and decolonization in this struggle. The pipeline would violate the treaty rights of the Anishinaabeg, namely the 1854, 1855 and 1867 treaty areas, which guarantee the nearby tribes the right to hunt, fish, gather medicinal plants, harvest and cultivate wild rice, and preserve sacred or culturally significant sites. Even in areas outside of the reservation boundaries (“ceded territory”), the Anishinaabeg have the right to “make a modest living off the land.” These treaties are the law of the land; without Free, Prior, Informed Consent from Indigenous tribes, these pipeline companies have no right to disrupt these lands, and we must stop this cultural genocide however we can.
With wild rice harvest season approaching, the risks of pipeline construction are made ever more urgent. Wild rice, or manoomin, is a sacred grain of huge cultural significance for the Anishnabeeg people, and Line 3 is an outright disaster for these sensitive ecosystems that support these bands of Ojibwe. The route would cross over 192 bodies of water, including the Mississippi River twice and sensitive soils, lakes and aquifers, all leading directly to Lake Superior. All pipelines spill, and Enbridge’s record is telling: our neighbors in Kalamazoo, MI are still recovering from Line 6B’s 2010 spill in the Kalamazoo River. And to the north, 70-year old Line 5 in between the straits of Mackinaw, threatens the very sensitive Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
We Can’t Afford This
The new Line 3 would be Enbridge’s biggest project, with a price tag of $7.5 billion. It would transport more than twice the amount of oil (760,000 barrels a day) than the old pipeline — the carbon pollution equivalent of 50 new coal plants, a disastrous move completely in the wrong direction, when we have the solutions right now to build safe, reliable energy sources. The state of Minnesota estimates that Line 3 would cost society $287 billion over 30 years in climate change damage. And get this: the state is actually suing itself over this project, showing just how much of a bad move this is for everyone in Minnesota, not to mention the entire Great Lakes region or anyone who shares our atmosphere. The Department of Commerce submitted a legal appeal asking the MN Court of Appeals to overturn the MN Public Utilities Commission (PUC) decision to grant a Certificate of Need for the project, one of many lawsuits against the project. The company is still waiting on state and federal permits to start construction, but has begun what they call “pre-construction,” essentially circumventing the legal process altogether.
These desperate moves, while still dangerous, show that people power does stop pipelines, and the cracks in the system are becoming more obvious: Canadian tar sands companies are struggling to transport all of that dirty oil out of Athabasca because of fierce opposition from Indigenous groups and other water protectors. Just look at the stalwart resistance against TransCanada’s Keystone XL, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipelines, and the cancellation of TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline and Northern Gateway pipeline. Line 3 was supposed to be the pipeline to circumvent all that — but we won’t let that happen. If we are going to have any chance at a livable future (or present), we must keep all fossil fuels in the ground, and work for climate justice.
Taking Direct Action
To show our determined defiance, we drove to an Enbridge site in Bemidji, MN to stop business as usual — and we won! Six brave water protectors risked arrest by chaining themselves to an office gate while others supported them with banners, signs and chants; a teepee was built in the road to show this land belongs to the Anishinaabe people, and Indigenous leaders spoke truth to power. The company stopped work that day, and no one was arrested. (Watch and share the video, and read the press release.) The media picked it up, with stories published in AP, New York Times, and several other outlets. We made our message loud and clear: water is life! Life matters more than a profit margin. This pipeline will not be built, and we demand that Indigenous treaties be respected. And for at least one day, construction was stopped in its tracks.
How to Get Involved
To win this fight, we need to mobilize at all the pressure points we can. The resistance is growing, and Indigenous leaders are calling on allies to give more solidarity and support. There are many ways to get involved, on the ground or from afar.
Enbridge has already invested heavily in private security, keeping tabs on water protectors in what may amount to a level of violence similar to what we saw at Standing Rock. Legal funds to support water protectors are crucial — please consider making a generous donation directly to the frontlines here. There are also several legal battles to follow, including from the Youth Climate Interveners.
For Rising Tide Chicago, our group has already been working hard pressuring Chase Bank to divest from all fossil fuels. They’re already the worst funder of tar sands, so it’s no surprise that Chase is one of many funders of the Line 3 project, so you know we will ramp up our divestment efforts and continue to show up in solidarity. Too much is at stake in this fight to stay on the sidelines, and we call on the Chicago community and beyond to join us in solidarity.