BEMIDJI, Minn. – An environmental
group took to the water on July 31 to protest a proposed oil pipeline
in northern Minnesota. About 20 members of Honor the Earth, an
environmental advocacy group, hosted a "Paddle Against the
Sandpiper" canoe and press event on and near Lake Bemidji.
After protesting the pipeline with
signs along Bemidji Avenue, the group launched a canoe painted with
protest slogans onto Lake Bemidji.
The 616-mile-long pipeline the
protesters are opposed to is Enbridge Energy’s Sandpiper line, which
would carry about 225,000 gallons of crude oil per day from the
Bakken oilfield in western North Dakota to refineries in Superior,
Wis. From there, the oil would be transported via other pipelines to
refineries in the Southern and Eastern United States and eastern
Enbridge Energy claims the pipeline
would reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil imports while creating
local job opportunities.
Honor the Earth officials, however,
said they are opposed to the pipeline route because it would run
along several bodies of water and multiple wild rice fields. They
argue that a major environmental catastrophe could ensue if there’s
an oil spill.
Greg Chester, an Honor the Earth
member, said people need to be aware of the dangers a pipeline can
pose to the environment. "They’re threatening our water,"
he said. "If we lose our water, then there’s no place here for
our children, our grandchildren, or future generations."
Chester said he would like to see
money that’s put toward oil pipelines be reinvested in renewable
energy resources. "We have the money and if we fritter away the
money on projects such as this, instead of renewable projects, we’re
missing an opportunity.”
Becky Haase, a spokeswoman for
Enbridge, issued a statement regarding the protest events. "Enbridge
recognizes the rights of people to express their views legally and
peacefully and discuss Enbridge’s business and projects," Haase
wrote. "We encourage active discussions on our projects; as long
as there is no danger to our pipelines or anyone’s safety. Enbridge
will continue to actively engage in dialogue with communities and
individuals in areas where we have operations."
State to weigh in
Alyssa Hoppe, a protest organizer,
said about 20 advocacy groups across northern Minnesota have come
together to form the informal "Sandpiper Alliance," which
is dedicated to forming a grassroots campaign against Enbridge
Energy’s plans. "We’re getting a lot of support from local
communities," she said.
Hoppe praised U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan,
D-Minn, for his letter to the Minnesota Department of Commerce in
which he supported rerouting the pipeline to avoid "environmentally
"With Nolan’s recent stance
against the pipeline route, that gives us a lot of ammunition to
really move this legislative agenda forward in the fall," Hoppe
Frank Bibeau, one of the Honor the
Earth organizers, said there should be a designated corridor for
pipelines in Minnesota allowing for the protection of water
resources. Bibeau also said the proposed pipeline is a "catastrophe
about to happen" and he hoped Friday’s protest draws attention
to the group’s cause.
"We want to help people
understand what’s going on. We want them to participate, and we want
them to let their legislators know what’s going on," he said.
"It’s an election year, and we expect there will be a lot of
interest with the legislators — just like the letter we saw Rick
The application to build the pipeline
is under evaluation from the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
According to the timeline set forth by Enbridge Energy, construction
on the pipeline is expected to start in late 2014 and early 2015, and
will be completed by 2016.