By Erin Hassanzadeh

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — More electric vehicles will be showing up on Minnesota roads, thanks to a new plan from a Native-led nonprofit.

Just as the Line 3 oil pipeline comes online, a different type of corridor is emerging. It’s creating an electric link between Minnesota’s tribal nations, and hubs like the Twin Cities and Duluth.

Robert Blake is executive director of Native Sun, the Twin Cities environmental justice nonprofit leading the project.

“We decided, you know, hey listen, how about that we go ahead and build an electric vehicle charging pipeline?’” Blake said.

He’s also part of the Red Lake Tribal Nation, and actively pushed back against Line 3

“This is very personal to me,” Blake said. “This is another form of resistance.”

The more than $6.5 million in funding will go towards building more than 120 charging stations, and it will also be used to purchase at least 19 electric vehicles that will be used by tribal schools governments and businesses. And there will be an education component organizing dozens of events over the three-year funding period.

Lisa Thurstin, director of the American Lung Association’s Clean Air Program, says the project “is important for Minnesota.”

(credit: CBS)

“We know that the single largest source of air pollution is from motorized vehicles, so electrifying the transportation will reduce emissions that greatly affect these communities,” Thurstin said.

Blake hopes it will also boost business in the small towns along the route, and create jobs.

“We do plan on some workforce development initiatives so we can teach the locals how to do some operation and maintenance around this,” he said.

Electrifying Greater Minnesota, and empowering tribal nations to pave the path.

“I think Minnesota and the Midwest need to be a part of it and leading the way,” Blake said. “We don’t want to make this elite, we want to make it accessible to everyone.”

He says they will also keep an eye on how the electric vehicles hold up during Minnesota winters, and share their findings with the U.S. Department of Energy.

Erin Hassanzadeh