In response: Line 3 protests put Minnesotans and the environment at risk – Reuters

Opponents of the proposed Line 3 replacement would like you to believe that their First Amendment rights, including the right to protest, were curtailed during construction. Nothing could be further from the truth. They describe their protests as only peaceful and legal. Unfortunately, that’s not true either.

In her January 8 opinion piece in the News Tribune (Local View: “On anniversary of Line 3 protests, rally continues for rivers, rights”), protester Shanai Matteson mentioned the dates and places where the construction of the project took place. In one case, she wrote about an inadvertent return of non-toxic, agency-approved drilling mud, made up largely of natural clay and water to the Willow River. What Matteson did not explain is that the large number of protesters who took over the site actually prevented the contractors from implementing agency-approved response plans. By walking and dragging their own materials directly into the waterway, protesters churned up sediment, which had a bigger impact on water quality than inadvertently returning. Protesters delayed Enbridge’s cleanup activities.

The truth is that the illegal and dangerous protests during the construction of Line 3 had real consequences for people and the environment. Illegal protests included starting fires, cutting water lines and attacking equipment with sledgehammers, causing millions of dollars in damage and driving construction crews away from sites to protect their safety. In a number of cases, the damaged equipment belonged to Native American contractors and their workers. In short, activists put themselves and the environment at risk, as well as first responders, our contractors, our employees and the public.

It’s also true that the Line 3 replacement project was built under the most comprehensive regulatory framework in Minnesota’s history, resulting in more than 60 federal, state, local, and tribal approvals. These approvals included the most stringent environmental requirements in state history.

Enbridge, with the support of union and tribal contractors, has implemented strong environmental safeguards and protections to meet these regulatory requirements and to protect natural resources. This included construction monitoring by the agency and tribal monitors with the power to stop construction at any time. When events were identified, Enbridge reported and corrected them in accordance with agency-approved plans. Each of the events noted in our agreement with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office have been corrected and continue to be corrected. ‘to be watched.

A constant in Matteson’s article was its apparent effort to mislead readers. Line 3 was not an extraction project, as she called it; it was a maintenance- and safety-focused improvement essential to Minnesota and the Upper Midwest’s power transmission infrastructure. This $9 billion private investment has upgraded and replaced the pipeline on both sides of the Canada-US border. A total of $3 billion was spent in Minnesota alone with an overall regional economic impact of $5 billion.

In addition to creating thousands of construction jobs to support families and millions in local construction spending and additional dollars, Enbridge has spent more than $350 million with tribal nations, citizens, communities and contractors of Minnesota. Native American workers made up 7% of Line 3’s workforce. The project was completed and put into service on October 1, 2021.

Contrary to what Matteson wrote, Enbridge did not pay the police. Anticipating that local law enforcement would be called upon to respond to protest activity, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission asked Enbridge to fund a public safety escrow account to protect communities from financial burden. Decisions regarding appropriate reimbursements to communities were made by an independent manager appointed and overseen by the Minnesota PUC, not Enbridge.

Matteson and other activists may want to rewrite history, but the fact remains that some protesters broke the laws. While we support the rights of individuals and groups to express their opinions legally and peacefully about the energy we all use, we also support the legal system that holds individuals accountable for their unlawful acts, especially when people and environment are in danger.

Barry Simonson of Duluth is the Line 3 Replacement Project Manager for Enbridge.

Barry Simonson

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