Line 3 and the Gustavus Community

Emma Putahl – Opinion Columnist

Hello, my lovely fellow Gusties. The weather this week has been interesting, to say the least. As we hop back into our week of spring weather, we should be thinking about a very important topic that is heavy on my noggin. I know that there are many people on campus that care very deeply about this subject and it is time for us to all learn a little more about it. On March 5, there was a statewide event that involved many MN Universities to protest against Line 3. So, what is Line 3?
Enbridge’s Line 3 runs from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin. There is already a pipeline connecting these two locations, but Line 3 is meant to be a replacement project. The existing pipeline is too small, too limiting for how much oil is desired to be moved. It is also getting older, so the chance of leaks or spills increases daily.
One might ask, replacing the existing pipeline is a good thing, right? Even though we all have differing viewpoints on fossil fuel usage, this should help mitigate some of the current issues? Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. We aren’t actually replacing the existing pipeline. The ‘replacement’ pipeline follows a new path. The existing pipeline will be abandoned and left in the ground to leach oil into the groundwater for decades to come. But this doesn’t mean that the pathway for the new pipeline is ‘better’ than the old pipeline. The new Line 3 goes directly through or adjacent to treaty land of multiple Native Indigenous tribes of Minnesota. When, not if, the new pipeline leaks, there will be major water contamination right next to treaty land and will greatly affect Native People’s safety, health and livelihoods.
As most of us know, Minnesota has a large amount of undisturbed wild rice fields. The wild rice offered at many grocery stores that say ‘Minnesotan Grown Wild Rice’ are grown in the same bodies of water that the new pathway for Line 3 will go through or possibly contaminate when an oil spill occurs. Wild rice is not a crop that can be grown anywhere. It does best where it is native to the land. Once the wild rice is gone, or destroyed, it will be nearly impossible to bring back. Many Indigenous groups farm wild rice as a source of income as well as to stay in touch with a piece of their past. Not only would these people suffer from financial strain, but a cultural strain as well.
If this isn’t enough to make you dislike the proposed pipeline, let me tell you about the oil traveling through it. Line 3 is a tar sands pipeline. If this terminology is unfamiliar to you, you are not alone. In Alberta, Canada, there are large reserves of tar sands. This is the same material that the Keystone Pipeline in the Dakotas was transporting. Tar sands are pretty much a sludge made up of oil and sand. It looks and is pretty gross (look one up). I personally believe it is the nastiest form of oil that we harvest. It is extremely dirty, is highly polluting, and contributes more than its fair share to climate change, more than quite a few fossil fuel sources. It takes a lot of energy to isolate the sand and oil. It is very low-quality oil that is more polluting when burned or used. The dark sludge sand causes more heat and solar energy to stay in the atmosphere, due to its low albedo. Low albedo is darker colors that attract heat, while higher albedo reflects more light energy. It’s why you should wear white or lighter colors and not black in July. Or why asphalt burns your feet faster than concrete does on a sunny day. Low albedo, as well as carbon emissions, help accelerate climate change effects.
Line 3 is bad news. The new pipeline will leak. There will be an oil spill. The abandoned pipeline is being left in the ground (there are a few exceptions to this but quite a bit is being left in the ground). The abandoned pipeline will degrade and oil will leach into the groundwater. The new pipeline will spill and leach into the groundwater. There will be disruption of native life. There will be disruption to lives and livelihoods. All of this will increase emissions and negatively impact the local flora and fauna, as well as contribute to climate change. At the end of the day, there is nothing good about this pipeline “replacement.” The only plus it could have is it creates job opportunities. But they are very temporary jobs. Stop Line 3.
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