Tlaib joins ‘Squad’ in Minn. to oppose Enbridge’s Line 3, draws parallels to Line 5 fight

By: and - September 8, 2021 12:05 pm

U.S. Rep. Cori Bush ( D-Mo.), speaks during a press conference in Minneapolis on Sept. 3, 2021 about Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline. U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.); Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.); Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit); and Minnesota state Sen. Mary Kunesh also spoke. | Rilyn Eischens/Minnesota Reformer

Updated, 2:07 p.m., 9/8/21, with comment from Enbridge

Over the weekend, four members of the “Squad,” a group of progressive members of the U.S. House — Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) — traveled to Minnesota in opposition to Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline. 

Speaking on matters of climate change, Indigenous rights and environmental protection, the group of progressive, the early-career Democrats urged President Joe Biden to halt the pipeline, while drawing parallels to Enbridge’s pipeline in Michigan, Line 5.

In a lengthy statement Tuesday, Tlaib called on Biden to “take swift and decisive action to stop Line 3, protect Minnesota’s water and wild rice, and honor the treaties that Enbridge is destroying.”

“You cannot pretend to care about climate action while at the same time allowing the completion of a pipeline that transports dirty tar sands through sensitive habitats and that will exacerbate the climate crisis,” Tlaib said. 

The Line 3 project entails the highly controversial replacement of the original pipeline, which is old and in poor condition, with a new pipeline with much larger capacity to transport oil through the state. The 337-mile replacement pipeline will snake through numerous treaty lands and waters. Tribes in Minnesota and their allies have been fiercely battling against the project for years.

“It’s unfortunate these officials have been misinformed about Line 3 and the benefits of the project to northern Minnesota,” Enbridge spokesperson Ryan Duffy said Wednesday.

Duffy pushed back on a number of the lawmakers’ claims, writing that climate change claims regarding Line 3 are “unfounded,” Line 3’s permit conditions protect the environment during construction, Line 3 does not violate treaty rights and more.*

Line 3 and Line 5 pipeline routes | Laina G. Stebbins graphic

The congresswomen were joined by Minnesota state Sen. Mary Kunesh at a park along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis to give remarks before their journey to the pipeline. 

There, Tlaib, Omar, Bush, Pressley and Kunesh called on Biden to uphold his promise to be the “climate president” by revoking a key permit for the project. Enbridge says the replacement pipeline is nearly complete and scheduled to carry oil by the end of the year.

Tlaib described Line 3 as a “ticking time bomb” that violates Indigenous treaty rights and is opposed by numerous tribes in the region. 

Tlaib said she doesn’t trust Enbridge after Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer revoked an easement for Line 5, but the company refused in May to shut down the pipeline. Months later, oil still flows under the Straits of Mackinac.

“I was called to go to Minnesota so that I could share our experiences with Enbridge here in Michigan … where they continue to defy our own Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s courageous action to shut down their Line 5 pipeline that poses a catastrophic risk to the entire Great Lakes region,” Tlaib said.

Line 3 construction | Rilyn Eischens/Minnesota Reformer

Enbridge continues to argue in court that Michigan’s government lacks the authority to revoke the easement. It is currently attempting to remove the state’s case to a federal court, where Enbridge would have the upper hand in litigating against Whitmer’s shutdown order.

After speaking in Minneapolis, the lawmakers then traveled to the Line 3 pipeline route and met with Indigenous water protectors and camps of activists like the Giniw Collective camp.

Following six years of review, permitting and litigation, and nearly a year of construction, pipeline opponents have been hopeful Biden would block the project before it reaches completion. The Biden administration, however, has signaled support for the project in federal court filings.

On Aug. 30, pipeline opponents were dealt another blow by the state Court of Appeals, which affirmed a state agency’s decision to issue a water quality permit for the project. It was the second appeals court decision upholding Line 3 permits this year.

On that day, the lawmakers and nearly 60 other state and federal elected officials signed a letter to Biden imploring him to halt construction. It sparked backlash from Minnesota Republicans and labor union leaders, who said it was unfairly critical of pipeline workers.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.

Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a data reporter with the Reformer. Rilyn is a Minnesota native and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily.