Li Boyd: Why we oppose Enbridge’s Line 3 plans

The English language can sometimes be more efficient than others. For instance, in the Ojibwe language, or Anishinaabemowin, there are many different words just for rain. But English keeps it simpler by sometimes using the same word for different ideas. Take the word integrity, for example.

Recently, Enbridge Vice President of Major Projects John Swanson wrote an op-ed (“An opportunity to be heard on Enbridge Line 3 replacement,” Sept. 22) to reassure Minnesotans that the Line 3 replacement is a “Maintenance and Integrity Project.” The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that Line 3’s structural integrity has been compromised. Age and how it was built have caused so many corrosion anomalies that Enbridge hasn’t run the line at full capacity since 2008, when the government helped it to take precautions against more major disasters by requiring less pressure in the line. Line 3 already has the 1991 Grand Rapids spill, which dumped 1.7 million gallons of oil onto the Prairie River, on its record, along with a few others. It was ice, our water incidentally, that kept this spill from devastating drinking water for millions. Our water had more integrity than their pipe.

Enbridge’s new pipe would have 915,000 barrels per day of carrying capacity for diluted bitumen, a type of oil much harder to clean than regular crude, though at this time plans for the line have it configured for only 760,000 barrels per day. An amended presidential permit would be required to run the new line at maximum capacity, which would be easy to acquire under the current administration. This would mean the Line 3 “replacement” would actually be a physically different pipeline, in a physically different location, with physically different specifications. These conditions should probably be enough to satisfy the definition of a “new corridor.”

There have been a lot of other numbers thrown around as well, especially concerning how much of the pipe is going where. Simply put, approximately 170 miles of the line will be co-located with Enbridge or MinnCan pipelines, representing about 50 percent of the replacement route. The other half will be where no oil pipeline has gone before. That number is substantially different from the claim that the pipe will “co-locate with 98 percent of our existing right-of-way.” It’s easy to say nearly all of the proposed line that follows the existing route is co-located in Enbridge’s existing corridor. But that’s only one part of what Enbridge is proposing to put through Minnesota.

It’s almost as if Enbridge were deliberately trying to misrepresent the numbers in their favor. But Enbridge will tell anyone, they’re a company with integrity.

Yet it’s hard not to question Enbridge when it claims to be respecting the sovereignty of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. The Leech Lake Band, along with four other Minnesota Anishinaabe Tribes, has actively opposed the Line 3 project for years. The applicant’s preferred route goes directly through treaty-ceded territory, and treaty rights include the guaranteed ability to continue to hunt, fish and gather on the ceded lands. Bands never gave up the right to provide for themselves. True respect for the Leech Lake Band’s sovereignty would surely mean listening to the band when it says, “No means no.”

That clearly hasn’t been the case, which makes it evident that our friends at Enbridge ought to reconsider their position on those integrity digs they’ve been trying so hard to avoid. Because there is no integrity in attempting to sway public opinion through the manipulative presentation of data, nor is there integrity in promising an economic boost to a state where your company is attempting to reclaim enough back taxes to bankrupt several counties. There’s no integrity in suggestions that landowners will never have to worry about any pipeline related accidents because of ongoing monitoring, while at the same time carefully avoiding an actual agreement to take responsibility.

Keep in mind that the Department of Commerce has testified that Enbridge hasn’t demonstrated a need for this project and chastised them to remove the exposed sections of their dirty pipe from the ground. Neither Enbridge’s pipelines or its business ethics possess the qualities of integrity, at least not by any definition that I know.

Li Boyd is a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and works for Honor the Earth, a non-profit indigenous advocacy group.


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