ST. PAUL — With the construction of Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project roughly 90% complete, Minneapolis Democrat U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar is making one final push to halt the completion and operation of the pipeline.
Standing before the mighty Mississippi River at a Friday, Sept. 3 news conference in Minneapolis, Omar rallied "The Squad" — her Congressional allies, U.S. Reps. Cori Bush, D-Missouri, Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. — to pressure President Joe Biden to revoke Line 3’s permits.
“We are here because nearly all of Minnesota is in a state of drought. We are here because wildfires are burning in northern Minnesota. We are here because the Twin Cities just had their hottest summer on record,” Omar said Friday.
“The climate crisis is happening and the last thing we need to do is allow the very criminals who created this crisis to build more fossil fuel infrastructure,” she continued.
Omar, along with U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., and dozens of Democratic lawmakers from in and out of Minnesota, penned a letter earlier this week to Biden demanding his “urgent intervention” to halt the project, which is set to begin transporting oil as soon as the fourth quarter of this year. They cite climate change, the potential for spills, tribal sovereignty, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the crisis of murdered and missing Indigenous women as concerns around Line 3.
Tlaib on Friday pointed to the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill, in which an Enbridge-operated pipeline spilled 843,000 gallons of oil into tributaries of Lake Michigan. The oil flowed at least 35 miles down the river, according to the EPA. Tlaib called Line 3 "a ticking time bomb."
"Enbridge can’t be trusted in Michigan, and it can’t be trusted here in Minnesota, either," she said.
Ardent supporters of the pipeline, including northern Minnesota’s Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, launched into a sparring match with Omar and her allies. Referring to his colleagues as “socialist Democrats,” Stauber at a Friday news conference accused the congresswomen of coming to Minnesota “potentially to bring unrest” and protest “our way of life.”
“The fact of the matter is, Enbridge replacement Line 3 is a good, safe project,” he said. “It’s been one of the most vetted projects in the entire state and it has successfully been defended in the courts.”
State Rep. Anne Neu Brindley, R-North Branch, at Friday's news conference said Line 3 is "literally the most scrutinized infrastructure project in state history," meeting state permitting requirements and holding up in courtrooms after dozens of legal challenges. With construction nearly complete and the pipeline set to begin operating in weeks, she said, "It’s time to end this silliness and move this forward."
"It’s time to stop the lies. It’s time to stop the division. It’s time to stop attacking the workers who are making this happen," Neu Brindley said. "Enbridge Line 3 is happening."
While the country transitions to alternative and renewable sources of energy — which Stauber said “is happening, we understand that” — he said there needs to be just that: a transition. In the meantime, he said Line 3’s replacement is the safest way to transport oil through the state, and is good for northern Minnesota’s economy and workers.
In response to Stauber’s comments Friday, Omar said, “They say, 'Money talks and bullsh-t walks,'" suggesting he holds his views because of financial campaign contributions.
“He is out here advocating for them and not advocating for his constituents and the people of Minnesota who are going to suffer the consequences of the pollution that Enbridge is creating and has already created,” she said of her colleague.
In a written statement, Enbridge said that “it’s clear” Omar and her colleagues protesting the project “have been misinformed about Line 3, and the benefits of the project to northern Minnesota.” They have refuted several of the points in this week’s letter, as did the office of Minnesota's Democratic governor, Tim Walz.