ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The Minnesota House approved a surprise measure Thursday to allow Enbridge Oil Company to complete an oil pipeline across central Minnesota.
That vote brought hundreds of protesters to the State Capitol who believe the pipeline will cross environmentally sensitive areas.
The pipeline was built in the 1960s and needs replacing, but it’s been delayed for two and a half years because of regulatory roadblocks. On Thursday, pipeline supporters at the Capitol said they’ve had enough.
Hundreds of protesters demonstrated against the pipeline outside the Minnesota House, calling its construction a potential environmental disaster.
“We stand on this land as a human family. We speak of human rights,” Wakinyan LaPointe of Minneapolis said. “And at this very moment those human rights are in constant threat by this legislative injustice.”
Lawmakers debated a surprise measure to leapfrog state regulators. It allows Enbridge Oil Company to complete the last section of the privately built pipeline across northern Minnesota.
“The environmental extremists who are using the regulatory process to delay the decision-making are hurting Minnesota,” Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said. “The opposition to this is mindless. It is fact-free, and it’s led by a bunch of science deniers.”
Inside the House, Native American protesters stood with raised fists during debate. One Anishinabe lawmaker called the pipeline route “sacred ground”.
“You have not shown me the same respect and compassion that you share for other people when they speak about what is sacred to them,” Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, DFL-Roseville, said.
Lawmakers from small towns said the pipeline brings prosperity.
“It’s hard to make a good living and take care of your family when half your work season is cut out from underneath you,” Rep. Matt Grossell, R-Clearbrook, said.
Enbridge stopped pipeline construction two years ago while it waited for regulatory approval. If the bill becomes law, the company could resume construction without going to the state for more regulatory approval.
However, the bill still has to go through Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. He hasn’t comment specifically on this bill, but has said repeatedly that environmental regulations are important safeguards, and he’s against any attempts to bypass them.