(Floodwood, MN) Early Thursday morning, several Water Protectors under Indigenous leadership took action to shut down two Enbridge construction sites on the Line 3 pipeline route. While two people locked themselves to a gate, blocking access to a worksite building a pump station, four more individuals (Sonja Birthisel, Julie Macuga, Cody Pajic, and Leif Taranta) ascended and chained themselves to the top of large machines attempting to lay pipe at an adjacent construction site in St. Louis County.
Since construction began in December of 2020, the movement to stop the Line 3 pipeline has been steadily growing. Over 200 water protectors have been arrested protesting construction, making this the largest pipeline protest since Standing Rock. Several of the people participating in this morning’s action with Camp Migizi traveled across the country to join the resistance.
Dr. Sonja Birthisel, when asked why she was willing to risk arrest to stop construction, said “As an environmental scientist, I am painfully aware that it is time to transition away from fossil fuel dependence. I am here to stand for treaty rights, and the right to a livable future.”
Line 3 is a $4 billion dollar oil pipeline currently being built across Northern Minnesota by the Canadian corporation Enbridge Energy. The project aims to replace and expand the aging and corroded original Line 3 pipeline, which carries tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to Superior, WI. The existing Line 3 is responsible for the largest ever inland oil spill in US history, in which nearly 1.7 million barrels of crude oil spilled in Grand Rapids MN in 1991. Despite promises to bring needed income to Minnesota residents and hire 75% local workers, only a third of employees constructing the new pipeline are from Minnesota.
Construction faces active and growing resistance led by Indigenous groups who see the project and the risk of a spill as a violation of treaty rights. The pipeline threatens wild rice lakes in treaty territories where the Anishinaabe have the right to hunt, fish, and gather. Opponents also decry the project’s contribution to the epidemic of MMIWR (missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives) caused by the hundreds of temporary workers employed by the project. Environmental groups are concerned about the pipeline’s contribution to climate change. Oil from the tar sands is the world’s most carbon-intensive fuel, and the expanded Line 3 would carry as much carbon as 50 new coal-fired power plants.
Interviews with movement leadership and photos available upon request.