‘A Tangible Way to Fight for the World I Want to Live In’: Water Protector Arrested After Blockading Line 3 Pipe Yard

Water protector Emma Harrison was arrested Monday in Backus, Minnesota after successfully obstructing construction on Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 pipeline project for several hours by ascending a tripod…

Water protector Emma Harrison was arrested Monday in Backus, Minnesota after successfully obstructing construction on Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 pipeline project for several hours by ascending a tripod in front of a tar sands pipe yard owned by the Canadian company.

“I’m part of the Line 3 resistance movement because this pipeline embodies everything I believe is wrong with the world,” Harrison said before she engaged in civil disobedience. 

As Common Dreams has reported, climate justice and Indigenous rights advocates are opposed to the expansion of the Line 3 pipeline, which would send 760,000 barrels of crude oil every day through northern Minnesota, from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin—traversing more than 800 wetland habitats, violating Ojubwe treaty rights, and putting current and future generations at risk of polluted water and a despoiled environment.

Since Enbridge began working on the pipeline in late November despite pending lawsuits, opponents have attempted to halt construction through a series of direct actions, including Monday’s blockade. Democratic Gov. Tim Walz has responded “with complete silence,” Line 3 resistance activists said in a statement.

When an Enbridge employee was killed in a worksite accident less than two weeks ago, the company resumed work after pausing for only a few hours.

In a New York Times op-ed published Monday morning as people gathered to oppose the Line 3 pipeline, Louise Erdrich—a Minnesota-based novelist and poet as well as a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, a Native American tribe in North Dakota—called the project “a breathtaking betrayal” of tribal communities and the environment. 

“This is not just another pipeline,” Erdrich wrote. She continued:

It is a tar sands climate bomb; if completed, it will facilitate the production of crude oil for decades to come. Tar sands are among the most carbon-intensive fuels on the planet. The state’s environmental impact assessment of the project found the pipeline’s carbon output could be 193 million tons per year.

That’s the equivalent of 50 coal-fired power plants or 38 million vehicles on our roads, according to Jim Doyle, a physicist at Macalester College who helped write a report from the climate action organization MN350 about the pipeline. He observed that the pipeline’s greenhouse gas emissions are greater than the yearly output of the entire state.

If the pipeline is built, Minnesotans could turn off everything in the state, stop traveling, and still not come close to meeting the state’s emission reduction goals. The impact assessment also states that the potential social cost of this pipeline is $287 billion over 30 years.

On top of the project’s massive carbon footprint, “the extraction process for oil sands is deeply destructive,” Erdrich noted. “The water used in processing is left in toxic holding ponds that cumulatively could fill 500,000 Olympic swimming pools.”

Moreover, “if the pipelines were to leak, the sludgy mixture is almost impossible to clean up,” she added. “The state’s environmental impact statement notes that the pipeline will run through two watersheds that drain into Lake Superior. Any spill in the vicinity of the Great Lakes, which contain 84% of North America’s available freshwater, is an existential threat to our water supply.”

According to 350Kishwaukee, there were at least 1,000 spills by Enbridge pipelines between 1996 and 2004. Erdrich cited Rachel Havrelock, the founder of the University of Illinois Freshwater Lab, who said: “There is nowhere worse on earth to have an oil sands pipeline system than the Great Lakes region. It is, everything else aside, the world’s worst planning.”

Erdrich said that “with the Keystone XL Pipeline on hold and Line 5 challenged in Michigan, Enbridge is building as fast as it can to lock in pipeline infrastructure before regulatory agencies and governments institute rules on climate change… These Canada-based corporations are perpetrating a vast ecological crime, and Minnesota is their accomplice.”

Prior to her arrest, Harrison said that “profits for a few are being privileged over the well-being of all communities near and far, present and future.” She called stopping Line 3 “a tangible way to fight for the world I want to live in.”


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