Environmental groups planning major anti-tar sands march

Organizers of the upcoming Tar Sands Resistance march work on art pieces for the event. Credit: Photo courtesy of MN350

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Minneapolis environmental groups are joining forces with organizations throughout the Midwest for the Tar Sands Resistance March on June 6 in St. Paul — a protest billed as the largest ever held in the region opposing the transport of tar sands crude oil through the Great Lakes region.

Whittier-based MN350 and Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light along with the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, among many others, are organizing the event. They are expecting thousands to attend.

Organizers are hoping to raise awareness and mobilize more opposition to the expansion of pipeline projects that carry Canadian tar sands crude oil and oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota through Minnesota and other Midwestern states. Supporters of pipeline projects say transporting oil by pipeline rather than rail is safer, but opponents point to ruptured pipelines that have caused spills and wreaked havoc on the environment across the country.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is expected to make a decision soon on the proposed Sandpiper pipeline project, which would be a 610-mile pipeline carrying crude oil from North Dakota through Northern Minnesota and ending in Superior, Wis. Canadian-based energy company Enbridge is behind the proposal.

Environmentalists and tribal leaders are planning a rally June 3 at the PUC in St. Paul before commissioners hear oral arguments for Enbridge’s request for a Certificate of Need for the project. The commission is expected to make a final decision June 5.

Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, a Native American-led organization focused on environmental issues, said the Sandpiper oil pipeline would send “1.4 million barrels of dangerous oil through the heart of the pristine lake country and wild rice beds of the north.”

“Tribes and residents of the north have not been consulted in this process and no substantial review has been completed,” she said. “We refuse to put our economy and livelihood at risk so that Enbridge can make more profit. We love water more than oil.”

Andy Pearson, who works on tar sands issues for MN350, an organization focused on building the state’s climate movement, said there’s a growing interest in mobilizing against projects like the Sandpiper project and other proposed pipeline expansions.

“People are realizing that Minnesota has been and is under invasion from fossil fuel interests right now,” he said.

MN350 created a video (posted above) narrated by playwright and storyteller Kevin Kling issuing a call to action to join the movement opposing the expansion of oil transport through the Great Lakes region to protect waterways and address climate change.

“This expansion is a threat to our precious land and water and breaks promised rights to tribal nations,” Kling said in the video. “Where do we want to be seven generations from now? Change starts with simple conservations — neighbors talking to neighbors. Naming the real problem and taking action. Doing something together — that’s a lot of power. That’s a lot of hope.”

Several noted environmentalists are scheduled to speak at the June 6 march and rally, including Bill McKibben, author and founder of 350.org, which is building a global grassroots climate movement; Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Environmental Network; Mike Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club; and Frank Waln, indigenous rapper and activist, among many others.

The event starts at noon at Lambert Landing, 514 Shepard Road, in St. Paul and then marchers will head to the state Capitol.

In addition to its campaign on tars sands, MN350 has been promoting the fossil fuel divestment movement across the state. The City of Minneapolis, for instance, recently approved a resolution making it city policy to divest from fossil fuel companies. The resolution applies to the top 200 fossil fuel extraction and refinery companies.

The organization has also been active in the state’s Clean Energy and Jobs Campaign and Coalition promoting investments in the renewable energy sector.

Like 350.org — the global climate movement launched in 2008 — MN350 takes its name from a goal of reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million (ppm) or lower.

The Whittier-based organization has an explanation posted on its website: “350 is more than a number — it’s a symbol of where we need to head as a planet. To preserve our planet, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current levels to 350 parts per million (ppm) — the safe limit to support life as we know it.”

Figures recently released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show that CO2 levels exceeded 400 ppm in March.

Kate Jacobson, interim executive director of MN350, said while the threat posed by climate challenge can seem too overwhelming to do anything about, the organization focuses on inspiring people to get involved from a “hopeful place.”

“We cannot afford to keep extracting carbon the way we are and have a chance of mitigating the problem,” she said.

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If you go …

What: Tar Sands Resistance March

When: Saturday, June 6, noon

Where: Rally and march starts at Lambert Landing, Shepard Road and Sibley Street in St. Paul. Marchers will then head to the state Capitol

Website: www.tarsandsresistance.org