Honor the Earth paddles in protest against Sandpiper pipeline

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honor the earth paddles in protest against sandpiper pipeline.jpgBEMIDJI, 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

Canada.

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."honor the earth paddles in protest against sandpiper pipeline 1.jpg

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

fragile areas."

"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

said.

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

Nolan issue."

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.