Leech Lake Band members question oil pipeline

Some members of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe are trying to stop a planned oil pipeline from crossing their reservation in northern Minnesota.

Member Sandy Nichols said she's gathered signatures from nearly 1,000 members out of about 9,800 statewide to oppose the pipeline known as the Alberta Clipper, which is being built by Enbridge Energy Inc. The 1,000-mile pipeline will travel from in Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wis.

The pipeline will carry oil extracted from Canada's oil sands, a process which environmentalists have long opposed because they say it uses too much energy and contributes to global warming.

However, the Leech Lake Tribal Council has already passed a resolution that says it plans to accept $10 million from the company and would grant permits and leases for the pipeline.

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Nichols and the Bemidji-based Indigenous Environmental Network said despite the resolution, it's not too late to hold a referendum on the issue.

Tribal officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has approved the pipeline, though the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy is challenging that decision in court.

The project expects a final federal Environmental Impact Statement to be published soon, which will allow any pending permits to move forward, said Enbridge spokeswoman Denise Hamsher.

Construction on the pipeline is slated to begin in midsummer, Hamsher said.


(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)