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Editorial: Signs not there yet for large pipeline protests in Minnesota

So far, large-scale protests haven't sprung up along the route of the proposed Enbridge Line 3 replacement pipeline in northern Minnesota.

So far, and if Line 3 construction is approved in this region, will we see another Standing Rock? Let's certainly hope not.

Pipeline protests like what took place in North Dakota in 2016 are real, are serious, and brought activists from across the country to rural N.D.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said last week "we are still quite a ways" from any protests along the proposed route of the Enbridge replacement. The 1,000-mile line was built in the 1960s and is being considered for replacement so a new, larger pipe can carry more oil to Enbridge's Superior, Wis., terminal.

The signs of a large protest — one that got out of control in N.D. — are not here yet but it could happen.

The truth here is we need oil and therefore need to transport oil in the most safe and efficient manner. Yes, there is risk. Opposition to Enbridge's Line 3 in this part of Minnesota centers around the proposed route and it's potential negative impact on our pristine lakes and waterways in the event of a major spill.

The two groups most active in opposing Line 3 locally are Friends of the Headwaters and the Native American activist group Honor the Earth, and they're not necessarily aligned in opposition. The two have different philosophies and ideology.

Friends of the Headwaters (FOH) based here in the Park Rapids area say they are not anti-oil but are opposed to this proposed route. Friends of the Headwaters is concerned about some of the recent "Could Minnesota become the next Standing Rock?" stories.

Melodee Monicken and Richard Smith of FOH state, "Friends of the Headwaters thinks it's important for the public to understand that the North Dakota and Minnesota situations are very different. The biggest differences: Standing Rock and its supporters did not have an Environmental Impact Statement in the courts until DAPL was already in the ground and most permits had been issued. In Minnesota, Leech Lake, Fond du Lac, Red Lake and White Earth have all filed for intervenor status. They have been and are active participants in the process."

Honor the Earth is more vocal in its opposition to oil and this pipeline. "If that permit is issued (to allow the pipeline-replacement project), you're going to have problems," Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, said in an interview last week with the Duluth News Tribune.

Enbridge calls this a Line 3 replacement project. FOH calls that "artful deception" because the old line will remain in the ground and a portion of the new line would be installed along a new route.

Enbridge determined replacing Line 3 was best to maintain system integrity while minimizing disruption to landowners and communities. Enbridge maintains it has the technology, safety measures and monitoring practices in place to remove the oil, clean the line, disconnect the pipeline and deactivate to make sure it has little environmental impact.

That may be the case, but there should be long-term practices in place to eventually remove these old lines. That has to be considered now and in the future.

Friends of the Headwaters released some information to the media this week in regards to the Line 3 replacement. "Enbridge misleads your audience about the character of the new route. From Park Rapids east to Superior, this is a new pipeline route, winding through prime lake country and the Mississippi Headwaters. It has a high voltage transmission line, but that isn't an oil pipeline or a pipeline 'energy corridor.'"

Enbridge first asked for permission in 2014, and preliminary processes continue. The state Commerce Department accepted comments on a draft environmental impact statement — a process that included 27 public meetings since early 2016.

Next, the Commerce Department will give a recommendation to the Public Utilities Commission, whose final decision could come next year.

This is a divisive issue but we have to be careful in how we look at pipelines. We've heard the arguments against oil pipelines, specifically Line 3 and this route. Many of these arguments are presented in a manner as if it's almost inevitable the pipeline will leak oil into the headwaters and beyond. It could happen, but the overwhelming percentage is it will never happen.

If the project gains approval from all of the appropriate agencies, there shouldn't be protests when it comes time to bury the new pipeline. Protesters — like supporters — have had numerous opportunities to state their concerns at the dozens of public meetings leading up to now.

Enbridge and the state are going through due process. If the PUC approves the project, it deserves to be built.

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