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Environmental activists hold concert to oppose pipelines

Annie Humphrey and her grandson Zayne Humphrey, 4, perform a song on Thursday at the End of the Line concert at the Rail River Folk School. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- As Minnesota regulators work to determine the fate of Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 replacement project, environmental activists wrapped up an anti-pipeline horseback ride in Bemidji Thursday.

The four-week-long ride, organized by Minnesota group Honor the Earth, took activists from Wisconsin to Bemidji. The riders are working against a number of oil pipelines, including the Canada-based energy company’s Line 3. Many activists worry that a new pipeline could contaminate water and land with cultural significance to Native Americans.

“If the water is contaminated, for us Ojibwe, that’s like a death warrant,” said Todd Utech, who participated in the ride. “Without wild rice, without all the medicines that grow in the woods, without all that stuff, us people that are trying to live as close to traditional as possible won’t be able to do that.”

The current Line 3, built in the 1960s, runs from Alberta, Canada, through northern Minnesota, to Superior, Wis. Enbridge hopes to decommission the aging line and build a new one.

A draft environmental impact statement on the project was released in May and outlines five potential pipeline routes. Both pro- and anti-pipeline activists attended a handful of public comment meetings. A final environmental impact statement was set to be released this month.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will eventually decide whether to issue a certificate of need and a route permit for the project.

Utech said he, along with many other riders, did not think the draft environmental impact statement included enough information about the potential impact a new Line 3 would have on Native Americans in the area.

“The study isn’t going to tell the truth completely, and I think that’s what we were trying to get across on the ride,” Utech said. “When we talk with people, you know, we let them know not to believe everything. Just because it’s on paper doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Thursday’s event included a potluck dinner and live music by Red Lake rapper Thomas X, Twin Cities group Sister Tree, and a healing song from Annie Humphrey. About 30 people attended this fifth-annual event.

Seth Eastman, of Sisseton, S.D., has participated in the ride for three years. He said that more members of the public have become engaged with the issue each year.

“The surrounding towns and areas in Minnesota are becoming more educated on the threats of the land and water and resources and all that due to the pipeline,” Eastman said. “It’s growing, so that’s what I’ve seen change. It’s a good change.”

Rian Grotberg, of Bemidji, attended the event to show support for other activists. Grotberg said that he hopes companies move toward renewable energy, rather than fossil fuels.

“It’s not going to happen overnight, but we should at least be working towards that and working on getting rid of pipelines instead of making more pipelines,” Grotberg said. “I wish somebody could just wave a wand over it and it just never happened.”

A spokesperson for Enbridge did not immediately respond to request for comment. But a spokeswoman at the most recent public comment meeting said the company believes the Line 3 replacement is the most environmentally responsible option, and that Enbridge spent “thousands of hours” consulting with stakeholders.

Grace Pastoor

Grace Pastoor covers crime, courts and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. Contact her at (218) 333-9796 or gpastoor@bemidjipioneer.com

(218) 333-9796
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