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'A Climate Time Bomb': 370+ Groups Urge Biden to Immediately Halt Line 3 Pipeline

"It's up to President Biden to continue with the country's renewable energy agenda and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. After his action to halt Keystone XL, stopping Line 3 is essential."

A young protester holds a sign reading "Protect Water" during a Line 3 pipeline protest in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota on January 29, 2021.

A young protester holds a sign reading "Protect Water" during a Line 3 pipeline protest in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota on January 29, 2021. (Photo: Tim Evans/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A diverse coalition of more than 370 environmental and tribal rights organizations demanded Monday that President Joe Biden act immediately to halt construction of Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline, a multi-billion-dollar crude oil project that the groups called "an urgent threat" to Minnesota waters and the global climate.

In a letter (pdf), the coalition representing more than 10 million people in the U.S. and Canada urged Biden to "take swift action to revoke the Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline's permits and stop its construction," pointing to the president's January decision to pull the plug on the Keystone XL pipeline as a model for future action.

"The fight against Line 3 is a defining moment in the history of the U.S. to honor the sacred lands of our tribes and take responsibility for making right a great wrong of land trespass and destruction of sacred sites."
—Faith Spotted Eagle, Brave Heart Society

"We urge you to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to immediately reevaluate and suspend or revoke the Line 3 project's Clean Water Act Section 404 permit," the groups wrote. "Additionally, we urge you to revoke or amend Line 3's presidential permit, as you did for Keystone XL, to make it clear that the permit does not authorize this massive expansion."

"Line 3 is a threat to water, Indigenous rights, and our global climate," the groups warned, "and its rushed construction in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic is an extreme danger to Minnesotan communities and energy workers alike."

With the approval of the state government, Enbridge—a Canada-based energy giant—began construction of the Minnesota portion of its Line 3 replacement project in December despite vocal opposition from Indigenous leaders, who warned the pipeline endangers local waters and tribal lands.

If completed, the pipeline would have the capacity to transport more than 750,000 barrels of crude oil per day along a more than 1,000-mile route stretching from Alberta, Canada to Wisconsin, crossing hundreds of lakes and rivers along the way.

As Common Dreams has reported in recent weeks, the pipeline has drawn sustained resistance and acts of civil disobedience from local activists and Indigenous tribes amid growing pressure on Biden to exercise his authority to halt the destructive project. More than 130 water protectors are currently facing criminal charges for their roles in recent Line 3 protests, according to Tara Houska of Stop the Money Pipeline.

Faith Spotted Eagle, coordinator of the Brave Heart Society and one of the new letter's signatories, said in a statement Monday that "the fight against Line 3 is a defining moment in the history of the U.S. to honor the sacred lands of our tribes and take responsibility for making right a great wrong of land trespass and destruction of sacred sites and disregard of nation-to-nation bridge-building."

"Make it right," she added.

Another signatory, Winona LaDuke of Honor the Earth, noted that "Line 3's most serious immediate impacts will be on Indigenous peoples and their lands and waters along the line."

"But the increasing climate threats to Minnesota—and the planet—will be exponentially exacerbated by this pipeline. In short, Line 3 is a climate time bomb," said LaDuke. "Tar sands is the dirtiest and most expensive oil on the planet to extract, and this Line 3 would add the equivalent emissions of 50 coal-fired power plants. It's up to President Biden to continue with the country's renewable energy agenda and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. After his action to halt Keystone XL, stopping Line 3 is essential."

Read the coalition's full letter:

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We write to urge you to take swift action to revoke the Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline's permits and stop its construction. Line 3 is a threat to water, Indigenous rights, and our global climate, and its rushed construction in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic is an extreme danger to Minnesotan communities and energy workers alike.

We urge you to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to immediately reevaluate and suspend or revoke the Line 3 project's Clean Water Act Section 404 permit. The Army Corps failed to consider significant information on Line 3's impacts in reaching its original determination, including the risk of oil spills, climate change impacts, and impacts on Indigenous peoples. The Army Corps also refused to prepare a federal Environmental Impact Statement for Line 3, despite overwhelming evidence that the project would have significant impacts.

