[News] Minnesota Police Ready for Pipeline Resistance as Enbridge Seeks to Drill Under Rivers

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Tue Mar 23 16:42:12 EDT 2021

Police Ready for Pipeline Resistance as Enbridge Seeks to Drill Under Rivers
Alleen Brown - March 23, 2021

*As you drive* toward the Mississippi River’s headwaters from the east, the
lakes that open up on either side of the highway are still white-blue with
ice. The Mississippi River, however, is flowing. The open water — a trickle
compared to the expanse it will become farther south — is a hopeful sign of
the end of another long Minnesota winter, but it also has opponents of
pipeline construction in the area on edge.

Enbridge, the Canadian energy-transport firm, is planning to route its Line
3 pipeline under the Mississippi, near where it crosses Highway 40. In
winter, a pollution-control rule bars drilling under the frozen waters. As
the ice melts away, so do the restrictions. Those organizing against the
project worry that Enbridge could begin tunneling under the Mississippi and
other local rivers any day — and the pipeline-resistance movement is
getting ready for it.

“They got a lot of money, they got a lot of equipment, but we got a lot of
people. Spring is coming. Let’s be outdoorsy.”

“They got a lot of money, they got a lot of equipment, but we got a lot of
people,” said Anishinaabe water protector Winona LaDuke at an event last
week with actor and activist Jane Fonda, which took place in front of the
flowing Crow Wing River, not far from where Enbridge seeks to drill under
its shores. “Spring is coming. Let’s be outdoorsy.”

Enbridge’s Line 3 project began construction four months ago. It was
designed to replace a decaying pipeline of the same name; however, a
large portion of its 338-mile Minnesota section, which makes up most of the
U.S. route, plows through new land and waters. The project would double
Line 3’s capacity for carrying tar sands oil, one of the most
carbon-intensive fossil fuels in the world, at a moment when a rapid shift
away from fossil fuels has become critical to address the climate crisis.

The delicate waterway ecosystems through which the pipeline passes have
become the central organizing point of the anti-pipeline, or water
protector, movement. Hundreds of rivers, streams, and wetlands face the
specter of a tar sands leak after the replacement Line 3 begins operating.
And the particularly intensive form of drilling required to tunnel the
pipeline under rivers holds its own set of risks during construction.

Those same waters are central to the Anishinaabe people’s identity, and
Anishinaabe women have led opposition to the Line 3 project. Over the past
year, women and nonbinary people have organized small camps near planned
construction sites. In recent weeks, they’ve led a steady schedule of
gatherings and ceremonies at the edges of rivers, with some organizing more
obstructive protests, known as direct actions, aimed at slowing pipeline
construction. With spring on the horizon, pipeline opponents are poised to
take even more obstinate stands to block construction at the river

Law enforcement agencies, with Enbridge’s support, are also preparing for
the time when the rivers open up. Documents obtained by The Intercept
confirm that local sheriff’s offices have for months been practicing for
direct actions focused on the Mississippi River.

[image: LRF_1675-honor-the-earth]

Winona LaDuke, center, and Tara Houska, left, are seen at a demonstration
against the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline in Park Rapids, Minn., on March 15,

Photo: Courtesy of Honor the Earth
“Operation River Crossing”

This past September, members of the Northern Lights Task Force, a coalition
of state and local law enforcement and public safety agencies set up to
respond to pipeline resistance, gathered for the 12-hour training at Camp
Ripley, a Minnesota National Guard training center on the Mississippi River
south of the pipeline route. The exercise was titled “Operation River

In a manual for exercise participants, obtained by The Intercept through a
public information request, officials from the Minnesota Department of
Public Safety Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and
the Minnesota State Patrol provide hints about what they fear will happen —
and how they intend to respond.

Operation River Crossing was designed for law enforcement trainees from
along the pipeline route to practice their response to a “civil unrest
situation with threats to public safety including criminal damage to
property, obstruction of transportation, assaults, threats to bystanders,
and rioting.” Officers would confront a range of people posing as pipeline
opponents. Some would be quietly holding signs. “Others are blocking the
roadway and access to the work area and refusing orders to disperse. A
small group of protesters has started threatening pipeline workers and law
enforcement officers and lobbing balloons filled with urine and deer

In the fictionalized scenario, law enforcement officers have access to
various headquarters for cross-county coordination. “Two Regional Emergency
Operations Centers (EOCs) have already been established: Northwest EOC near
Crookston and Northeast EOC near Duluth,” the planning document says. A
hypothetical state-level operation center had also been “partially
activated” at Camp Ripley.

The manual also explains that fictive officers have been monitoring social
media and using it to determine their strategies. “Public safety officials
became aware of a spike in social media messaging activity regarding
planned protests” at a second Mississippi crossing site in Aitkin County,
downstream from the headwaters. “Multiple groups indicate they will travel
to the counties along the route to protest the project,” the scenario says.
“One of these groups is associated with past criminal activities during

In response to all these hypothetical details, the police would practice
coordinated crowd-control tactics and methods of cutting away materials
used to attach pipeline opponents to infrastructure. They would simulate
the use of chemical munitions, while observers watched the training on

Six months later, law enforcement agencies have put some of the planned
exercises into real-world action. As the scenario foreshadowed, a Northeast
Emergency Operations Center was activated November 30, shortly after the
pipeline’s approval, according to Northern Lights Task Force meeting notes
obtained by The Intercept. Multiple county sheriff’s offices now have their
own extrication or cutting teams trained and ready to use equipment for
cutting water protectors away from infrastructure. Some of that equipment
has been paid for by Enbridge itself.

