Last week, protesters chanted as loudly as they could inside the state Capitol in St. Paul, hoping, they said, that Gov. Tim Walz would hear them from his office down the hall and do something to halt the construction of the Line 3 Replacement Project in northern Minnesota.
A day earlier, however, Walz, in Duluth, reiterated his long-time and clear support for what, really, is a necessary and responsible infrastructure upgrade. The existing Line 3 pipeline is aging, increasing its risk of rupturing and spilling. Replacing it with the latest technology just makes good sense. The governor, like so many of the rest of us, gets that.
“I think I have a very progressive environmental record, but I’m also a realist, and we need to move oil, and we need to move it safely,” Walz said in an interview. “So, I said, we are going to replace an aging pipeline because that's what the law says. (The project has) stood up in court.”
Walz had words, too, for Line 3 protests that have gone well beyond peaceful and have been criminal and dangerous instead.
“We’re trying to do this the best we can,” he said. “There are going to be folks who are going to protest that, but we need to also say, ‘But you’re not going to disrupt what is a legal process’.”
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Protesters have tried mightily. They have bullied workers, driving them from worksites; they’ve vandalized and destroyed construction equipment, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage or more; they’ve recklessly stuffed themselves into pipes and chained themselves to equipment, even using feces in their locking devices, a health hazard for first responders already leaving their home communities vulnerable and unprotected by having to respond to protesters’ manufactured emergencies; and they’ve blocked roads that belong to all of us and that are supposed to be there for everyone’s use, including emergency vehicles.
All of this over a project that’s pumping millions into northern Minnesota’s economy; that is protecting our environment; that was legally and thoroughly reviewed, approved, and permitted by state and federal regulators; and that has withstood countless legal and other challenges.
Regarding what have been months now of orchestrated Line 3 protests — so well-organized and so well-funded they’ve included celebrities, long-term camping sites, reinforcements flown in from around the country, and even a concert — Walz added: “There’s a responsibility to create a safe space for legitimate First Amendment protest, whatever your issue is, to be able to protect those constitutional rights. But what I said is that right ends the minute you choose to destroy property and put someone at risk. … (We’re) trying to strike that balance.”
While the White Earth and Red Lake bands and others recently appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court, winning for themselves anti-Line 3 headlines, support for the project — including from the Leech Lake and Fond du Lac bands, whose reservations are crossed by the existing Line 3 — has gotten far less attention.
“Additionally, the White Earth Nation was included and invited to be part of the planning and permitting,” Enbridge communications specialist in Duluth Juli Kellner said in a statement last week. Enbridge owns Line 3 and is making a private investment of $2.9 billion in North Dakota and Minnesota for its responsible replacement.
“It is worth noting that Enbridge has demonstrated ongoing respect for tribal sovereignty,” Kellner said. “The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently concluded ‘the commission reasonably selected a route for the replacement pipeline based upon respect for tribal sovereignty, while minimizing environmental impacts.’ As the result of negotiations with tribal leadership, Line 3 was routed outside of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Reservation and through the Reservation of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Both Leech Lake and Fond du Lac have written in support of project permits. … (Also,) in part because of (the) concerns (of the White Earth Nation), Line 3 was routed outside of the Upper and Lower Wild Rice Lake and its watershed.”
In addition to all that, construction permits for the project include protections for wild rice waters. And the project features a first-of-its-kind “Tribal Cultural Resource Survey” led by the Fond du Lac Band, “which managed review of the more than 330-mile route in Minnesota through the 1855, 1837, and 1863/1864 treaty areas,” as Kellner pointed out.
“Fond du Lac employed tribal cultural experts who walked the full route, identifying and recording significant cultural resources to be avoided,” she said. “The project is now being built under the supervision of tribal monitors with authority to stop construction, (ensuring) that important cultural resources are protected.”
All of that ought to be enough for any Minnesotan to wonder what all the shouting and protesting are about — or what they’re really about.
As for Walz, last week’s Line 3 opponents at the Capitol have been far from the only ones eager to get in his ear. Supporters, too, will confront him: “‘Well, I’m for the pipeline’,” they say, as he recounted. “I said, ‘We’re building it!’ I said, ‘What’s your point with me,” a clear supporter?
This other view is the opinion of the editorial board of our sister publication, the Duluth News Tribune.