Line 3 will impact Native Americans, review says

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An Anishinaabe-centric assessment of the proposed Enbridge Line 3 pipeline replacement found that the project will have a multitude of impacts on Minnesota's Native American communities.

When considering the project from the perspective of whether it will benefit the seventh generation in the future, the Anishinaabeg Cumulative Impact Assessment states that the replacement pipeline won't serve future generations. Additionally, it will continue to erode the well-being of communities already suffering from historical trauma due to the past treatment of Native Americans, said Nicolette Slagle, research director at Honor the Earth.

About 20 people gathered in Cloquet Saturday to hear about the seven-part ACIA, which was prepared by Honor the Earth and the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. Slagle said supporters of the Line 3 replacement pipeline comment that items used in daily life come from oil.

"Yes, to an extent, that is true ... but that doesn't mean that that's the only way that things can be made ... And if it is, then we're killing ourselves," Slagle said.

No formal comments were given during Saturday's hearing, which was the third tribal hearing to be held on the assessment in Minnesota. A couple more hearings are expected to be held, but haven't been scheduled. Submitted comments will be incorporated into a final version of the ACIA.

Enbridge Energy said in a statement that it's looking forward to reviewing the completed ACIA and remains "committed to working with tribal nations to identify effective mitigation while maximizing economic participation with tribal communities. The Line 3 replacement is an environmentally favorable integrity and maintenance project that restores the pipeline to its original capacity, optimizes pipeline safety through advanced construction methods and materials, and provides economic opportunities to tribal and local communities."

The Line 3 replacement pipeline would carry 760,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to the Enbridge terminal in Superior. The replacement pipeline's route differs from the original Line 3 between Clearwater and Superior, and it does not cross established reservations. It does, however, cross ceded treaty lands and wild rice beds. An administrative law judge is expected to rule this month on whether the environmental impact statement was adequate. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is expected to decide in April whether to approve the pipeline.

Speaking during Saturday's presentation, environmentalist Winona LaDuke said the ACIA was written because they didn't feel like the environmental impact statement reflected the Anishinaabe worldview and didn't address issues such as historical trauma and the degradation of wild rice and water in the state.

"It was based on, not only a worldview that came from the state of Minnesota and from a rather short-term view of the project, but also had — because the state of Minnesota has no experience of living here for thousands of years — had no understanding either of the people, the land, the sacredness of place, our cultural practice, that which the Creator gave us, or world history as to long-term impacts of the state of Minnesota's previous policies on the Anishinaabe people," LaDuke said.

The ACIA states that humans and the environment will be impacted by the replacement pipeline during its construction, during any spills and leaks and following its abandonment. The ACIA explained that indigenous science takes into account morality and responsibility and considers the spiritual connection between people and the environment.

Even if the pipeline is safe, it shouldn't be approved because of its impact on the communities surrounding the crude oil extraction location in Canada, Slagle said.

The ACIA's recommendations include strengthening and enforcing tribal regulatory jurisdiction, and implementing a Rights of Nature and international standards in tribal decision-making processes.

In response to an audience question, Li Boyd of Honor the Earth said the point of the ACIA is for them to speak as indigenous communities. This is their moment to have one document express their concerns and differences.

"The Anishinaabe worldview is fundamentally different from what the western worldview is. ... This is our way and our statement to the world that these impacts are more significant and perceived differently by us than what the state has put out," Boyd said.

For more information

The full draft of the ACIA can be found at mnchippewatribe.org/impact_assessment.html.

Comments on the assessment will be accepted through Feb. 1 and should be sent to ACIAComments@mnchippewatribe.org, and questions can be sent to Michael Northbird, environmental program manager for the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe at 218-335-8581 ext. 128 or mnorthbird@mnchippewatribe.org.