A bicameral group of Democratic lawmakers this week joined Indigenous leaders, healthcare professionals, and environmentalists in calling on the Biden administration to revoke federal permits for the construction of Line 3, a pipeline project that would have the equivalent climate impact of 50 new coal-fired power plants.
In a letter sent to President Joe Biden on Monday and obtained by HuffPost Wednesday, eight Democratic senators and nearly two dozen House members rebuked the administration for standing behind the tar sands project, which was approved during the tenure of former President Donald Trump.
In June, as Common Dreams reported, the Biden Justice Department filed a brief defending the Trump administration’s approval of the pipeline from a legal challenge filed by Indigenous and climate groups. Critics said the Justice Department’s filing flies directly in the face of Biden’s stated promise to treat the climate crisis as an “existential threat.”
If completed, the Enbridge-owned pipeline would carry around 750,000 barrels of tar sands oil each day from Alberta, Canada to Wisconsin, crossing hundreds of bodies of water and wetlands along the way. Indigenous leaders who have organized on-the-ground resistance actions against Line 3 have warned that the project would violate treaty rights and—given the risk of spills—potentially devastate tribal lands and waters.
“The Trump administration aggressively expanded fossil fuel infrastructure projects under a new policy of ‘energy dominance’ and severely limited public scrutiny on those projects,” the Democratic lawmakers wrote in their letter Monday, noting that the Army Corps of Engineers under Trump dismissed as trivial the greenhouse gas emissions that would result from construction and operation of the Line 3 pipeline.
The Army Corps also conducted “almost no independent evaluation of the risk of oil spills at the crossings it authorized, despite the fact that the route for Line 3 crosses 227 lakes and rivers, including the headwaters of the Mississippi River and rivers that feed directly into Lake Superior,” the letter continued.
The Democratic members of Congress are urging the Biden administration to suspend federal permits for the Line 3 pipeline until the Army Corps of Engineers carries out a more complete analysis of the project’s potential climate impacts.
The letter was organized by Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.)—two leading members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus—and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee.
In addition to condemning the Army Corps’ failure to adequately consider the potential climate impacts of the pipeline, the agency also neglected to consult local tribes about the pipeline project, which has drawn fierce grassroots opposition in Minnesota. More than 600 people have been arrested protesting the pipeline thus far, and some have been attacked by police during demonstrations.
“Water protectors at Line 3 were subjected to pepper spray and rubber bullets during a series of arrests” last month, The Guardian recently reported. “Protesters who’ve been jailed have reported mistreatment from officers such as lack of proper food, solitary confinement, and denial of medications.”
In their letter, the Democratic lawmakers specifically raised alarm over Enbridge’s effort to pump nearly 10 times more groundwater away from the pipeline corridor than originally planned. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources granted Enbridge permission to do so in June.
“The magnitude of this transfer will have grave implications for the ecosystems near the pipeline, including the wild rice beds that are a staple food for the Anishinaabe people and core to the way of life,” the lawmakers wrote. “It is our understanding that the Red Lake and White Earth tribes were not consulted on this dramatic increase, despite the fact that it will directly impact them.”