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This week, we break down what seems to be the end of some tribal communities’ longstanding pipeline fight — and how they’re turning to solar power to continue caring for their land.

Construction on the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline in Northern Minnesota in 2021.
Construction on the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline in Northern Minnesota in 2021. Credit: Tony Webster / Creative Commons

From coal plants to pipelines, the fight against fossil fuels often runs through Indigenous communities — literally.

Like the protests against the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, Indigenous people have spent years challenging the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline. The 340-mile oil pipeline runs across Minnesota, and opponents say it opened up their lakes, streams and wild rice waters to potential spills — not to mention the climate effects of using all that oil. Years of protests and lawsuits aimed to get the project shut down, but it eventually opened last year. 

Still, until last week, environmental groups and Ojibwe tribal members had a chance of getting the project shut down with a lawsuit alleging the Army Corps of Engineers fell short in reviewing the project. But a federal judge ruled against them Friday, shutting down the last suit challenging the fossil fuel pipeline.

While their fights against destructive fossil fuel infrastructure continue, many tribal communities have turned to clean energy to continue caring for their land. That includes the Red Lake band of Ojibwe, which sued to stop Line 3, and whose families often have to choose between buying food and paying power bills. There, tribal citizen Robert Blake has started Solar Bear, which has already launched two solar power installations and is planning several more to provide affordable energy to the community.

And the Ojibwe aren’t alone. On Washington state’s Colville reservation, geodesic domes will soon house a project combining solar with agriculture. Meanwhile, a new project announced this week will help connect Diné (Navajo) people with solar installations and job training. 

As Canary Media puts it, these solar projects are all a way for tribal citizens to “regain control over their own energy decisions and continue to be stewards of the land they’ve lived on for centuries” as they disproportionately face the risks of a warming world.

More clean energy news

✈️ Cleaning up the skies: As nations around the world agree to reach net-zero aviation emissions by 2050, a report suggests taxing frequent fliers could help. (New York Times, Washington Post)

🐌 Slow progress on utility climate pledges: A Sierra Club report found that most major utilities are making little or no progress on their pledges to retire coal plants and stop building gas plants — something another report says is an uneconomic decision. (Sierra Club, Washington Post, Grist) 

💸 Smart meters’ failed cost savings: More than three-quarters of American households will likely have smart meters installed by the end of the year, but almost none of the energy use management devices are delivering their promised benefits, a study found. (Utility Dive)

🏭 Fossil fuels’ role in lung cancer: Air pollution from vehicles and power plants likely contributes to the 10% to 20% of current U.S. lung cancer cases in non-smokers, according to a newly published academic study. (Inside Climate News)

🌎 Climate reparations on the table: This year’s COP27 climate conference will include discussions of climate reparations as wealthy nations, including the U.S., look to avoid liability for how their emissions harmed developing nations. (Grist)

🏘️ Historic buildings predict the future of heating: A historic Chicago mansion retrofitted with geothermal heating and cooling can offer a blueprint for applying the clean technology in other dense urban areas as an alternative to natural gas. (Energy News Network)

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Kathryn brings her extensive editorial background to the Energy News Network team, where she oversees the early-morning production of ENN’s five email digest newsletters as well as distribution of ENN’s original journalism with other media outlets. From documenting chronic illness’ effect on college students to following the inner workings of Congress, Kathryn has built a broad experience in her more than five years working at major publications including The Week Magazine. Kathryn holds a Bachelor of Science in magazine journalism and information management and technology from Syracuse University.