Federal Court Allows Harmful Line 3 Oil Project to Continue

Minnesota Tribes press case to halt harm to waterways


Keith Rushing, Earthjustice, (757) 897-2147 

Alexis Andiman, Earthjustice  

Moneen Nasmith, Earthjustice 

A federal judge has decided against granting a preliminary injunction that would have temporarily halted construction of a harmful oil pipeline project that would transport tar sands oil from Canada to Wisconsin, through northern Minnesota.

Since Canadian oil giant Enbridge received a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in November, the company has been removing vegetation, including mature trees, and digging trenches through wetlands and waterways, damaging land, water, and ecosystems that are part of the Anishinaabe heritage and key to their survival.

Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental organization, is suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — on behalf of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, Honor the Earth, and the Sierra Club — arguing the federal agency illegally approved a water permit so Enbridge could construct a 330-mile pipeline carrying tar sands oil.

“We’re disturbed that the court would not at least temporarily stop Enbridge from destroying the water and wetlands we have used and depended on since time immemorial,” said Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr., of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians. “But we will not stop fighting.”

“For us, water is life. Our water and wetlands provide the ability to fish, hunt and harvest wild rice,” said Mike Fairbanks, Chairman of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe. “We have worked to protect the water for hundreds of years, and we will continue to do this work, despite the court’s decision.”

Earthjustice argues the Army Corps, in approving the permit, failed to fulfill its duty to evaluate the risks of oil spills and their effects on tribes and tribal resources, as well as other devastating impacts the pipeline would have on waters and wetlands in Minnesota.

On Dec. 24, Earthjustice filed a motion for a preliminary injunction at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking to halt construction and prevent environmental damage until the court reviews the claims in its case.

“We’re disappointed with the court’s decision,” said Earthjustice Attorney Moneen Nasmith. “But we will continue to press our case that the Army Corps violated the law and failed to fulfill its responsibilities in granting the permit.”

“The Army Corps recklessly ignored the harm that this dangerous pipeline will cause to water, species, and ecosystems, and it failed to consider how that harm will affect Tribal citizens who rely on subsistence fishing, hunting, and gathering,” she added. “The Biden administration has pledged to address environmental racism, but actions speak louder than words.”

“The Biden administration has both the ability and responsibility to stop Line 3 construction from moving forward, starting by directing the Army Corps to immediately revoke the CWA Section 404 permit. President Biden’s executive action to cancel Keystone XL was a big win, but should be just the tip of the iceberg. We need the same kind of action applied to Line 3 to put a stop to dirty tar sands moving through treaty land, wild rice lakes, and the headwaters of the Mississippi River — all of which are threatened by this pipeline,” said Sierra Club Senior Attorney Doug Hayes.

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