Critics claim the pipeline violates treaties between the US and the Ojibwe people.
Representatives Ilhan Omar, Cori Bush, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will spend the weekend meeting with indigenous leaders at the pipeline’s construction sites before holding a press conference in Minneapolis. On Saturday the group participated in a roundtable discussion to examine “treaty violations and the lack of tribal consent” for the project.
The Line 3 pipeline has generated significant controversy as its proposed construction cuts through tribal lands protected by treaties between the US government and the Ojibwe nations. Its course will also run through hundreds of lakes, rivers, aqueducts and wetlands, raising pollutant concerns among environmental groups.
The progressive politicians have called on Joe Biden to stop the construction of the pipeline.
“President Biden has the opportunity and … the responsibility in making good on his word to be the climate president, and must direct the Army Corps of Engineers to revoke the permit for Line 3,” Ms Pressley said, calling the decision a “no brainer.”
The pipeline is meant to replace the existing Line 3 pipeline, which is operated by a Canadian energy firm called Enbridge.
The proposed pipeline will replace the existing Line 3, which is 52 years old. The new line will not follow the original’s course, however. Instead, the new line will run through indigenous land and natural area especially susceptible to damage from oil spills.
The existing pipeline is no stranger to spills; in 1991, a leak near Grand Rapids, Michigan resulted in the largest inland oil spill in US history. The new pipeline will carry tar sands from Alberta, Canada to Superior Wisconsin.
The pipeline is currently 90 per cent complete and will run for 350 miles, with the projected ability to transport 760,000 barrels of oil per day.
Enbridge claims that concerns over spills is overblown, suggesting the new pipeline’s improved construction – which includes thicker steel than its predecessor and corrosion-resistant coating – will offer greater leak prevention.
Critics of the pipeline aren’t sold on the promises from the oil company.
“We have been encouraged by Joe Biden’s boldness so far,” Ms Omar said. “Now we have another chance to reject a moving pipeline. We hope you will act.”
A group of 63 elected officials sent Mr Biden a letter opposing the pipeline. The state’s Democratic governor, Tim Waltz, responded to the letter with a point-by-point counter statement, calling the critics’ information “false or misleading.”
The United Nations has also gotten involved in the fight. Earlier this week, the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination sent the US State Department a letter asking for an inquiry into claims that the pipeline will encroach on sacred tribal lands and threaten wild rice plants.
The White Earth Band of Ojibwe have sued the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, naming Manoomin – the Ojibwe word for the wild rice plant – as the plaintiff. The indigenous group invoked the Rights of Manoomin, a law enacted in 2018 as part of the 1855 Treaty Authority, which grants the plant legal personhood. The lawsuit claims that Enbridge’s pipeline project will use 10 times more water than it originally estimated.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources moved to have the lawsuit dismissed, but a federal judge rejected the motion. The case will proceed to tribal court, though it may not reach a verdict in time to stop the remaining construction on the pipeline.