After successfully stopping construction on the Keystone Pipeline in June, environmentalists are tasked with preventing yet another pipeline, Line 3, that would cross most of the Midwest. The U.S. has agreed to invest $2.9 billion into this pipeline replacement program that would further expand the damaging fossil fuel industry, so many are calling on Biden to stop the project.
The 1,097-mile pipeline replacement already transports almost a million barrels of tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin. The expansion would add over 300 more miles to the pipeline, spreading it throughout the Midwest. Just like the Keystone Pipeline, this line would pass through Native American territory, critical ecosystems and waterways.
The Anishinaabe Native American tribe resides on protected land in the Ottawa River Valley that they were granted in an 1855 treaty. Adding this pipeline will disturb this protected land in which the tribe uses for hunting, fishing, farming and living, effectively dishonoring the treaty.
Aside from destroying a cultural group’s land, this line would pass through protected wetlands. Wetlands are one of the most diverse, yet fragile ecosystems. They provide valuable ecosystem services, including water purification and carbon sequestration, but climate change and other human activities, such as pipelines, continue to threaten the valuable environments. Decreasing the biodiversity of wetlands decreases ecosystem services, threatens already endangered species, and increases regions’ vulnerability to flooding.
The pipeline also passes through 227 lakes and rivers, including the Mississippi River and Lake Superior. According to the Great Lakes Commission, these two freshwater bodies provide 18 million and 48 million people with water respectively. The pipeline would likely lead to spills in the water supply, contaminating the drinking water.
This could cause adverse health effects for the millions of people that depend on it. Water pollution has been linked to cancer, respiratory illness, heart disease and more. Human health is even more threatened when accounting for the air pollution that will be generated when the transported tar sands are burned. Air pollution is also linked to numerous health problems, including cancer, respiratory illness and even mental disabilities.
Aside from the obvious environmental and social justice issues associated with this pipeline, it would also fail to help our economy. The line would transport tar sands, a dying industry that creates more pollution than conventional oil. The low-quality oil fails to generate efficient energy, instead just increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
Instead of continuing to invest in the fossil fuel industry, the U.S. and Canada need to reallocate the money to invest in renewable energy sources. Renewable energy resources do not damage the environment, threaten human health or destroy indigenous peoples’ land, making them a much better option than tar sands.
Environmentalists will continue to advocate to halt the construction of this pipeline and any others that may arise as the fight to save the planet and the people that inhabit it continues. Not only do their efforts discourage further damage to ecosystems and the environment, but it emphasizes the need to convince politicians to propose renewable energy projects, rather than harmful pipelines that violate human rights and environmental protections.
Photo credit: Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS