By Mordecai Specktor

The next Standing Rock

Enbridge Energy’s proposed replacement of its Line 3 oil pipeline is meeting popular opposition – and some nonviolent civil disobedience.

On Aug. 29, six opponents of the oil pipeline were arrested for obstructing construction.

Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) reported: “Alexander Good-Cane-Milk of the Yankton Sioux Tribe in South Dakota was among the protesters. He locked himself to a piece of heavy equipment just across the Minnesota border, south of Superior, Wis., according to his girlfriend Ta’Sina Sapa Win.

“She said Good-Cane-Milk wanted to make a sacrifice. They met while protesting the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation last year. They recently came to Minnesota to protest Line 3.”

Sapa Win told MPR: “Why did I want to come to Minnesota? Because our Ojibwe relatives helped stand for our fight against Dakota Access pipeline, and I’m going to stand with them in their fight.”

Douglas County Sheriff Tom Dalbec said that protesters had made previous incursions on the Enbridge construction site, and he warned them that they would be arrested if they trespassed again. “Less than 24 hours later, there they are, walking out on the worksites, chaining themselves to heavy equipment and what not, so we enforced the law and started arresting them,” he told MPR.

Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge is trying to complete the Minnesota section of its 337-mile long, 36-inch diameter pipeline, which would replace the existing 282-mile, 34-inch Line 3 pipeline. The Line 3 Replacement Program, as Enbridge dubs the new pipeline, would follow the route of the old pipeline, which runs from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin. The $2.9 billion U.S. portion of the Line 3 project follows the 50-year-old Line 3 route from the North Dakota-Minnesota border to Clearbrook, Minnesota, but then requires a new right-of-way from Clearbrook to Superior.

The proposed new Line 3 veers south of Clearbrook, along the eastern edge of the White Earth reservation. South of White Earth, Line 3 would turn east and run south of the Fond du Lac reser-vation to Superior. (The Canadian portion of the Line 3 project is budgeted at $5.3 billion.)

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) kicked off a series of public hearings on the Line 3 replacement project on Sept. 26, at North Thief River Falls, Minn. As this issue of The Circle was going to press, another hearing was scheduled Sept. 28 at the St. Paul Intercontinental Hotel. Hearings in October will take place in Grand Rapids, McGregor, Hinckley, Bemidji, Duluth, Cross Lake and St. Cloud.

Also, evidentiary hearings on the Line 3 project will take place on a number of November dates at the PUC offices in downtown St. Paul.

The PUC is expected to make a decision on the Line 3 replacement plan by April 2018.

In September, Minnesota’s Department of Commerce submitted a report to the PUC that said the Line 3 replacement is unnecessary, as is the original pipeline.

“The Department of Commerce also believes that the current six-pipeline system that Enbridge runs in Minnesota is enough to accommodate the crude that the state needs over the long term, in light of estimates that show the demand for gasoline and other fuels is unlikely to increase, the department said, adding that local refiners operated near full capacity in any case,” according to Oilprice.com.

The Department of Commerce stated that its testimony was “supplemented by an oil market analysis from an independent energy consultant and a study of potential insurance coverage issues from an insurance expert, the comprehensive 338-page testimony concludes that Enbridge has not established a need for the proposed project in Minnesota as required under state rules.

The Commerce testimony dealt a blow to Enbridge and strengthened the position of American Indian bands, landowners and environmentalist opposed to the Line 3 replacement project.

An Aug. 31 report from the Associated Press noted that the Line 3 opponents “also include the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion in Canada, a tribal effort against expanding oil pipeline infrastructure.”

“Our people were at Standing Rock, and all the ingredients for another Standing Rock-style stand in defense of our water are there,” spokesman Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, said recently, according to AP.

The news wire report also mentioned that Kevin Hart, Assembly of First Nations regional chief for Manitoba, hinted that Line 3 opponents north of the border might travel to Minnesota, “following in the footsteps of the Dakota Access protesters.”

“Do you think our indigenous people and our allies all over North America are going to let tribal peoples in Minnesota fight this alone?” Hart said.