Hold the Line

The recently proposed replacement and expansion of Line 3, a tar sands oil pipeline in northern Minnesota, has fueled resistance across the state on the grounds of environmentalism and Indigenous people’s rights. Brent Murica is currently working with MNIPL on a variety of projects, including community solar gardens and miscellaneous policy campaigns. One of these campaigns is to stop Line 3.When asked about the reasons that he began to pursue fighting pipelines, he sat back in his chair and thought for a moment. When he arrived at his answer, he spoke quickly, leaning forward in his chair, eager to expound on the complexity and intersectionality of his work:

“Climate change is a social justice issue, and pipelines make that extremely obvious. The people who benefit from the pipeline are absolutely not the same group of people who have to deal with the severe negative aspects. You see this dirty, heavy oil being transported through people’s land and water, and those people will never experience any benefit from that oil. Pipelines resonate with me, and I think with a lot of people, because you can’t look at the human rights side of the issue without seeing the environmental one, and vice versa.”

The proposed Line 3 poses a dire threat for Native populations as it crosses through some of their densest wild rice harvesting areas. This rice is a pivotal part of their culture, as well as their diet. Beyond this, treaties protect Native rights to harvest wild rice; throughout our country’s history, the rights of Native people have been ignored, and these treaties set in place to make some extent of reparations for past atrocities are oftentimes violated. The reconstruction of this pipeline would only serve to further extend the ugly precedent of mistreatment and abuse against this population which has been woven into the fabric of our society since our country’s founding.

“All pipelines leak,” Brent emphasized, “its when, not if.” In the environmental statement issued for this pipeline, it is estimated that there will be a sizeable spill every few years, and that the probability of a “major spill” occurring during this pipeline’s lifetime is very high.

Oil spills mark some of the darkest moments in our nation’s environmental timeline. The existing pipeline is actually the sight of one of the largest inland oil spills in US history in the 1990s, and there are areas of MN in which pollution remains from that spill decades ago. Tar sands oil is particularly difficult to clean up, as well as to extract, transport, and process, due to its thick, sludge-like texture. As it is one of the dirtiest sources of oil out there, it has one of the most formidable carbon footprints once burned, inflicting even more wounds to our swiftly deteriorating environmental health.

Brent is adamant that the current Line 3 needs to be shut down and not replaced. He excitedly shared that the Department of Commerce recently sided in favor of this idea; during the legal proceedings for this pipeline, the DOC filed testimony stating that Enbridge, the company responsible for building the original pipeline as well as constructing the replacement, has not demonstrated a need for a new pipeline, nor a demand for the current pipeline to remain in operation. The strong opposition to the pipeline that the Department of Commerce holds has never been seen before in the state of Minnesota, and will likely hold a great deal of weight in the court proceedings.

Brent’s commitment to pipeline resistance extends beyond his work at MNIPL. Brent is also a part of the Youth Climate Intervenors, a group of 13 individuals under the age of 25 which banded together in direct opposition to this proposed pipeline. They filed a petition to the judge involved in this case, arguing that they should be allowed into the case as an official party representing not only their personal interests, but the collective interests of their generation in terms of the environmental consequences which this pipeline poses. The judge has indeed allowed the Youth Climate Intervenors onto the case, and they have since gathered 10 expert witnesses to testify at the evidentiary hearing this fall about relevant economic factors, climate change, local impacts on food, energy costs, transportation, and specific ramifications facing the Native community.

The atmosphere surrounding Line 3 resistance is optimistic, but Brent urges readers to continue to involve themselves in action. He likens the situation to an open door with the pathway to victory visible on the other side, and the opportunity to seize that victory hinging on our ability and readiness to walk through that doorway.

Together we can hold the line for our community, climate, and water. Join us 4pm on Thursday, September 28th at the Capitol for the Hold the Line march.