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Leech Lake tribal judge denies restraining order against Enbridge

Leech Lake Tribal Judge B.J. Jones denied a temprary restraining order Aug. 19 filed by plaintiffs seeking to stop the expansion of the Enbridge Energy Corp. pipeline across tribal land.

Four members of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe filed the civil petition for a temporary restraining order against Enbridge. The hearing was held Aug. 14, prior to the Aug. 20 signing of the final permit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Jones ruled that the plaintiffs failed to show they would suffer irreparable harm "and that this harm outweighs any harm to the defendant (Enbridge) and the Band itself."

The plaintiffs are also among the signers of a petition requesting the Leech Lake Reservation Business Committee, also known as the Tribal Council, to hold a referendum on whether to withdraw from the contract the RBC signed with Enbridge March 14.

Jones said any further proceedings in the civil case would have to wait for the RBC review of the referendum request and any subsequent actions on the petition.

The plaintiffs, Elizabeth Sherman, Sandra Nichols, Vikki Howard and Harry Greene, were represented at the Aug. 14 hearing by Sherman. Attorney Randy Thompson represented Enbridge.

Opponents of the pipeline say that the oil is among the dirtiest in the world and that mining it from tar sands is damaging the environment for native tribes in Canada. It's blamed for leaving scarred landscapes and polluted waters in northern Alberta. Tar sand oil also is high in carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and requires more energy to process, opponents say. They also claim the pipeline will harm wetlands in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Enbridge is currently constructing its Alberta Clipper oil pipeline from Canadian oil fields to Superior, Wis. The pipeline will carry tar-sands oil from Alberta, Canada, across northern Minnesota. Another pipeline would carry refined products back to Canada for use in diluting the thick tar-sands oil.

The pipeline would carry about 450,000 barrels of oil, or 19 million gallons, a day. That would be in addition to the 1.6 million barrels a day that the company already moves through an existing pipeline along the same route.

The Leech Lake Band has provided Enbridge a right-of-way for installation and operation of liquid petroleum pipeline since 1949.