Line 3 pipeline protest stops in Southwest

Water relay
The environmental-justice team at First Universalist Church in South Uptown celebrated Minnesota’s lakes and rivers and spoke out against the proposed Line 3 oil pipeline replacement during a Sept. 25 ceremony at Bde Maka Ska. Photo by Rick Gravrok

A protest to raise awareness about the proposed Line 3 oil pipeline replacement stopped in Southwest Minneapolis in late September, with members of three local congregations urging Minnesota regulators to reconsider approval of the project.

First Universalist Church in South Uptown, Mayflower United Church of Christ in Tangletown and Shir Tikvah Congregation in Lynnhurst held ceremonies to support the “Relay for our Water.”

The event began Aug. 3 when a group of Anishinaabe women gathered a pint of water from the headwaters of the Mississippi River. The pint — named “Nibi,” the Anishinaabe word for water — has been passed between church and environmental groups across Minnesota, who have been holding ceremonies in recognition of the crucial role water plays in the world.

“This is the only water we get,” said Nookomis Debra Topping, one of the relay organizers. “Are we going to pollute it? Or are we going to pray for it and have it be healthy?”

Participants at the Southwest Minneapolis stops said the new pipeline would cut through Anishinaabe homelands and violate a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that established water rights for Native Americans living on reservations.

They are calling for the existing Line 3 pipeline to be removed and say the replacement isn’t necessary given the ongoing transition to sustainable power sources.

The new Line 3 pipeline, proposed by the Canadian natural gas distribution company Enbridge, would replace the existing Line 3 pipeline that runs across Northern Minnesota between Alberta, Canada, and Superior, Wisconsin.

Enbridge says the project would help ensure that Minnesota and the surrounding region have a stable supply of domestic oil and ease rail congestion. It also says the project would bring 8,600 jobs to Minnesota over a two-year period and increase state property tax income by more than $30 million annually.

Opponents say the pipeline would threaten pristine bodies of water that are protected by federal treaties.

They also note that demand for oil is down in Minnesota and say that spills are likely, adding that they could have grave environmental consequences.

“This pipeline is like building 50 coal plants,” First Universalist member Roberta Haskin said. She said the church’s environmental-justice team also participated in order to raise awareness of the sacredness of water and about missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will decide in November whether to approve required water-quality permits for the Line 3 project. Enbridge hopes to begin construction on the Minnesota section of the project later this year, MPR News has reported.