Minnesotans for Line 3, a group established last year to advocate for an Enbridge oil pipeline project, presents itself as a grassroots organization consisting of “thousands of members.”
But a DeSmog investigation has found that behind the scenes, the Calgary-based energy giant is pulling the strings. Enbridge has provided the group with funding, public relations, and a variety of advocacy tactics.
The investigation has also found that a public relations firm behind the operation recently tried to erase its ties to Enbridge.
Facebook Splurge and Secret Tactics
Minnesotans for Line 3 first appeared in the battle over Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Project early last year.
Opponents, who this week employed direct action tactics to block initial work on the project and delivered a petition to Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, include several Native communities — among them the White Earth and Mille Lacs Bands of Ojibwe and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa. Of their main concerns, these groups cite violation of Indigenous rights, risks associated with oil spills, and climate change impacts.
Through a series of TV ads and op-eds, along with a social media campaign and a petition delivered to state authorities, Minnesotans for Line 3 called for approving Enbridge’s multi-billion dollar plan to replace and reroute its aging pipeline that transports Canadian tar sands oil through North Dakota and Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin.
The group spent considerable funds on Facebook advertising, making it the tenth largest digital ad purchaser among interest groups between November 2018 and April 2019. And it allegedly engaged in more stealthy tactics as well: Dozens of young people wearing Minnesotans for Line 3 shirts occupied spots in a line at a state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) hearing on the project at the expense of the project’s opponents – only to disappear shortly after receiving the tickets.
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