MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.—Plans to replace an aging oil pipeline have split three key constituencies of the state’s
Democratic-Farmer-Labor party, pitting building-trades unions against environmentalists and Native Americans.
The Enbridge company’s proposed 340-mile pipeline, which would carry Canadian oil from northwestern Minnesota to a terminal on Lake Superior, has been projected to create 6,500 jobs over two years, but would run near the Mississippi River’s headwaters and lakes where the Ojibwe gather wild rice. Pipeline opponents should “buy an ax and start chopping wood,” Glen Johnson, business manager of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. DFL gubernatorial hopeful Rep. Tim Walz, who is close to the building-trades unions, has said he supports the pipeline if it can be built and run safely while protecting Indian treaty lands and rights. But Walz’s running mate, state Rep. Peggy Flanagan, an Ojibwe who would be the first Native American elected to statewide office in Minnesota, has strongly opposed it. The state Commerce Department issued an analysis in September that said the pipeline isn’t necessary. The state Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to decide whether to build it in April.