Hearing reveals strong divisions about Enbridge Line 3

From left, Tania Aubid, Jason Mangan and Keenan Gonzalas testify at the Wednesday Line 3 hearing.

A Tuesday public hearing at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College suggested the American Indian community does not support the Line 3 replacement proposed by Enbridge Energy Partners.

Some of the same persons who protested the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota testified against Line 3, which would replace a 34-inch petroleum line constructed in the 1960s with a new 36-inch pipe along most of its route. A draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the project, which included testimony collected at 27 meetings, was released last month. Enbridge executives say the new line will be safer than the aging one. Other supporters say it will stimulate the economy in the short and long term.

“The reality is that we need crude oil. Our clothes and the plastics we sit on today depend on crude oil,” said Bill Sharratt, who attended the Cloquet hearing to support the project. The hearing was one of 22 scheduled by the Minnesota Department of Commerce through July 10.

Jason Mangan, a lifelong Carlton County resident employed by LHB, credited projects like Line 3 for providing good jobs. He said it allows him and many others to make a good living while residing away from a big city.

“I believe what Enbridge does is safe for America and Americans,” said Enbridge employee Jeff Wiklund. “Enbridge focuses on safety. I urge you to move ahead.”

Opponents presented arguments that coincided with traditional Native American beliefs, particularly about protecting water. Many warned that petroleum pipelines invariably leak, and clean-up efforts aren’t always immediate.

“Without water, there will be no plants, there will be no oil,” said Keenan Gonzalas of East Lake. The proposed pipeline route crosses too many wetlands, he added, contending wetlands would suck up spilled petroleum like a sponge.

Tempe Debe, who resides near an existing pipeline, also expressed fear petroleum will leak into wetlands. The environment is already contaminated, and it will suffer further by adding new pipelines, Debe said.

“You guys are messing with our lives, messing with our heads,” said Harvey Goodsky Jr. He argued that big corporations will profit greatly from the project, but American Indians won’t receive anything.

“Only a boardroom of people will become rich because of the project,” testified Southern Spirit Bird. “What are the intentions of the people in that boardroom? They are not good,” he suggested.

Tania Aubid of East Lake described the project as “another way for the federal government to commit genocide” against American Indians.

“These lines are going through indigenous lands because nobody else wants them in their backyards,” said Aubid, a Lakota Sioux woman who protested against the Dakota Access line. “I pray hard that you guys can really fight this,” she told other opponents. 

Several people argued Enbridge should not be allowed to abandon the existing Line 3 after its service ends. Others said all pipelines should be removed, contending that skilled union employees will make as much money digging them out as installing new ones.

Arnold Coleman, however, argued that some opponents are not living lives consistent with their beliefs.

“I see a large number of cars and trucks in the parking lot, but I only see two bicycles. Our community runs on petroleum whether we like it or not,” he said, adding that Enbridge has a strong commitment to conservation.

“I’ve been around for quite awhile and I see improvements. We are making progress. Enbridge is trying to do a good job for us. Until we find another way, we’re stuck with petroleum,” Coleman said.

One opponent said protests will emerge if the project advances.

“I will be there with my drum – my drum of resistance,” Goodsky said.

Southern Spirit Bird predicted the proposal will be stopped.

“I’m so sorry your jobs won’t continue – because this pipeline will not come through here,” he said. “When we lose gas, will all will have to adjust. And we will adjust.” 

To learn more about the EIS, click here.