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Honor the Earth brings pipeline protest to Brainerd

Emma Needham and her daughter Aunalie Burns with Honor the Earth protest the route of the Sandpiper Pipeline in Brainerd Thursday. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls2 / 2

Honor the Earth, a group calling for rerouting of the Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline away from northern Minnesota, brought its outreach events Thursday to Brainerd.

The group waved signs just west of the Washington Street bridge which stated their opposition to the 616-mile proposed pipeline route. There was also a 6 p.m. canoe launch near Kiwanis Park.

Frank Bibeau, Honor the Earth's attorney, said his group wants to speak up now to educate the public about the proposed pipeline route from Beaver Lodge Station in North Dakota to a terminal in Superior, Wis.

A few motorists honked at the demonstrators, which the placard carriers took as a sign of support. Sandy Loney, of rural Brainerd, said she recently joined Honor the Earth because "pipelines break" and she said the proposed route goes across sensitive watersheds and wetlands.

"We've had several thumbs up and honks," she said. "I don't think we've gotten the finger yet."

Bibeau said his environmental group will seek a legislative moratorium against pipelines across northern Minnesota until oil spills in other states are cleaned up and abandoned pipelines are made safe or removed. As a part of that deal, Bibeau said, oil companies could be offered a designated oil corridor that might follow the Interstate 94 corridor.

"They have to show us they can be safe," Bibeau, a member of the Anishinabe (Chippewa) from Ball Club, said.

The attorney said the oil company mentions how jobs will be created if the pipeline is authorized. He said more jobs might be available if they reroute it south to the Twin Cities, avoiding northern Minnesota.

Bibeau said he's not opposed to any pipeline, he just doesn't want it to go through environmentally sensitive areas.

"I want to drive home," he said pointing at his 1992 pickup truck, "but I want clean water."

Lorraine Little, senior manager of U.S. Public Affairs for Enbridge, said earlier this month that all of the company's pipelines in Minnesota are operational and not abandoned. She said Enbridge works closely with state agencies evaluating a pipeline route's impact on wildlife. She said Superior, Wis., - not the Twin Cities - was the pipeline's route since that is where Enbridge storage facilities are located.

Honor the Earth is an Indian-led group from the White Earth Reservation.

Also at the Honor the Earth event was Sandra Skinaway of the Sandy Lake Ojibwe. She was joined by her brother Monroe Skinaway and her mother, Gloria Skinaway.

Alyssa Hoppe of Honor the Earth said the group will return to Brainerd as part of the Love Water Not Oil tour from Aug. 13-28. On Aug. 19 Honor the Earth Executive Director Winona LaDuke is expected to take part in a horse ride from Aitkin to the Brainerd area. An event will be conducted at Northland Arboretum that will include music and a potluck meal.

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
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