A group of celebrities, activists, and Democratic donors are pushing President Joe Biden to stop a potential oil pipeline project in Minnesota, citing climate change and indigenous rights concerns even as many locals reportedly support the project.
As reported by NBC News, over 200 people sent the letter, which was “first reviewed by NBC News [and] urges the Biden administration to follow through on campaign promises to address climate change and respect Indigenous and tribal rights by ending the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline.”
Many of the people who signed the letter either donated or worked on Biden’s presidential run, “including Leonardo DiCaprio, Orlando Bloom, Katy Perry, Joaquin Phoenix, Danny Glover, Jane Fonda, Amy Schumer, Bon Iver, and Mark Ruffalo, among others, as well as former Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer and the executive director of the Sierra Club, Michael Brune.”
“Your presidency is a watershed in human history, the last chance to turn the tide before climate disruption spirals out of control,” the letter reportedly said. “We worked hard for your election in part because you embraced that challenge as a defining strength of your candidacy.”
“We write now with an urgent plea to stop construction of Line 3 immediately,” the letter added. “This pipeline is virtually identical to [the Keystone XL pipeline project] in both substantive climate impact and symbolic importance. Construction of the project is an unfolding human rights crisis. Operating it over its lifetime would significantly exacerbate the climate crisis. It fails any reasonable test of climate justice.”
“Many of us had high hopes — and high expectations — when President Biden said in his inaugural speech that the climate crisis is one of several crises profoundly challenging our country,” Ruffalo, the actor and outspoken activist, said in a statement to NBC News. “We will be judged, you and I, for how we resolve the cascading crises of our era. I call upon the president and the Army Corps of Engineers to suspend and thoroughly review the permit for the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, a massive project that would not only intensify the climate crisis but violates the treaty rights of tribal nations.”
The project “consists of replacing the existing 34-inch pipe with new 36-inch pipe for 13 miles in North Dakota, 337 miles in Minnesota, and 14 miles in Wisconsin,” per Enbridge’s website. “The replacement of Line 3 will ensure that Enbridge can transport the crude oil required by refiners in Minnesota, neighboring states, Eastern Canada, and the Gulf Coast,” it added.
As Fox News reported last month, some Native-owned companies are working with Enbridge, the Canadian energy firm, on the work for Line 3, and feel that some climate change activists are using Native Americans for their own initiatives and to highlight their own priorities.
Matt Gordon is vice president of Gordon Construction in Minnesota and a member of the White Earth Nation tribe. Gordon Construction is contracting with Enbridge on the project.
”I’m a contractor for excavation and all of my equipment on site was vandalized,” Gordon told Fox News last month, discussing an incident involving aggressive protesters. “For the most part, a majority of the people are for the pipeline. Everybody enjoys gasoline and plastic products. The opponents are shielding themselves with Native Americans. Most of the protesters were White. Line 3 has brought back millions of dollars to the reservations.”
Enbridge has also argued that the project will bring jobs over a two-year period, increase economic activity during its construction and design, and “[i]ncrease property tax revenue” in the long term. Regarding its economic impact, it said that some of the project benefits include around “$334 million in payroll to workers (about 50% of that to local workers), and a $162-million construction-related gain for local economies, as a result of non-local workers in Minnesota, through purchase of local products/materials and use of local hotels, restaurants, and services.”
Enbridge has said that it has “has consistently demonstrated that we respect Tribal sovereignty” through negotiations with Tribal leadership in its Line 3 Replacement Project. “The construction project is being built under the supervision of Tribal monitors with authority to stop construction, therefore ensuring that important cultural resources are protected,” it added.
Regarding environmental concerns, Enbridge said that “Replacing Line 3 has no impact on production or use of fossil fuels,” adding that the project “has no impact on greenhouse gas emissions, according to the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).”
The company has also noted that the project is not an entirely new pipeline that is being built. “This is not the Keystone XL pipeline. Line 3 already exists,” Enbridge senior vice president and chief communications officer Mike Fernandez reportedly told The Hill earlier this year.