Activists Block Traffic To Protest A Newer And Safer Pipeline


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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Environmental activists rallied against a proposal to replace a decades-old pipeline with a newer, more safe pipeline that would stretch across Minnesota.

Protesters took to the streets of Bemidji, a city in northwest Minnesota, on Wednesday to protest against plans to replace a crude oil pipeline with a new one. The activists — which numbered at around 50 — linked arms at a busy downtown intersection in order to block traffic, and called on Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton to halt progress of the project. Numerous protesters were cited for disorderly conduct before the crowd finally dispersed.

“We’re all about justice,” said Dwight Wagenius, a reverend from Minneapolis who took part in the demonstration, according to Minnesota Public Radio. “Climate justice. Environmental justice. Economic justice. Racial justice. Those are all moral issues.”

Their activism centers around a proposal by Enbridge Energy, an oil transportation company based in Calgary, Alberta. The Canadian energy company operates numerous pipelines that run across the U.S. and Canada. One such crude oil pipeline is Line 3, a pipeline that stretches 1,097 miles from Alberta to Wisconsin, crossing through Minnesota along the way. (RELATED: Environmentalists Claim In Court They Had No Choice But To Vandalize A Pipeline)

However, Line 3 is quite old. In operation since 1968, its operators say they have been forced to reduce output because of corrosion and other aging issues. Enbridge argues constructing a new line altogether would be the safest option.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission agreed, approving a new route permit in June. However, Enbridge must still receive around 30 federal, state and local permits before it can move forward with construction.

Enbridge’s Line 3 has received attention from national environmental groups, some of them even taking part in the Wednesday protest.

“Our belief is that fossil fuels should stay in the ground,” stated Loren Blackford, president of the Sierra Club. “So we are fighting pipelines in different places across the country. Through legal action. Through working with local communities like we’re doing here.”

Enbridge, for its part, has agreed to numerous conditions in order to build the new line. The energy company must guarantee that it will cover the costs of an environmental cleanup in the event of a spill. They must provide a trust fund that will cover the costs for removal of the old Line 3 once it’s decommissioned.

When contacted by The Daily Caller News Foundation, an Enbridge spokesman directed inquiry to the company’s Line 3 webpage and a page detailing new welding technology that will “further improve safety.”

Enbridge has been victim to ecoterrorism in the past.

Four activists were arrested in 2016 for tampering with their equipment at a site in Clearwater County, Minnesota. Two of the those individuals admitted to breaking off chains protecting emergency shut-off valves and turning them. Those protesters — who are associated with a Climate Direct Action, an environmental extremist group — are currently arguing in court that they had no choice but to damage equipment out of concern for the climate change.

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