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Honor the Earth supporter Michael Dahl rode his horse Thursday around the parking lot of Enbridge Energy’s Bemidji offices, striking the hoods of company vehicles with a staff following a protest of the Sandpiper oil pipeline. Monte Draper/Bemidji Pioneer

Group rallies at Enbridge offices against Sandpiper pipeline

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BEMIDJI — An environmental group opposed to the proposed Sandpiper oil pipeline hosted a rally Thursday at the Bemidji offices of the energy company planning to operate the pipeline.

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Honor the Earth, which opposes the multibillion-dollar pipeline proposed by Calgary-based Enbridge Energy, conducted a rally and press event just outside Enbridge’s offices in the city’s industrial park.

Enbridge proposes running Sandpiper from the Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota to Superior, Wis., and beyond. Enbridge’s proposed route runs between the small northwest Minnesota town of Clearbrook and Superior. However, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency have raised environmental concerns about Enbridge’s route and advocated for the study of alternatives. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is expected to make a ruling on the route in the future.

Thursday’s rally was one of the last events in the “Love Water Not Oil Tour,” Honor the Earth’s 200-mile horseback journey across northern Minnesota in protest of Sandpiper.

About 30 to 40 people attended the rally, which went off mostly without incident. There was no apparent police presence, although some Honor the Earth supporters were on Enbridge property. However, at one point Michael Dahl, an Honor the Earth supporter from White Earth, rode a horse to within a few feet of a door to the Enbridge facility. He then rode around the parking lot, lightly striking the hoods of Enbridge vehicles with a staff.

His horse partially collapsed while traversing the parking lot’s asphalt, but the animal got back on its feet.

During remarks earlier, Honor the Earth leader Winona LaDuke said the protest was designed for Enbridge to better know those affected by the proposed pipeline.

“Immense corporations make decisions and they don’t know the faces of the people they will affect,” LaDuke said. “I wanted Enbridge to see my face.”

In an interview after the rally, LaDuke said group members would be traveling next week to oil fields in North Dakota.

Enbridge spokeswoman Becky Haase commented on the protest in an email earlier Thursday afternoon.

“Enbridge recognizes the rights of people to express their views legally and peacefully and discuss Enbridge’s business and projects,” Haase said. “We encourage active discussions on our projects as long as there is no danger to our pipelines or anyone’s safety. Enbridge will continue to actively engage in dialogue with communities and individuals in areas where we have operations.”

A Bemidji woman was arrested and cited with misdemeanor trespassing in April 2013 while protesting at the same building as Thursday’s rally. Angie Palacio, 35, was one of more than two dozen people protesting against pipelines crossing Red Lake Nation lands.

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