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Line 3 Nears Completion, Could Start Operations Sept. 15

The Line 3 pipeline from Alberta to Wisconsin could begin operations as early as September 15, after Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. announced this week it had filed final pricing paperwork with regulators in Canada and the United States.

“The new 760,0000-barrel-a-day conduit that replaces an older one with less capacity is as little as 30 to 60 days from completion,” Bloomberg News reports, citing a notice Enbridge sent to its customers.

The pipeline has drawn thousands of protesters this summer, with Indigenous leaders declaring that “we have to stand strong” because “water is life,” Inside Climate News writes.

“Not a week has passed this summer that activists haven’t used their bodies to stymie construction of Line 3,” Inside Climate adds, with more than 700 people arrested “during acts of civil disobedience.” But at this point, “all but the Minnesota section of Enbridge’s 1,031-mile pipeline has been finished, and now the Canada-based energy giant says that remaining work is 80% complete. The company said it’s on track to wrap up Line 3, including the 337 miles that run through Minnesota, by the end of the year.”

That milestone has campaigners amping up the pressure on email and social media, and in the courts. The latest lawsuit, filed earlier this month by the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, says the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources violated tribal law by allowing Enbridge to divert nearly five billion gallons of water during construction.

But legal scholars said tribal law only rarely has an impact in state court cases. “Tribal court decisions are binding in the tribal nation they are decided in,” explained Kathryn Fort, the director of the Indian Law Clinic at Michigan State University’s College of Law. “Beyond that, it gets very situation specific.”

That assessment comes as state regulators report that Enbridge released more drilling fluid along the pipeline route than it previously disclosed. “According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, there were 28 releases at 12 river crossing locations from June 8 to August 5,” The Associated Press writes, with one incident July 6 that dumped 80 gallons of fluid into the Willow River in Aitkin County. “The MPCA also says there were 13 spills into wetlands and 14 accidental releases in upland areas, although one of those flowed into a wetland.”

While drilling fluid isn’t considered toxic, it can have an impact on aquatic life, AP explains. “The agency said Enbridge’s permit does not authorize the release of drilling fluid to wetlands or rivers,” and “the releases are under investigation as potential violations.”

In a feature interview with the New York Times, celebrated Ojibwe activist Winona LaDuke accused President Joe Biden of betraying Native Americans by allowing Line 3 to carry oil through fragile lands that are protected by treaty, after previously cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline. “I have had the highest hopes for the Biden administration, only to have them crushed,” she said, not long before she was arrested and jailed as part of the continuing protest against Line 3.

“He’s hellbent on destroying Ojibwe people with this pipeline. Why do we get the last tar sands pipeline, Joe?” LaDuke asked. “What’s right about this? I organized people to vote for Biden. I drove people to the polls through seas of Trump signs. I drove Indian people to vote who hadn’t voted in 20 years. And what did we get from Joe? A pipeline shoved down our throats.”

Last week, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) deferred to state authority when asked whether Biden should stop the project. “Well, I think right now, that is in the state jurisdiction,” she told KVRR News, although “I think you’ve got to really listen to the tribes and listen to their concerns.”