(BEMIDJI, MINN)           October 1st will be the first day oil will flow through the newly replaced Enbridge Line 3 pipeline and Beltrami County Commissioner Craig Gaasvig today urged Minnesota courts to make sure people arrested and charged with crimes related to Line 3 protests face the consequences for their actions.  Gaasvig’s call follows a recent media report that people facing a series of charges from Line 3 protests want to have their cases dismissed.  More than 900 people were arrested this year during violent Line 3 protests for damaging property, threatening workers, and other related offenses.  While protestors claim the charges have been too severe, Commissioner Gaasvig said it is important to make sure there is full accountability for what was a violent and stressful summer for Minnesota communities.

“It is disgraceful to see people who came here from around the country to threaten workers now try to claim what they did was not serious, and that they should be given a free pass when it comes to accountability,” Beltrami Commissioner Craig Gaasvig said.  “They damaged equipment, kept people from being able to go to work, and forced our first-responders to spend time away from our communities.  Trying to simply call this ‘free speech’ and to avoid the consequences for what they did is appalling. I am confident our court system will do the right thing and fairly review and assess each case.”

Since the start of construction last December, thousands of protestors have come to Minnesota from across the country to try to stop work on what is the largest privately-funded construction project in state history.  They have repeatedly trespassed on private property, attached themselves to equipment, damaged vehicles, threatened workers, blocked traffic, and created significant challenges for local law enforcement.

In June, several hundred protestors attacked the Two Inlets pump station that was under construction.  Protestors tried to not let construction workers leave the site, significantly damaged an excavator, destroyed property that belonged to a Native American-owned construction company, and did considerable damage to the facility.

In addition to damaging property, protestors have also forced law enforcement to put themselves in harm’s way to respond to attacks.  In July two protestors jumped into a capped section of pipeline that was under construction.  The temperature in the pipe rose to almost 130 degrees.  After refusing to come out of the pipe, paramedics were forced to put on breathing apparatus and go down into the pipe and use a crane to get everyone out, and the protestors were then treated for heat-related issues.

“What happened here this summer is not a joke and people coming to Minnesota who think it’s okay to do damage or force others to put themselves at risk need to understand and accept that there are consequences,” Gaasvig said.  “It bothers me that our court system will be jammed up with these cases but letting people off after what they have done would be far worse.  I am confident our legal system will meet this test and that justice will be done.”

On Wednesday Enbridge notified the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission that work to replace the pipeline is substantially complete.  Today oil is expected to begin flowing through the line and it will be in full operation as soon as October 1st.

The decision to replace Line 3 was made by the Obama Administration.  Line 3 is the most studied pipeline project in state history. There were 71 public-comment regulatory meetings and over 3,500 community engagement meetings that included a 13,500-page Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), four separate reviews by independent administrative law judges, 320 route modifications in response to stakeholder input, and reviews and approvals from federal and state agencies as well as tribal communities.

Line 3 is also the largest privately financed construction project in Minnesota history, coming at a key time as the region struggled with issues related to the economic impact of COVID. The Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Labovitz School of Business and Economics concluded via their analysis that the project would create approximately 8,600 jobs and will represent an investment of over $2.0 billion in the 15-county study area in the northern portion of the State of Minnesota.

Contact: Susan Goudge | 218-556-3617