A crash-course on Line 3

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    Enbridge Energy is a Canadian Corporation which operates an extensive network of oil pipelines across North America including 7 pipelines that comprise the “Enbridge Mainline Corridor” which were built in the 1960s across Northern Minnesota.

    Minnesota is the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, as embodied by the “10,000 Lakes” slogan on every vehicle’s license plate. Minnesota is home to the Headwaters of the Mississippi, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, The Western Shore of Lake Superior, and… an environmental disaster waiting to happen.


    Most of the pipelines in Enbridge’s Mainline Corridor are at the end of their life span. The Line 3 Pipeline, one of seven in the corridor, is in dire need of repair and operating at about 1/2 capacity pumping 370,000 barrels of crude oil across Minnesota each day.

    Given the rising costs of upkeep and maintenance, Enbridge has requested of Minnesota permission to “replace” Line 3. “Replace” is in quotes because typically, a replacement replaces something already there, but the proposed “Line 3 Replacement” actually follows an entirely different route than the existing Line 3 from where it heads south near Enbridge terminal in Clearbrook, MN. The new route partially follows an existing electrical utility corridor, but power lines are VERY different things than buried pipelines. Building Line 3 along this route will require the construction of an ENTIRELY NEW corridor along this route paving the way not only for Line 3’s “Replacement” but the eventual “Replacement” of the other lines in the Enbridge Mainline System.


    Line 3 originates in Alberta, Canada and transports crude oil across Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin where it is either refined or pumped through more Enbridge pipelines to other out of state refineries, the gulf coast, or to the overseas market via massive oil tankers. Line 3’s “Replacement” Route branches south from Clearbrook, MN through Park Rapids, MN before heading east where it re-unites with the existing route in Cloquet County west of Duluth, MN.

    The proposed pipeline route passes right next to Itasca State Park, beneath the Mississippi River 3 separate times, and inside the Lake Superior watershed to its east. The entire pipeline route south of Bagely, MN, falls within the bounds of the United State’s 1854 and 1855 Treaties with the Anishinaabe.


    Enbridge needs a handful of permits before lawfully beginning construction on Line 3. Two of these permits, the “Certificate of Need” and “Route Permit”, were approved by Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) after a lengthy court battle in the fall of 2018 despite Enbridge having failed to meet several of the permit’s legal requirements,  including a long-term oil demand forecast. Based on this violation of state law, Minnesota’s Department of Commerce has filed lawsuits against the PUC under both former Governor Dayton and current Governor Tim Walz.

    The real reason for Line 3 is of global significance. The “oil” it will transport is not actually “oil” but rather it is Bitumen, also known as asphalt, that is saturated with chemicals to attain a liquid-ish, pipeline-able consistency. This Bitumen comes from the Open-Pit and In-Situ mining of the Oil Sands (Tar Sands) region of Alberta, Canada, a source of fossil fuel the scientific community has identified as the most carbon-intensive on the planet. Tar Sand Oil is not pumped from the ground – the sands are mined, pulverized with hot water to separate the bitumen, and then diluted for transport to refineries.

    Given that Alberta is landlocked, just about the entirety of the Tar Sands oil operation is looking to Enbridge’s Line 3 as a way to expand their output of oil products to the markets that want them. All other new pipeline routes from the region have been stalled in the courts – except for Minnesota’s segment of Line 3.


    The short answer is…. NOW. Like, now now. Like, yesterday would have been a great time to get involved in opposition to this project, but RIGHT NOW is a time of critical importance.

    Long-story short, due to the relentless work of many environmental justice organizations Line 3’s timeline has been set back by years since it was originally proposed in 2014. That said, as of right now, Enbridge has already completed construction of the pipeline from their terminal in Superior, Wisonsin to the Minnesota border and are currently constructing on the Canadian side from Alberta, through the Northeastern tip of North Dakota to the Minnesota border on the west. According to Enbridge’s investor reports, construction on Line 3’s Canadian side will be complete by end of Summer, 2019 and Minnesota’s section will be begin construction as soon as all remaining permits have been issued.

    Minnesota’s appeals court ruled on June 3, 2019, that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) conducted for the Line 3 Replacement Project inadequately addressed a potential spill to Lake Superior and its Watershed. According to MN State Law, a valid EIS is required before any of the remaining permits are issued. In February of 2020, the PUC determined this revised EIS was “adequate” and re-issued the Certificate of Need and Route Permits for the project in a 3-1 vote.

    Appeals of past permitting decisions will be submitted. As of RIGHT NOW, with Enbridge having technically received the CN & RP for Line 3, the only thing standing in the way of construction are permits Minnesota’s Pollution Control Agency, DNR, & the Army Corps of Engineers which have deadlines in November, 2020. Enbridge is moving equipment all across the North woods as we speak anticipating a favorable permitting decision. This winter season will be an extremely important time use the #sNoLine3 campaign to increase awareness of this controversial & destructive pipeline project!

    Congrats – you made it through the crash-course!

    The breakdown above is not comprehensive by ANY means, and pales in comparison to the amount of resources regarding this project that are out there on the web just a couple clicks away. We’ve compiled a handful of key organizations leading the opposition to Line 3 below with links to additional resources to learn more about Line 3.

    StopLine3.org provides a comprehensive overview of what’s at stake and has been where many of us organizers have directed interested people like you. On this site you’ll find fact sheets, interactive maps, video, news releases, and events organized around the #StopLine3 effort!

    Minnesota’s Chapter of the 350.org movement has been unparalleled in their organizing efforts opposing Line 3 and we STRONGLY recommend you get involved with their local chapter in your neck of the woods.

    Honor the Earth is a Native-Led Environmental group based out of the White Earth Reservation north of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota under the direction of long-time activist Winona LaDuke. You’ve probably heard her name in the news regarding Line 3 – Honor the Earth has been opposing this project, and its predecessor (the “Sandpiper” Pipeline) since their inception.

    Sierra Club’s Beyond Oil Committee advocates for a clean energy future free of oil pipelines, trains, and fossil fuel transportation through the state of Minnesota. They have focused their efforts on Stopping Line 3 and have been an integral part of the opposition and court proceedings!

    Friends of the Headwaters (FOH) is a local citizen’s group organized for the purpose of protecting our precious resources: Itasca State Park, the Mississippi River, our clean lakes and trout streams, the aquifer for our drinking water, our forests and wildlife from the potentially devastating impacts that will occur if the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline is constructed on the currently proposed route in Hubbard, Clearwater, Cass, Aitkin and Carlton Counties.