The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa said they are willing to allow Enbridge Energy to route the new Line 3 oil pipeline through the reservation.
In a letter sent to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Thursday, Sara Van Norman, an attorney representing Fond du Lac, wrote that while the band has "significant concerns about the replacement Line 3," they're considering an agreement with Enbridge to route the pipeline through the reservation.
Van Norman said they responded to a July 2 letter from Enbridge asking for permission to construct Line 3 in the existing corridor through the reservation, referred to as Route Segment Alternative 22, or RSA 22, rather than the route around it, RSA 21.
"Provided that Enbridge and the Band are able to reach agreement on terms, the Band is willing to consider an agreement with Enbridge under which RSA-22 could be approved, allowing replacement Line 3 to be installed along the existing route through the Reservation," Van Norman wrote.
In late June, the five-member PUC unanimously granted the 340-mile long pipeline across Minnesota a certificate of need, but gave Enbridge and Fond du Lac two months to negotiate whether the pipeline will travel through or around the reservation.
Enbridge has preferred RSA 22, which follows existing pipelines through the reservation.
Although bands have the ability to block any new pipelines on their reservation, Fond du Lac said their decision was "informed by the comparative environmental, cultural, and treaty resource impacts as between the various route alternatives."
"The Band's paramount concern is protecting and preserving both on- and off-reservation resources, and either RSA will have significant, adverse impacts on the Band," Van Norman wrote.
In an emailed statement Thursday, Enbridge spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said the company is looking forward to further discussions with the band, but did not share what the terms of an potential agreement would be.
"From the beginning, we've been engaging with Minnesota Tribes, to understand and appreciate their views and, where possible, come to agreements. We won't discuss this matter publicly at this time, but look forward to further discussion with Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in the normal course," Smith wrote.
Once completed, the pipeline will carry 760,000 barrels of oil per day across northern Minnesota on its route from Alberta to the Enbridge terminal in Superior. Enbridge began working three years ago to get the project approved.
While the company maintains the new pipeline is needed to replace the existing and aging Line 3, opponents argue the line contributes to climate change, violates indigenous rights and is ultimately unnecessary.