July 8, 2020

Atlantic Coast, Dakota Access, Keystone XL: Three major defeats for Big Oil. Is Line 3 next? 

Canadian oil giant Enbridge Energy is likely seeing the writing on the wall for its Line 3 crude oil pipeline project in Northern Minnesota. After years of opposition from indigenous and environmental groups, three other North American pipelines were brought to a halt this week. In renewing its call to #StopLine3, as well, MN350 today pointed to similar dynamics that undercut any rationale for a pipeline that would produce the equivalent of 50 coal plants of carbon pollution.

“Oil pipelines are underground representations of our nation’s failure to honor treaty rights and a direct manifestation of our perpetual failure to put people and planet above profit,” said MN350 executive director Sam Grant. “They are monuments to a polluting past that is killing our collective future. We must do better.”

On Sunday, citing the cost of delays brought by court challenges, Dominion and Duke energy announced they are abandoning their Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, which would have crossed the Appalachian Trail. On Monday, a federal court ordered that the Dakota Access Pipeline, in which Enbridge is a partner, be shut down pending environmental review, a victory for the water protectors at Standing Rock. The same day, the Supreme Court denied the Trump Administration’s request to stay a federal judge’s order blocking construction on TC Energy’s Keystone XL pipeline.

These setbacks for Big Oil may well be a tipping point. Under similar pressures, Enbridge’s Northern Gateway and Sandpiper pipeline projects were both killed in 2016, and TransCanada’s Energy East and Eastern Mainline pipeline projects were killed in 2017. Construction on Line 3, which would cross Minnesota’s most pristine waters and triple the current pipeline’s carbon pollution, has already been delayed until next year by environmental review — seven years after this expansion was announced.

More critically, since the project was approved in February by the Public Utilities Commission, the Canadian tar sands oil market has collapsed. Meanwhile, Minnesota has sued the American Petroleum Institute, which has promoted Line 3, for defrauding the public about how fossil fuel combustion causes climate change. Against this backdrop, tens of thousands of Minnesotans have filled the streets demanding justice in the wake of George Floyd’s death and calling for an end to systemic racism.

Line 3 has united a broad coalition of indigenous and environmental opposition but has been pushed through over the objections of tribal nations. As with COVID-19, the effects of climate change, which Line 3 would worsen, have been shown to fall heaviest on communities of color.

“Line 3 is greedy and blind bio-piracy in action, trading off long-term well-being and ecological integrity for the sake of short-term profits for a few billionaires,” Grant said. “We have an obligation to offer future generations a stable climate. We need to move society wisely and effectively to a carbon-neutral world for the well-being of all.”

“Minnesota is no stranger to pipeline cancellations,” said Andy Pearson, Midwest Tar Sands Coordinator with MN350. “Enbridge pulled its Sandpiper project in 2016 after the company’s oil market analysis turned out to be wildly out of touch with reality, and project opponents showed they were here for the long haul. The same market analyst, Neil Earnest, prepared the numbers used to justify Line 3. We’re seeing now that the Line 3 numbers are also far off the mark, and Enbridge couldn’t even produce a legally required forecast of oil demand. Line 3 isn’t needed, and Enbridge knows it.”



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.