Additionally, we urge you to revoke or amend Line 3's presidential permit, as you did for Keystone XL, to make it clear that the permit does not authorize this massive expansion. Your rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline's presidential permit was a clear signal that the Biden administration represents a break from the fossil fuel giveaways of the Trump administration .Line 3 would be the same diameter as Keystone XL, would carry the same heavy tar sands oil through the Midwest, and was also inappropriately permitted by the Trump administration. As you indicated in your Day One Executive Order, "the United States must [...] exercise vigorous climate leadership in order to achieve a significant increase in global climate action and put the world on a sustainable climate pathway. Leaving the Keystone XL pipeline permit in place would not be consistent with my administration's economic and climate imperatives." The same logic applies to Line 3, which would lock in fossil fuel dependence for decades to come.

Since 2014, thousands of Minnesotans have shown up at hearings, talked to neighbors, written letters, and organized in their communities to oppose Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline. Hundreds of thousands of Americans across the country, from all walks of life, have joined them in opposing the project. Line 3 is a clear danger to their climate, water, and land, and would undermine the Indigenous rights of the Anishinaabe people.

Climate scientists warn that we must keep the vast majority of known fossil fuels reserves in the ground, and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions before 2030.​ Analysis has shown that building Line 3 would unlock the emissions equivalent to building 50 coal plants,​​ costing society more than $287 billion in climate impacts in just its first 30 years of operation. Adding such fuel to the fire in the midst of our climate crisis is unacceptable. Simply put: No one can be a leader on climate change and support the Line 3 project—a choice must be made.

The proposed route for Line 3 crosses 227 lakes and rivers, including the Mississippi River and rivers that feed directly into Lake Superior, putting those waterways at risk of a spill from the 760,000 barrels of tar sands oil that would flow through Line 3 every day. Tar sands oil sinks in water, making it nearly impossible to clean up from wetland areas.​​ A spill could destroy prize fishing lakes and sacred wild rice beds, and gut the local economy.

Enbridge's negligent 2010 spill of over 1 million gallons of tar sands oil from its aging Line 6Binto the Kalamazoo River demonstrated the immensity of this threat, with a cleanup cost of over $1.2 billion.​​ Enbridge's newer pipelines are no safer than its old ones. Since 2002, the company's pipelines have had 73 spills due to equipment installed less than 10 years before the incident.​ The existing Line 3 pipeline was constructed in the 1960s and has deteriorated to a point that it is only able to operate at partial capacity—390,000 barrels per day—due to structural concerns. Given these risks, this old and deteriorating tar sands pipeline should be shut down for safety reasons, not given the green light to double capacity and reroute through the pristine forests and waterways of the Great Lakes region. Enbridge should not be trusted near precious bodies of water like the Mississippi River.

Enbridge's route crosses the 1854 and 1855 treaty territory where Anishinaabe people retain the right to hunt, fish, gather medicines, and harvest wild rice. The impact of construction—or worse, an oil spill—would permanently damage their ability to exercise these rights. Three Tribal governments and hundreds of Anishinaabe and Dakota community members in Minnesota are actively opposing this pipeline. Building Line 3 would carry on a legacy of state-and U.S. government-sanctioned oppression of Indigenous people, directly contradicting your important promises to strengthen Nation-to-Nation relationships with Tribal Nations and Indigenous peoples.

In the largest public comment period on Line 3 in Minnesota, 94% of the comments submitted opposed construction of the pipeline.​ Your administration's announcements on protecting our nation's lakes and rivers, cleaning up aging and retired fossil fuel infrastructure currently polluting delicate environments, and moving to a clean energy economy powered by good,union jobs show the direction the United States is heading. With these commitments to building the energy economy of the future, we must not continue to allow fossil fuel companies to move forward with dangerous projects like Line 3 that would last many decades.

According to the state of Minnesota's own analysis, Enbridge failed to demonstrate Line 3 was needed, and didn’t provide a legally required oil demand forecast—a part of the process that is even more critical in a world of rapidly changing oil markets and climate policy. The Minnesota Department of Commerce recommended that Line 3 be denied approval,​​ and the judge responsible for presiding over the case issued a legal recommendation that Enbridge's proposal did not meet the standards set by state law.

We urge you and all federal leadership to stand firm against the Line 3 pipeline and act now to halt its construction. The pipeline’s construction is an urgent threat to the waters of Minnesota and Lake Superior, as well as to our global climate. The facts are not in Enbridge's favor, and the time for climate action is now. A thoughtful, science-based approach shows a clear conclusion: Line 3 must not be built.

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