More than 700 opponents of Enbridge's Line 3 oil pipeline gathered at Gichi-ode' Akiing in Duluth on Saturday, urging state officials to stop the proposed pipeline from ever being built.
"When we raise our voices in unison, things begin to happen," Skip Sandman, an elder from the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, told the crowd gathered beside Lake Superior in the former Lake Place Park. "The earth begins to tremble. The air vibrates because they know that we're doing the right thing."
Opponents of the controversial 340-mile long oil pipeline across northern Minnesota say it would risk a catastrophic oil spill and contribute to climate change.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in 2018 approved the $2.6 billion Line 3 that would replace Enbridge's existing 50-year-old Line 3 and carry 760,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to the Enbridge terminal in Superior, but the project has faced multiple legal and regulatory challenges in the year since.
The rally and march along Duluth's Lakewalk followed news Friday that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency denied Line 3 a key water permit, a 401 certification, and asked the company to submit more information before it reapplies.
And the rally happened just three days before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will reexamine the project's environment impact statement after the Minnesota Court of Appeals determined the environment review was "inadequate" because it did not consider the effects of an oil spill in Lake Superior’s watershed, something the MPCA requested more information on, too.
Linda Herron, a Duluth-based volunteer leader with the Sierra Club North Star Chapter, applauded the MPCA's decision Friday, but said Saturday's rally and march was also about reminding Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, and other state agencies of the project's danger.
"While we are glad that the MPCA has taken action to demand more information from Enbridge, we continue to call on Gov. Walz and the MPCA to protect our clean water from this dirty tar sands pipeline, and we hope they will continue to do all they can to make sure it is never built" Herron said.
The rally even managed to catch the attention of actor Mark Ruffalo, who Tweeted his support of Line 3's opponents.
"Environmental advocates from across the Great Lakes region are standing with Indigenous communities in Duluth to send a clear message: Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline is not welcome here!" Ruffalo wrote on Twitter.
Supporters of the pipeline believe the regulatory hurdles won't jeopardize the project.
Dan Olson, business manager of Local 1091, a union that would help build the pipeline, is confident the pipeline will be built, despite ongoing regulatory hurdles.
"We're going to build a project that will be environmentally safe," Olson told the News Tribune. "We're concerned about the environment just like anybody else."
But even if the pipeline were to never spill, several speakers said its construction would reinforce the public's dependence on oil.
Izzy Laderman, 16, with the Friends of the Climate and a Youth Climate Strike leader, pointed to a 2018 United Nations report that said damage from climate change would become "irreversible" by 2030.
To prevent that, Laderman told the crowd that people needed to move away from oil and pipelines and toward renewable resources.
"No way in hell is adding more oil and more fossil fuels going to help the earth," Laderman said. "All it's going to do is give money to the people who won't have to live long enough to see what they are doing to my generation."