An escrow account set up by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and
funded by Enbridge, primarily to cover the costs of policing pipeline
resistance, has distributed more than $500,000 to law enforcement agencies
as of March 15. The account is not meant to be used for equipment, though,
unless it’s personal protective equipment. The state-appointed account
manager has rejected law enforcement requests for reimbursement of cutting
tools. But there are ways around that. In Hubbard County, for example,
Enbridge donated
cutting tools separately from the escrow account.

The escrow account manager also rejected requests that had framed chemical
munitions as “personal protective equipment.” Whether or not they’ve been
reimbursed, law enforcement agencies have new stock available. No use of
chemical munitions has been reported so far. Instead, water protectors say
that they have seen increased traffic stops, aerial surveillance, and
police officers following pipeline opponents in cars.

In an interview with The Intercept, Aitkin County Sheriff Dan Guida denied
there has been an escalation of law enforcement’s response to water
protectors in his jurisdiction. He spoke as he monitored his county’s
extrication team, which was attempting to remove seven people that had
attached themselves to an Enbridge Line 3 pipeline pump station. He said
his county is not deploying aerial surveillance, that any traffic stops
were a response to traffic laws being broken, and that he is committed to
protecting the safety and first amendment rights of water protectors, as
well as the property rights of the pipeline company.

“When there is illegal activity around — it doesn’t matter what movement
you’re involved in — we focus energy on it. That’s our job,” said Guida. A
spokesperson for the Northern Lights Task Force did not answer a list of
questions sent by The Intercept. Guida, who previously served in a
leadership position for the task force, confirmed that his county
participated in the Operation River Crossing training.

Nonetheless, tension between law enforcement agencies and water protectors
is simmering, and the planned river crossings threaten to serve as a
tipping point toward more aggressive policing.
Any Day Now

Enbridge has suggested that no river crossing is imminent. Last week, the
company announced
Line 3 is now half complete and that the project will go on a “planned”
two-month hiatus. Enbridge spokesperson Juli Kellner confirmed to The
Intercept that river drilling will occur in the summer. Many opponents are
hopeful that it will be enough time for President Joe Biden to intervene
and stop the project, the way he stopped
the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. There are also ongoing legal cases to
stop Line 3, including from the White Earth and Red Lake tribal
governments, whose treaty land the pipeline passes through.

Project opponents, though, remain on edge, wary of the possibility that any
day they could receive word that drilling at one of 21 river and waterway
crossings has begun. Darin Broton, communications director for the
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, told The Intercept that no rules
prevent Enbridge from installing their pipeline under rivers where the ice
has melted: “They are able to drill under those waters. The only condition
was prior approval when waters were frozen.”

In November, the pipeline company commenced construction so swiftly that it
caught local sheriff’s departments off guard, according to notes obtained
by The Intercept from another Northern Lights Task Force meeting. “Enbridge
has advised they intend to begin construction as soon as November 27 (much
earlier than anticipated and without a 45 day notice as expected),” the
document says. “We are approximately three to four weeks from all
initiatives being fully operational but we are prepared to make it work in
the interim.”

“If they bring that drill pad to that river, I’m there. If that means I’m
standing in the water, I’m there.”

Much of the remaining drilling work involves a process called horizontal
directional drilling, in which pipeline is threaded through a tunnel bored
below the riverbed. The slurry of water and clay used as a drill lubricant
can leak into waterways, clouding aquatic habitats or drinking water.

People’s greatest fears, however, center around what could happen once the
workers leave the construction site: a spill. The largest inland oil spill
in U.S. history happened in 1991 in nearby Grand Rapids, Minnesota; 1.7
million gallons of crude oil spilled from Line 3, the same pipeline that
Enbridge is now replacing. In 2010, a Michigan community suffered
a huge spill
from another Enbridge pipeline.

Last Tuesday, as Clearwater County Sheriff Darin Halverson looked on,
Anishinaabe women from nearby communities led a group in a ceremony, and
men sang and drummed. As three giant puppets — a wolf, a bear, and a woman
in a jingle dress — moved toward a wide bare gap in the trees — the
pipeline easement — a figure in the dark truck parked in the easement
driveway filmed the group with a phone.

Sarah LittleRedFeather, who is Anishinaabe and whose family is from White
Earth, said she was undaunted by the resources being poured into law
enforcement efforts against pipeline opponents: “It’s not going to stop us.”

“If they bring that drill pad to that river, I’m there. If that means I’m
standing in the water, I’m there,” said LittleRedFeather, who works with
the nonprofit Honor the Earth. “That’s what I’m waiting for. We’re praying
that it won’t get to that point.”
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