Minnesota Governor Tim Walz Won't Deploy National Guard to Manage Protestors at Line 3 Pipeline

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz told Minnesota Public Radio News that he has no plans to deploy the National Guard to manage the hundreds of protestors who have gathered at the Line 3 pipeline.

Walz said he does not expect the protestors to "interfere with lawful construction or lawful practices," and will not be deploying the Minnesota National Guard.

The protestors gathered at the headwaters of the Mississippi River on Monday to protest Enbridge Energy's plan to rebuild Line 3, an aging pipeline that carries crude oil from Alberta to Wisconsin.

Environmental and tribal groups say the pipeline would worsen climate change in addition to risking oil spills in Native American areas. Those areas include locations important to Native American culture and sustainability, such as hunting, fishing and gathering medicinal plants.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Line 3 protestors
Indigenous environmental and land rights activist Winona LaDuke talks to the Hubbard County Sheriff in Park Rapids, Minnesota on June 6, 2021. Line 3 is an oil sands pipeline that runs from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin. In 2014, a new route for the Line 3 pipeline was proposed to allow an increased volume of oil to be transported daily, and it's sparked resistance from climate justice groups and Native American communities. Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Protesters said the "Treaty People Gathering" was the largest show of resistance yet to the project. The Mississippi River is one of the water crossings for the pipeline.

A group called Indigenous Environmental Network said on Twitter that protesters had blocked a pumping station. Opponents have said they will do whatever it takes to block the completion of the project, including risk being arrested.

Speakers urged demonstrators to pressure the Biden administration. More than 300 groups delivered a letter to President Joe Biden last month calling on him to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to suspend or revoke Enbridge's federal clean water permit for the project. They urged Biden to follow the example he set on the first day of his administration, when he canceled the disputed Keystone XL pipeline, citing worries about climate change.

Biden has not taken a stand on Line 3, while Walz is letting the legal process play out.

Enbridge says the 1960s-era pipeline is deteriorating and can run at only about half its original capacity. It says the new line, made from stronger steel, will better protect the environment while restoring its capacity and ensuring reliable deliveries to U.S. refineries.

The company is gearing up for a final construction push on the pipeline, which clips a corner of North Dakota on its way across northern Minnesota to Enbridge's terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. The Canadian and Wisconsin replacement segments are already carrying oil. The Minnesota segment is about 60 percent complete.

Enbridge has said it plans to put the line into service late this year.

Both sides are awaiting a ruling from the Minnesota Court of Appeals in June on a legal challenge by environmental and tribal groups who want to overturn state regulators' approval of the project.

Separately, the Biden administration has declined to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline, which is owned by a different company and was the subject of major protests near the Standing Rock Reservation in the Dakotas in 2016 and 2017. In Michigan, Enbridge is defying an order by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to shut down its Line 5 because of the potential for a spill in a channel linking two Great Lakes.

Enbridge, which updated the projected total cost for Line 3 in February to $7.3 billion (U.S.), has been touting the economic benefits, including about 4,000 jobs as full-scale work resumes.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals is expected to rule by June 21 on whether Enbridge adequately proved a long-term need for the project. The independent Public Utilities Commission approved the project, but the state Department of Commerce, two tribes and other opponents argue that the company's demand projections failed to meet the legal requirements. Enbridge and the PUC say the projections complied.

Enbridge Energy Line 3
In this Oct. 4, 2018 file photo, a protester is suspended at the top of a tepee erected outside Wells Fargo in downtown Minneapolis during a protest against Enbridge Energy's planned Line 3 replacement crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota. Jeff Baenen, File/AP Photo