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Celebrities urge Biden to halt pipeline through Minnesota tribal lands

The Enbridge Line 3 project would expand capacity and reroute oil through watersheds and treaty-protected tracts.
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WASHINGTON — Over 200 celebrities, Democratic donors and environmental activists are calling on President Joe Biden to cancel a proposed oil pipeline expansion and rerouting in Minnesota.

A letter first reviewed by NBC News urges the Biden administration to follow through on campaign promises to address climate change and respect Indigenous and tribal rights by ending the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline. Many who signed the letter worked on or contributed to Biden's presidential campaign, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Orlando Bloom, Katy Perry, Joaquin Phoenix, Danny Glover, Jane Fonda, Amy Schumer, Bon Iver and Mark Ruffalo, among others, as well as former Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer and the executive director of the Sierra Club, Michael Brune.

"Your presidency is a watershed in human history, the last chance to turn the tide before climate disruption spirals out of control," the letter reads. "We worked hard for your election in part because you embraced that challenge as a defining strength of your candidacy."

The Canadian company Enbridge is seeking to replace its Line 3 pipeline and expand its reach, carrying hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil through watersheds and tribal lands across northern Minnesota. The project, which was approved during the Trump administration, consists of a 340-mile rerouting in a wider pipeline network, following accepted permits to do so. Once it is completed, it is expected to carry 760,000 barrels of oil per day. The project has been the focus of mass protests in recent weeks.

"Many of us had high hopes — and high expectations — when President Biden said in his inaugural speech that the climate crisis is one of several crises profoundly challenging our country," Ruffalo, the actor and activist, said in a statement to NBC News. "We will be judged, you and I, for how we resolve the cascading crises of our era. I call upon the president and the Army Corps of Engineers to suspend and thoroughly review the permit for the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, a massive project that would not only intensify the climate crisis, but violates the treaty rights of tribal nations."

The signers of the letter urge Biden to pause construction of the pipeline until a comprehensive review of the environmental and climate impacts is completed.

"We write now with an urgent plea to stop construction of Line 3 immediately," the letter says. "This pipeline is virtually identical to KXL in both substantive climate impact and symbolic importance. Construction of the project is an unfolding human rights crisis. Operating it over its lifetime would significantly exacerbate the climate crisis. It fails any reasonable test of climate justice."

"KXL" is the Keystone XL pipeline project, which was terminated last month.

The Biden administration has defended the Enbridge project, even though Biden signed an executive order during his first week as president to address climate change, rejoin the Paris climate agreement and cancel the Keystone XL pipeline. A court filing from the Army Corps of Engineers on June 24 urged a federal judge to deny opponents' request to reverse the permit for the project, standing by the Trump-era decision.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on the letter.

In addition to the climate policy impacts, the letter highlights what it says are violations caused by the pipeline that would affect Indigenous peoples.

"Line 3 violates the rights and lifeways of the Anishinaabe people by endangering the headwaters of the Mississippi River, including critical areas for hunting, fishing, harvesting wild rice, and cultural resources — rights that the US is bound by treaty and integrity to uphold," the letter says. "At this time of reckoning with our history, we need to move forward in the spirit of reconciliation toward our national ideals."

Read the full letter: