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Commentary: Foolish environmental activists say they'll make Minnesota's Line 3 another #NoDAPL moment

MINOT, N.D.—Minnesota regulators have given Canadian company Enbridge approval to go forward with replacing their Line 3 pipeline.

That line was originally constructed in the 1960s but in recent years has needed constant maintenance to keep it in good working order. It needs replacement to cut down on the amount of digging and construction along its route.

But hard-core environmental activists have vowed to fight this replacement of an existing pipeline in the same way they fought the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.

"All of us were at Standing Rock," Winona LaDuke, a co-founder of Honor the Earth, a left-wing environmental group, told the Wall Street Journal recently. "They're a long ways from getting a pipe."

The Standing Rock Indian Reservation in south central North Dakota was the organizing grounds for what were often violent attacks on the construction of the Dakota Access line, though not one foot of that pipe was buried on reservation land.

I can understand why a professional activist like LaDuke want to compare the opposition to Line 3 to the fight against Dakota Access pipeline.

The #NoDAPL fight made people like LaDuke famous. It drew national media attention and visits from celebrities, not to mention gobs and gobs of money in the form of donations to a rat's nest of groups and online accounts with little in the way of transparency or accountability.

Yet as a vehicle for advancing the cause of environmentalism (if that's the right term for political extremists trying to block infrastructure transporting a product we all use) the #NoDAPL protests were an abject failure.

Today the Dakota Access Pipeline is bringing hundreds of thousands of barrels of North Dakota oil to market on a daily basis. None of the apocalyptic predictions made by overwrought activists during the pipeline's construction have come true.

More damaging to the environmentalist movement is the political backlash the #NoDAPL protests created.

For months the public watched activists block highways and instigate violent conflicts with law enforcement. We watched them vandalize construction equipment, cutting wires and setting things on fire. We heard from citizens who lived in the region of the protests talk about harassment from the activists.

When the protests ended we watched as tons and tons of garbage and human waste were removed, at the expense of the taxpayers, from the campsites where these supposed stewards of nature were living.

All of this has made the anti-pipeline movement politically radioactive. Even Democrats in our region like North Dakota's U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who normally posture themselves as champions of Native American causes, tip toe around the issue of the #NoDAPL protests.

Is that what environmentalists want? More ugly protests which accomplish nothing in terms of stopping pipeline construction but a great deal in terms of inviting popular resentment?

Protests organized around the egos and careers of professional activists like LaDuke aren't likely to accomplish much.

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Follow him on Twitter at @RobPort

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