My fellow northern Minnesotans, we are being lied to repeatedly, and we are not as angry about it as we should be.
The construction of the Line 3 pipeline by the Canadian oil company Enbridge is a controversial subject in our state right now, and I understand why. Our way of life has been built by blue-collar industry. Northern Minnesotans are tough, hard-working, community-oriented, outdoorsy types, and Enbridge has led us to believe it is here to support us in that.
I am concerned about climate change; I won’t lie. But today I would like to talk about something else. I want to talk about the fact that a foreign oil company has come into our state with the promise of hiring Minnesotans, protecting our interests, respecting our laws, and treating our home and us with respect. Little of that seems to be happening.
Enbridge told us it was replacing an existing pipeline. But the new pipeline will be bigger and follow a largely different route through previously untouched wilderness and waterways. It also will bring to our beautiful, clean state carbon emissions equal to approximately 50 coal-fired power plants, as a report published in 2020 by Oil Change International, MN350, Honor the Earth, and others determined.
Enbridge told us it was going to hire us, northern Minnesotans, for the construction work. The company promised thousands of jobs. But, at the end of the first full month of construction in December, only 33% of those working on Line 3 were Minnesotans, according to a filing with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, as was reported by the Star Tribune.
Enbridge led us to believe out-of-state workers would not bring crime to northern Minnesota. But there already have been major sex-trafficking stings in which multiple Line 3 workers were caught trafficking women and even children. Enbridge and its contractors apparently failed to do adequate background checks before bringing these workers to our region. This put Minnesota women, especially Indigenous Minnesota women, in danger.
We were promised that the Line 3 project would follow our laws and respect us. But nearly 5 billion gallons of water were pumped out of our lakes and rivers — almost 10 times more than the original estimate. In addition, the project is supposed to be using tribal monitors on its construction sites. Red Lake tribal member Sasha Beaulieu has reported not being allowed to monitor the work, however. We were told treaty rights would be respected; instead, our local cops are harassing and arresting Indigenous people and their guests who are exercising those rights.
Enbridge has most of our law enforcement essentially on its payroll through the legal loophole of depositing money into an escrow account to reimburse local authorities for pipeline-related expenses. That’s right, the law enforcement who are supposed to work for us are now being paid with money from a foreign oil company. I and others are left to assume the officers are enforcing the company’s agenda instead of ours. Some of our sheriffs and deputies don’t work for us anymore, we feel. Rather, they work for foreign, white-collar CEOs.
Those CEOs don’t care about what we care about. They won’t be around to mourn should the environmental impact of their pipeline end our fishing and hiking and lucrative tourist seasons. It’s not their neighbors who are being trafficked by out-of-state workers.
Why are we letting Enbridge treat us like this? For many of us, I believe, it’s because we simply did not know they were using us. After all, they are a massive corporation with years of experience in lying to people.
Northern Minnesota, it’s time to show Enbridge that we’re not as gullible as they think we are. We need to demand that they respect our laws, respect our women, respect our natural resources, and respect our treaty rights. It’s time to hold them accountable.
Let’s stick together on this one. Let’s get angry.
Yarrow Mead of Duluth has been part of Indigenous-led direct actions against the Line 3 Replacement Project and has been studying and researching the project since January. She’s a 2013 graduate of William Kelley High School in Silver Bay.