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Honor the Earth brings Sandpiper pipeline protest to Brainerd

Emma Needham with Honor the Earth and her daughter Aunalie Burns protest the proposed route of the Sandpiper pipeline Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Brainerd, Minn. BRAINERD DISPATCH/Steve Kohls

BRAINERD, Minn. -- Honor the Earth, a group calling for rerouting Enbridge Energy’s proposed Sandpiper pipeline away from northern Minnesota, brought its outreach events to Brainerd on Thursday.

The group waved signs just west of the Washington Street bridge stating its opposition to the 616-mile pipeline route. There was also a canoe launch Thursday evening at a local park.

Frank Bibeau, Honor the Earth’s attorney, said his group wants to speak up now to educate the public about the pipeline route from western 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 the 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 Honor the Earth 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," said Bibeau, a member of the Anishinabe (Chippewa) tribe from Ball Club.

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 Enbridge reroutes 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 previously 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.

Little said Superior, Wis. -- not the Twin Cities -- was the pipeline’s destination because that is where Enbridge storage facilities are located.

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

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.

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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