Minnesota's 'Line 3' Renews Pipeline Politics

Progressive 2020 Dems stake out hardline position

pipeline protest
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September 2, 2019

The progressive wing of Democratic presidential contenders is staking out a hardline position on a pipeline replacement project in Minnesota, a position that is further left than many local Democrats in the state and could pinch more centrist Democrats on the national level.

The Enbridge 3 pipeline, or "Line 3," would run slightly more than 300 miles in Minnesota, cross headwaters of the Mississippi River, and also traverse some tribal land. Although it is a replacement project, the project will involve some construction on new ground.

For the Democratic far-left, opposition to the pipeline appeals to environmentalists and provides an opportunity to show solidarity with Native American groups that have often been in the forefront of opposing pipeline construction.

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders (I, Vt.) in January was one of the first candidates to come out against the project.

"The dangerous Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota would send a million barrels of tar sands oil—the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world—through the headwaters of the Mississippi River, tribal treaty lands and sacred wild rice beds," he tweeted. "It must be stopped. #StopLine3."

Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren came out against Line 3 in mid-August.

"The Line 3 pipeline would threaten Minnesota’s public waters, lands, and agricultural areas important to several Tribal Nations," she tweeted. "I’m with @MN_350 and Minnesota organizers fighting to #StopLine3 and protect our environment."

The issue is highlighting a divide within the Democratic Party, with Warren's stance already drawing a sharp rebuke from unions.

"Mike Syversrud, president of the Iron Range Building and Construction Trades Council, said it 'pisses me off' that Warren would take a stance before Twin Metals submits a mining plan to state and federal regulators and said the senator was abandoning rural workers to align with Twin Cities-area Democrats," according to nonprofit news outlet MinnPost.

After Warren issued her stance on the pipeline, a local environmentalist group, MN350 Action, tried to leverage the moment by turning their focus to the more moderate candidates who have been noncommittal to this point.

"Time for Amy KlobucharJoe BidenKamala HarrisPete Buttigieg & the rest of the field to speak out against this reckless and unnecessary pipeline. #stopline3 #keepitintheground" the group said in a Facebook post.

Pipeline politics have been something of a tripwire for former Vice President Joe Biden, who at times expressed an opinion against the Keystone XL construction as in 2013, but then later clammed up on the topic.

"When asked what Klobuchar’s stance is on the pipeline and about dissent from tribal governments, her state director, Ben Hill, said only that the [she] supports environmental review of the project to determine if Line 3 should be built," MinnPost noted.

On a state level, the pipeline has also aggregated support.

"Only one Minnesotan in Congress actively opposes Line 3: Rep. Ilhan Omar of the 5th District," MinnPost reported. All three Republicans in Minnesota’s congressional delegation have supported it, along with 7th District [Democrat Farmer Labor Party member] Collin Peterson."

President Trump gave unequivocal support for Line 3 in a trip to Minnesota in April.

"It’s very important we get that approved," Trump said. "I think it’s something that will bring down your costs and bring down your costs for the whole country."