In April, Enbridge’s chief executive, Al Monaco, said Line 3 was on schedule to be completed by the end of the year. Native American tribes see the construction as a violation of their tribal sovereignty, an issue that President Biden explicitly pledged to prioritize during his campaign.
The pipeline would pass through treaty-protected tribal lands, they stress, including watersheds that support wild rice, a staple food and important cultural heritage of the Ojibwe People. And in the event of a spill, the heavy oil traveling through the pipeline could sink to the bottom of rivers and streams, complicating a cleanup, environmental groups warn.
In recent years, protesters in Minnesota and across the country have faced a growing number of local bills, backed by the oil and gas industry, that in many cases would make trespassing on or impeding the operation of pipelines and other infrastructure a felony. Minnesota has not yet passed such a bill, but since construction began at Line 3 in December, the Northern Lights Task Force — a police force funded by Enbridge, as mandated under the state’s approval of the pipeline project — have arrested more than 70 protesters since construction began on Dec. 1, according to a task force tally.
The Line 3 expansion also tests the Biden administration’s commitment to climate policy.
In his first week as president, Mr. Biden signed an executive order vowing to address climate change, rejoined the Paris climate agreement among the nations of the world, and canceled another pipeline, the Keystone XL, which would also have brought tar-sands oil, one of the dirtiest forms of energy, from Canada. He also recently suspended oil drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
At the same time, the Biden administration has defended a huge Trump-era drilling project and has taken other actions that could guarantee the drilling and burning of oil and gas for decades. And the president has so far stayed silent on Line 3, which would carry enough oil that, when burned, would add nearly 200 million tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere each year during the pipeline’s lifetime, according to the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement. That’s the equivalent impact of annual emissions from 45 coal-fired power plants, or 38 million cars.
“Particularly from a climate standpoint, the case for a brand-new, massive tar-sands pipeline is extremely thin and frankly nonexistent,” said Moneen Nasmith, an attorney with the environmental legal organization, EarthJustice, which is challenging the pipeline.