Colleen Bernu: Why is Pipeline Abandonment an issue? 

 

"The government has rules about removing abandoned septic tanks, they have rules about removing abandoned fuel tanks from fuel stations, so obviously leaving that stuff in the ground - because of the collapsing hazard, because of the environmental hazard, because of leeching - is something that has already been determined as unsafe. The pipeline should be no different."

 

 

Colleen, her husband, and their 11 year old daughter live on the edge of the Fond du Lac reservation, near Sawyer, MN, their home tucked back off the county highway at the end of a split driveway. The driveway is cross cut by Line 3. "We moved here about 10 years ago," said Colleen, "we never expected to be in the middle of this. To say the least!" 

For Colleen, a Lutheran deacon candidate, removing an old pipe is just common sense. "The government has rules about removing abandoned septic tanks, they have rules about removing abandoned fuel tanks from fuel stations, so obviously leaving that stuff in the ground - because of the collapsing hazard, because of the environmental hazard, because of leeching - is something that has already been determined as unsafe. The pipeline should be no different." 

Colleen recognizes that Line 3 represents a pivotal moment of legal precedence, that unless legal statute addressing abandonment is put in place now it's likely to become a habitual practice replicated by the company for the 5 other ageing pipes in the corridor. But she also sees the issue through the lens of her values: it's about stewardship, she says, and about looking out for the future. She points to her daughter's wisdom to remind us that some things are simpler than adults seem to make them: ruining our surroundings means ruining where we live. 

When it comes to the economy, Colleen and her family understand the need for rural development. "My husband works in the mining industry," she says, "so we walk that line...trying to skirt the line of helping people understand that this isn’t just about jobs and this isn’t just about environment." Cleaning up old pipelines, she points out, would create plenty of good paying jobs - and with so much ageing oil infrastructure in Minnesota it doesn't seem like that line of work would dry up any time soon. 

 

NEXT: Rodney on abandonment, property easements, and legacy contamination