ST. PAUL — Indigenous leaders and anti-pipeline activists gathered at the Minnesota State Capitol in protest Wednesday, Aug. 26, as construction on Enbridge's Line 3 nears completion.

Opponents of the controversial Line 3 planned a series of Treaties Not Tar Sands demonstrations that began Monday at the Capitol in St. Paul. Wednesday's protest called on Gov. Tim Walz and President Joe Biden to halt construction of the 340-mile pipeline, which will carry oil from Canada to Superior, Wisconsin.

At least 1,000 people gathered on the Capitol grounds Wednesday afternoon, where protesters young and old danced on the lawn, some holding signs that read "Break free from fossil fuels" and "Honor the treaties."

State troopers and police officers stood across the lawn, not far from the music and tepees. State officials last weekend expanded the security presence around the Capitol, including reinstalling a fence perimeter — measures that organizers decried as a militarized response to peaceful demonstrations.

The $3 billion-plus new Line 3 prompted a six-year battle through Minnesota's regulatory process, with Calgary-based Enbridge getting its final permits late last year. On Tuesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court declined to review an appellate court decision affirming state utility regulators' approval.

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Hundreds of protesters show up the the front grounds of the state Capitol for a protest against Line 3 and other pipeline projects at the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. (Renee Jones Schneider / Minneapolis Star Tribune / TNS)
Hundreds of protesters show up the the front grounds of the state Capitol for a protest against Line 3 and other pipeline projects at the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. (Renee Jones Schneider / Minneapolis Star Tribune / TNS)

The pipeline replaces the 1960s-vintage original Line 3, which is corroding and can run at only 51% capacity. Enbridge maintains the new pipeline is a significant safety improvement; it will restore the full flow and boost the company's earnings.

New Line 3 runs partly on a new route. Pipeline opponents say it will expose new regions of Minnesota's lakes, rivers and wild rice waters to oil-spill degradation — and will exacerbate climate change.

The convergence at the Capitol comes as work on the controversial Line 3 pipeline is more than 90% complete. Enbridge has said it will begin pumping oil during the fourth quarter, and that could come sooner rather than later.

The company has already filed for "toll surcharges" with regulators in Canada and the United States. The tolls on its customers could be effective as early as Sept. 15, and service could then start within the next 30 to 60 days.

In a statement, Enbridge said it has "demonstrated an ongoing respect for tribal sovereignty." The company said that with its new route for Line 3, it purposely avoided crossing the White Earth and Fond du Lac reservations, which currently host all six Enbridge pipelines across Minnesota.

The Fond du Lac band fought hard against new Line 3. But once the PUC approved it, the band allowed the new pipeline to cross its land on the current Line 3 route, getting an undisclosed amount of compensation from Enbridge in return.

Pipeline opponents argue that the new pipeline still crosses lands where they have treaty rights to hunt, gather and fish.

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