The Color of Climate

Battles Over Oil and Gas Pipelines Are Heating Up Across the U.S.

All over the country, there are direct actions, lawsuits, and calls for the Biden administration to shut down more pipelines

Drew Costley
Future Human
Published in
5 min readMar 19, 2021

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Photo of climate change rally in Washington D.C.
Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Getty Images

This is The Color of Climate, a weekly column from Future Human exploring how climate change and other environmental issues uniquely impact the future of communities of color.

Indigenous communities and environmental groups are fighting a battle against a planned tar sands pipeline they say could do irreparable damage to ecosystems in Northern Minnesota. Known as Line 3, the project was ordered by President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice in 2014, which aimed to replace a pipeline built in 1968 that has a long history of oil spills — including the largest inland oil spill in United States history. That spill, which released 1.7 million gallons of crude oil into the Prairie River, happened 30 years ago this month.

Opponents of the Obama-era project say the new pipeline route crosses over 200 bodies of water, areas protected by Indigenous land use treaties, and wild rice beds. Another spill, they say, could threaten the drinking water of millions, as well as the livelihood of multiple Indigenous groups.

“Line 3 would cross more than 200 bodies of water in Northern Minnesota, including the Mississippi River,” Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, one of the groups opposing the project, tells Future Human. “If the pipeline spills, tar sands oil is extremely difficult to remove from water bodies and could harm them irreparably.”

The Line 3 protests attracted national press attention and drew the likes of actress and environmental activist Jane Fonda to Minnesota this week. But there are other serious battles taking place over other pipelines across the U.S. — including in Memphis, Tennessee, in Pennsylvania, and over the infamous Keystone XL pipeline.

President Joe Biden has been pulled into these fights through lawsuits filed by fossil fuel companies and calls from environmental groups and communities of color to halt the pipelines. How those shake out could end up defining his record on climate and the…

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Drew Costley
Future Human

Drew Costley is a Staff Writer at FutureHuman covering the environment, health, science and tech. Previously @ SFGate, East Bay Express, USA Today, etc.