Opponents of proposed Enbridge Energy pipelines across northern Minnesota chanted and performed Native American drum songs in front of the company's Superior office on Monday afternoon.
Members of Honor the Earth, MN 350 and other groups rallied against multiple pipeline projects proposed by Enbridge, arguing the lines will bring the threat of oil spills into lakes, rivers and wetlands as well as increase the amount of fossil fuels burned contributing to global warming.
Supporters argue that pipelines are the safest way to move oil that is still in demand by an energy-hungry nation.
Enbridge projects currently in the works include increasing capacity of Canadian oil coming across northern Minnesota as well as moving more North Dakota oil east. They include the proposed Sandpiper line and Line 3 replacement which are working their way through the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission regulatory process.
"We gather today in opposition to Enbridge's proposed pipelines and a permitting process that violates tribal sovereignty and silences the people who live here," Korey Northrup, an organizer with Honor the Earth, said in a prepared statement. "We are here to protect our sacred waters, our Mother Earth, and all life. Without water there is no life."
The groups have asked to meet with and hold debates with Enbridge, so far to no avail.
Enbridge personnel did not engage the crowd, locked the doors so protesters could not enter and did not respond to requests from the rally participants to answer questions or set up a future meeting to talk.
Shannon Gustafson, an Enbridge spokeswoman, said the pipeline opponents are a "vocal minority" and that "the information they offer is largely false."
"The fact is that support for Enbridge projects continues to grow as people understand the benefits of moving oil by pipeline," Gustafson added. "We have found the most effective way to have meaningful dialogue about our projects and operations is within the hundreds of meetings we've conducted with individual groups of stakeholders including landowners, community groups, lake associations, townships, city, tribal, county and state leadership, emergency responders and others. Those we've talked to know that we are extremely proud of the work we do here at Enbridge."
Monday's event started in front of the Douglas County Courthouse and also included members of MPIRG, Native Lives Matter/NLMC, Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance-Duluth, Duluth-Superior Save the Kids and Northwoods 350.
It's the third high-profile action against Enbridge in the Twin Ports in recent months. On Nov. 2, seven protesters were arrested for trespassing after refusing to leave the Enbridge office in the downtown Duluth Tech Village building on Superior Street. All seven are expected to appear at pretrial hearings Thursday in Duluth. The groups also held a rally in the Duluth Civic Center on Dec. 8.