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'Water protectors' march to Minnesota State Capitol in opposition to Enbridge Line 3 project

Opponents say the project violates longstanding tribal agreements, and could lead to an environmental disaster.

ST PAUL, Minn. — A large group of self-described "water protectors" arrived at the Minnesota State Capitol for a rally on Wednesday, following a march across the state to voice their opposition to the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline project.

Rally organizers are calling on the Biden Administration to cancel permits for the pipeline project, which they say violates longstanding tribal agreements, and could lead to an environmental disaster.

"This pipeline directly violates treaties, preventing Anishinaabe communities from exercising their guaranteed rights to hunt, fish and engage in cultural practices," organizers said on the Stop Line 3 website.

Opponents say they've been let down by Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, as construction on the pipeline has continued.

The march began in early August near the area where Line 3 crosses the Mississippi River.

Earlier this week, the Minnesota Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by opponents of Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 oil pipeline, letting stand a key decision by independent regulators to allow construction to proceed.

RELATED: Minnesota Supreme Court delivers blow to Line 3 opponents

The new pipeline will cross the Fond du Lac Community west of Duluth, with that tribe's consent, but it will bypass the other major Native American tribal lands. But activists cite treaties between the U.S. government and tribal governments in the 1800s that guaranteed Indigenous people would still have rights to hunt, fish and gather wild rice in their traditional territories.

In a statement Wednesday, an Enbridge spokesperson said the company has "demonstrated ongoing respect for tribal sovereignty," including measures to protect wild rice waters.

The company also notes that the project is "safety and maintenance driven" to replace an aging pipeline from the 1960s. In past statements, Enbridge has asserted a new and improved pipeline would actually reduce the odds of a leak or spill.

However, there have been reports of spills during construction. Last month, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) said it was investigating a spill of drilling fluid into the Willow River in Aitkin County during construction. MPCA said about 80 to 100 gallons of drilling fluid, or mud, were inadvertently released on July 6. At the time, an Enbridge spokesperson told Minnesota Public Radio News that the company immediately shut down the drilling operation, and crews began containment and cleanup. Investigators said the drilling mud was a combination of bentonite clay, water and xanthan gum, which it says is not toxic and commonly used as a food additive.

RELATED: State investigates Line 3 drilling fluid spill

The video below is from May 2021: