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Environmental activist LaDuke talks oil pipelines at CLC

Speaking to a full audience inside the Chalberg Theatre, LaDuke spoke of the indigenous environmental movement’s recent victory in stopping the Sandpiper Pipeline, its current battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and its future struggle in fighting the Line 3 replacement project.

Local American Indian tribes successfully fought against the proposed Sandpiper line that would go through areas critical to the wild rice harvest, LaDuke said. The pipeline would have extended from the Bakken region in North Dakota through Minnesota to Superior, Wis.

The tribes prevailed despite government permitting agencies ignoring their needs during the process of approving the line, LaDuke said.

“We fought them for four years, and it was very hard,” she said. “The state didn’t treat us very good.

“But, in the process of four years of battling them, y’all notice that we won,” she said, to loud applause. “Did y’all notice that?”

Enbridge Energy Partners, the Houston-based company behind the project, canceled the Sandpiper Pipeline in September. However, LaDuke noted Enbridge also has a large financial stake in the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has attracted national attention while an encampment of protesters near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation has demonstrated against its construction site. Their clashes with police have sometimes turned violent. LaDuke showed a picture of Sophia Wilansky, a protester from the Bronx whose arm was severely injured Sunday, allegedly by a police concussion grenade. A total of 26 protesters were hospitalized, and police used water cannons to control the protests in below-freezing temperatures, the Standing Rock Healer and Medic Council reported.

According to the Forum News Service, officers on the scene were describing protesters’ actions as “very aggressive” as they noted that they also used an “organized tactical movement and attempted to flank and attack law officers” from the side on the west of the bridge.

Law officers said they used “less-than-lethal” means including launching tear gas.

LaDuke added the Dakota Access Pipeline was originally planned to go near Bismarck, N.D.—a mostly white town—but was rerouted to go near the reservation after Bismarck residents complained.

“I didn’t sign up to live in El Salvador or Honduras, I signed up to live here,” she said. “What I don’t want to see is my people getting hit. The thing about it is … this is really the epicenter of the environmental justice battle for Native people right now, it’s right there in North Dakota. Because what these people want … is clean water. These people are getting beat up over their interest to protect clean water.”

Enbridge should be liable for police behavior in North Dakota, she said.

“They don’t get to pretend that that was not done with their interest in mind,” she said.

LaDuke acknowledged that she herself used fossil fuels by driving. What she wanted was a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, she said.

The Dakota Access Pipeline was unnecessary because of the decline in drilling and the unsustainability of wells—usually tapped out after just several years, she said. She joked that Enbridge had “cheated” on her because they had maintained the Sandpiper project in Minnesota was essential, only to eventually go through North Dakota with Dakota Access instead.

Enbridge Energy Partners’ Canadian parent company, Enbridge Energy, still wants to go ahead with the Line 3 expansion project, the largest in its history. It would also run through northern Minnesota, carrying oil from Hardisty, Alberta, to Superior. A portion would go through Hubbard, Wadena and Cass counties, as well as northern Crow Wing County and Aitkin County.

Canada’s government will announce a decision by Friday on whether to approve the project, CBC News reported.

“All segments of the line will be replaced with new pipe using the latest available high-strength steel and coating technology, while the existing segments will be removed from operation,” the company told CBC News.

According to a ruling by the U.S. government, Enbridge must replace the line by December 2017 or put in safety upgrades on the line that’s already in place.

LaDuke called for full cleanup of the existing Line 3 before the expansion project takes place—otherwise Enbridge would simply abandon the pipe, she said.

“They want to leave the liability to us,” she said.

Local county commissioners and state lawmakers needed to find courage when dealing with the pipeline, she said.

Enbridge was contacted in regard to the pipeline and deactivation. Shannon Gustafson, Enbridge communications supervisor in Duluth, stated the company remains responsible for its pipelines whether they are operational or not.

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