Picture of Willa Childress

Willa Childress

PAN stands against pipelines

Earlier this month, the Minnesota Court of Appeals announced that the previous environmental review of the contested Line 3 pipeline was inadequate. Their reasoning? The Canadian energy giant Enbridge had failed to consider the potential impact of an oil spill in Lake Superior’s watershed.

Earlier this month, the Minnesota Court of Appeals announced that the environmental review of the contested Line 3 pipeline was inadequate. Their reasoning? The Canadian energy giant Enbridge had failed to consider the potential impact of an oil spill in Lake Superior’s watershed.

While any delay on the project is a win for water protectors, the Court missed a key part of the story. Line 3 isn’t just a threat to the 192 bodies of water it passes through in Minnesota. It’s also a major violation of treaties and Native sovereignty, and jeopardizes the health of communities. In Minnesota and across the country, PAN stands with those who oppose pipelines — from rural landowners to environmental organizations, Indigenous communities in the path of the pipeline, and supporters from afar.

Cut from the same cloth

We stand with our allies, and we recognize that the communities that are vulnerable to toxic pesticide exposure are also on the frontlines of oil pipelines that threaten their air, water, and soil.

This isn’t a coincidence. Agrichemical corporations and extractive energy companies are cut from the same cloth, using similar tactics to exploit the very same communities. Transforming our food system requires — by necessity — dismantling an energy economy that clings dangerously to fossil fuels.

This is an issue of climate justice, water and air quality, Indigenous sovereignty and land access. By showing up for pipeline resistance, we have an opportunity to create stronger coalitions between groups that these industries would like to divide and conquer.

Pipelines threaten our land, water and air

Under federal law, the U.S. Government is required to honor treaties between sovereign nations. Yet Line 3 and other pipelines violate treaty rights, building infrastructure and moving crude oil through Ojibwe lands at the behest of a private company. Native people living both on- and off-reservation oppose the illegal construction of pipelines across their land. And settler-landowners who live in the pipeline’s path are also fighting to protect their right to clean air, water, healthy crops and wildlife.

Why are pipelines such a liability? First off, pipelines leak. The Dakota Access Pipeline — which runs through the Standing Rock reservation — has already leaked five times in its first six months of operation. And here in the Midwest, increased flooding due to climate change could make leaks more common and severe.  

Building new pipelines also destroys ecosystems and communities at the point of extraction. And based on climate science, we know that we can’t continue extracting oil reserves if we are to curb carbon emissions. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Opposing pipelines isn’t just about one singular route and the communities along it. The fight against pipelines is a fight against an industry that should be tapering down its use, not increasing it.

But Enbridge has already started constructing Line 3 — without the permits to do so.

Communities divided and communities united

In Minnesota, the pipeline fight has highlighted key strategies that Enbridge and other oil companies use to divide communities. For example, pipeline companies promise increased jobs and a boost to the economy. But we know that pipelines generate far fewer jobs than promised, many of which are short-term. Want to talk about creating jobs? Look to Minnesota’s booming solar economy, which is currently limited most by the number of qualified electricians available to install solar displays.

Enbridge also uses dirtier tricks, like handing out gas cards at local fill-up stations and paying people to claim — and waste — tickets to public hearings. And they work hard to divide Indigenous communities, promising to hire Native folks first to work on their projects. They’ve even offered the Fond Du Lac Band of Ojibwe a “Sophie’s Choice:” whether Line 3 would run through their reservation or near a sacred site.

It’s clear that the outcome of Line 3 could shift the tide toward or against similar projects. Enbridge knows this — and that’s why they spent $11 million lobbying the Minnesota state government in 2018. This was the entirety of their lobbying budget nationally and much, much more than any other group in the state.

But Minnesotans are stronger than these divisive strategies. Over three years of testimony, people across the state have submitted 68,000 comments in opposition to the expansion. And state agencies continue to recommend against a permit.

As the fight continues, we’ll keep standing with communities and ecosystems in the path of the pipeline. And we encourage our PAN community to stand up too.

Here are some things we can all do now to turn the tide:

This fight takes all of us, and when we challenge one corporation’s abuse of power, we send a powerful message to them all. 

Photo: Tony Webster | Flickr

Picture of Willa Childress

Willa Childress

Willa grew up on a small farm in rural Oregon. Her passion for environmental justice is deeply rooted in early experiences with ecological destruction, a rural affordable housing crisis, farmworker wage theft, and industry’s exploitation of working class people. In 2014, she coordinated the Mesa de Conversacion project in her hometown to generate restorative dialogue between Latinx and white community members. Experiences interning at the Oregon State Legislature and MN-based org The Advocates for Human Rights fueled her interest in political organizing. Willa leads PAN’s state-to-state policy organizing work, leveraging regional resources and strategies to build power between communities across the U.S.

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