Featured photo: Jeff Nichols sits on a section of pipe in Carlton County near the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation. Photo courtesy of Camp Migizi.
Three were arrested Monday afternoon in protest of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline replacement project.
According to a release from the Northern Lights Task Force, tribal officers from the Fond du Lac Police Department and deputies from the Carlton County Sheriff’s Office responded to a construction site on Highway 210 and Hohensee Rd.
A handful of protesters were in the construction area around 3:30 p.m., and one male climbed onto a pipe as it was being lowered into a trench filled with water.
Ambulance and fire departments were called to the scene, including a specialized trench rescue team from Virgina, Minn.
Two more protesters, according to the Northern Lights Task Force, blocked the medical personnel’s access and were arrested on misdemeanor charges.
Seven hours later, the man on the pipe, 31-year-old Jeffrey Nichols-Haining, was arrested on probable cause of gross misdemeanor trespass, after being cleared by the paramedics.
In a release from Resist Line 3, Nichols is quoted as feeling compelled to act when he witnessed workers placing pipe onto frozen sandbags.
The release claims that OSHA put a mandate ordering Enbridge to not use frozen sandbags, as they force the pipe to bend, causing fractures and leading to spills.
“It’s not even a question. This one will leak,” said Nichols in a Facebook livestream. “The sandbags are frozen. You guys have already received violations for that.”
“Clearly what this protester did last night climbing onto equipment and dangling over a trench was not safe nor was it helpful. His actions endangered our workers, first responders, and the protester himself,” said Enbridge communications specialist Juli Kellner.
“The statement from the protesters is incorrect. These are not sandbags that go under the pipe, rather they are gravel bags that are placed on top of the pipe to create negative buoyancy. They are unlikely to lead to a dent or ovality than something placed under the pipe. In addition, the excavator lifts, shakes, and/or bumps the gravel bag on the ground if necessary before setting on the pipe to help break up any moisture holding the gravel together.”
The Northern Lights Task Force is a mutual aid agreement with law enforcement agencies across northern Minnesota, which Beltrami, Clearwater, Hubbard and Cass County Sheriff’s Departments are a member of. The agreement was designed in anticipation of protests of the Line 3 pipeline replacement project.
Line 3 is anticipated to transport 760,000 barrels of crude oil per day once completed, and includes 330 miles of new 36-inch diameter pipeline to replace 282 miles of existing 34-inch Line 3 pipeline in the state.
Work on the pipeline began in December and is anticipated to continue through September.