April 3, 2019

Citizen activists gather for anti-pipeline training amid string of defeats for fossil fuel interests

10-city Promise to Protect Tour brings lessons from fight against Keystone XL to Minnesota

In the wake of several prominent setbacks for the fossil fuel industry, organizers expect a weekend training for citizen activists to attract 200 newly energized Minnesotans interested in learning tactics to resist the expansion of oil, coal, and gas projects.

The Promise to Protect training in Minneapolis is the third stop on a 10-city national tour equipping attendees with skills and lessons from Indigenous leaders on the front lines of the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline.

It comes in the wake of a series of defeats for Big Oil, starting in November when the Keystone XL project was halted by a federal judge who ruled the Trump administration had ignored the realities of climate change in granting permits. Last week, Enbridge Energy announced it had been forced to delay until the winter of 2019-2020 the start of construction on the Line 3 tar sands pipeline in Northern Minnesota. In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer further stung Enbridge last week by ordering a halt to construction of a tunnel for Line 5 under the Mackinac Straits.

“It’s obvious fossil fuel interests are getting anxious about the mounting pressure on them to behave responsibly,” said Mysti Babineau, an organizer with environmental group MN350 and a Promise to Protect trainer. “They’re spending crazy amounts of money on lobbying to buy the decisions they want. Of course they’re pulling out all the stops to protect their corporate profits. But they’re still losing.”

The Promise To Protect Tour also stops in Albuquerque, N.M., Boston, and other cities where community groups have organized grassroots movements to stop fossil fuel projects like the Williams pipeline in New York and the Phillips 66 refinery expansion in San Francisco.

Fossil fuel lobbyists have raised the stakes by working with friendly legislators in several of those states, including Minnesota and North Dakota. The draconian bills seek to intimidate and stifle Native water protectors, environmental groups and their allies.

“As energy from renewable sources increases and Big Oil loses its grip, they’re becoming more reactionary and authoritarian,” said MN350 Communications Director Brett Benson. “They’re resorting to strong-arm tactics to chill constitutionally protected protest. In Minnesota they even propose deputizing pipeline employees and turning them into vigilantes to arrest protesters.”

In Minnesota and other states, such efforts appear to be backfiring. “We’re seeing more and more mom-and-pop Minnesotans getting off the sidelines,” Babineau said. “They’re coming to us saying they’re baffled by the continued expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in the middle of a climate crisis.”

Attendees of the Promise to Protect Tour are being trained not to be cowed as the oil companies raise the stakes for protesters.

Mary Breen, a mother of three and small business owner from Minneapolis, plans to attend the training. “We’re not about to back down,” Breen said. “They’re only fighting to protect their money. We’re fighting to protect what we love.”


***INTERVIEW, PHOTO & VIDEO opportunities available Saturday, April 6, and Sunday, April 7, in Minneapolis. Contact Brett for times and location.***



Brett Benson, MN350 Communications Director

(612) 368-1226



MN350 is a statewide group with 20,000 supporters working to make Minnesota a national leader in a just transition to a clean energy economy. MN350 Action is its political and advocacy arm.