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Enbridge Celebrates, Indigenous Campaigners Vow to Fight, as Line 3 Pipeline Starts Up Today

Enbridge Line 3

Enbridge Inc.’s Line 3 pipeline replacement project is expected to enter into service on today, making it the first major Canadian pipeline project to be completed since 2015. The milestone has fossils declaring a significant victory, while Indigenous campaigners vow to disrupt construction work that is still under way.

“This is a big win for sure,” Leo Golden, Enbridge’s vice-president of Line 3 Project Execution, told The Canadian Press. “I think part of it has been just how long it has taken us to get here.”

“It’s with a heavy heart we receive the news that the U.S. has tragically failed once again to honour our treaties and protect the water that sustains all life on Mother Earth,” the Indigenous Environmental Network said in a release Wednesday, just a day before Canada marked its first-ever National Truth and Reconciliation Day.

“The Line 3 fight is far from over, it has just shifted gears,” the IEN added. “Do not think we are going quietly into the night. We will continue to stand on the front lines until every last tar sands pipeline is shut down and Indigenous communities are no longer targeted but our right to consent or denial is respected.”

Enbridge said Wednesday its 1,765-kilometre Line 3 replacement—which will carry oil from Alberta to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, WI—is “substantially complete.” The Calgary-based pipeliner was to begin filling the line today and planned to ramp up to full capacity of 760,000 barrels per day by the end of the month, CP writes.

But the IEN had a counter to the company’s linear narrative. “Although Enbridge is pushing the message that the Line 3 is a done deal and that they have followed all the rules and regulations, we see even at this late date the continuing harm to our lands and waters,” the network stated. “There have been spills, frac-outs, and pierced aquifers even to this day. They are spilling millions of gallons of polluted water directly into our forests and waterways. This is far from over.”

Just two weeks ago, groundwater damage from one of those spills netted Enbridge a US$3.3-million fine and possible criminal charges in a Minnesota court, CP reported at the time.

Now, “there is still work that needs to be done before the project is considered complete,” and “we promise to disrupt and stop that work,” Indigenous campaigners said in a second IEN statement. “Even if they build Line 3, our community that we have built here will still remain … we are still here, learning, fighting, and healing.”

Line 3, which started construction in 2017, is the first significant Canadian pipeline project to be completed since Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper project in 2015, CP says. It replaces an aging pipeline built in the 1960s and also expands it, adding about 370,000 additional barrels per day of crude oil export capacity from Western Canada to refineries in the U.S. Midwest.

The $9.3-billion project was first announced in 2014, but ran into determined opposition from environmental groups and Indigenous groups along the way. Opponents of the project have said the Line 3 expansion will accelerate climate change and also poses a risk of oil spills in environmentally sensitive areas.

The last leg of the project to be completed was the 542-kilometre Minnesota segment of the pipeline. Other sections had already been placed into service in Canada, North Dakota, and Wisconsin, but in Minnesota Enbridge faced court challenges and protests.

In June, Enbridge was handed a victory by the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which affirmed the approvals granted by state regulators that allowed construction on the Minnesota leg to begin last December. Golden said Enbridge is still waiting to see if that decision is appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

“We assume that they’re going to, but they haven’t yet,” he told CP.

Cathy Collentine, associate director of the U.S. Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign, described the announcement as a “devastating outcome” for the climate movement. U.S. Sierra and other environmental groups had been pressing U.S. President Joe Biden to intervene and block the project in the name of his administration’s stated goal of confronting the realities of climate change.

Regardless of what happens with Line 3, Indigenous groups, environmentalists, and activists won’t give up the fight, she added.

“The fight against Line 3 is about more than a single pipeline. It’s a fight for climate justice, it’s a fight for a future free from fossil fuels,” Collentine said. “None of that work stops just because Enbridge has succeeded in building this pipeline.”

Enbridge said Friday the Minnesota leg of the project was the most studied pipeline project in state history, with project approvals from federal, state, and local agencies coming after 71 public comment regulatory meetings and more than 3,500 community engagement meetings.

Enbridge has said the Line 3 project was necessary to replace and expand the aging and deteriorating original pipeline. The thicker-walled pipe used for the replacement will ensure a “safe, reliable supply of North American crude oil to U.S. refineries,” the company says.

“After more than eight years of many people working together, extensive community engagement, and thorough environmental, regulatory, and legal review, we are pleased that Line 3 is complete,” CEO Al Monaco in a news release. “From Day 1, this project has been about modernizing our system and improving safety and reliability for the benefit of communities, the environment, and our customers.”

Tristan Goodman, president of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, called Wednesday’s announcement a positive step that will help to ensure Canadians get a fair price for their energy products. “As the United States and the UK have recently or are currently experiencing, there remains a significant demand for hydrocarbon energy around the world,” Goodman said in an email. “The Line 3 expansion is a recognition of the ongoing demand for this essential product and this expansion supports Canadians and the Canadian industry.”

The Alberta and Saskatchewan governments heralded the news as a step forward for Canadian oil and gas workers in those provinces, CP adds.

Enbridge said it was proud of its efforts to engage Indigenous communities along the pipeline route. It said more than 1,500 Indigenous people worked on the Line 3 replacement project in the U.S. and Canada, with Native Americans making up 7% of the Line 3 work force in Minnesota.

The main body of this report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 29, 2021.