Sheriff: Device thrown at Line 3 protest was not explosive

CARLTON, Minn. (AP) — A suspicious device allegedly thrown by a protester at a construction site for the Enbridge Energy Line 3 replacement pipeline was not an explosive, authorities said Friday evening, and nearby residents who had been evacuated were allowed to return to their homes.

Authorities began investigating, and a bomb squad was called Friday afternoon after a protester allegedly threw a device then drove away, according to Enbridge and the Carlton County Sheriff’s Office. Workers and roughly 40 residences within a half-mile radius were evacuated, and a temporary shelter was set up at Perch Lake Town Hall, the sheriff’s office said.

Enbridge said the company shut down its pipelines in the area out of an abundance of caution.

The sheriff’s office said regional and federal law enforcement officers were called to help with the investigation, and they were following up on leads. There were no immediate arrests.

Sheriff Kelley Lake said there are state and federal laws to address the placement of replica devices to cause fear or panic.

“We will push for the maximum charging and penalties for everyone involved in these types of crimes,” Lake said.

Enbridge spokeswoman Juli Kellner said actions that put people in harm’s way will be prosecuted.

“Putting the lives of workers, first responders and community members at risk is unacceptable,” Kellner said.

Opponents say the tar sands oil Line 3 would carry would aggravate climate change and endanger pristine waters where Native Americans harvest wild rice. There is an area near the construction site that’s designated for protests, but some people have been arrested after interfering with the project.

“Peaceful protests are not illegal. There are no explosives,” the protest group Camp Migizi posted on Facebook. “Law enforcement induced hysteria is being used to manipulate the masses to (curb) resistance. The only immediate danger is the wellbeing of the rice, and the water.”

Line 3 starts in Alberta and clips a corner of North Dakota before crossing northern Minnesota en route to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. It was built in the 1960s. After years of regulatory reviews and other court challenges, Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge began construction on the 337-mile (542-kilometer) replacement in Minnesota in early December. The other U.S. and Canadian sections are already finished.