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Al Campbell of Eau Claire sprints to the finish line Saturday in the 50K skate race at the American Birkebeiner. Campbell led area skiers by finishing 149th in 2 hours, 21 minutes.

Over the weekend, the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) announced on its website that the foundation had chosen to dissolve the sponsorship provided by the Superior office of the oil pipeline company Enbridge Energy.

The statement did not include the amount of money at stake with the Enbridge sponsorship, but did say the decision was influenced by the foundation's Birkie Green initiatives, an ongoing effort to curb the Birkie's impact on climate change.

“In hindsight, we realize that this association was perhaps not a clear pathway to engaging conversation in support of education, future change and ultimately our greater Birkie Green initiatives, nor was it in alignment with our American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation mission. For that, we are sorry. We never intended to cause concern within the Birkie community,” the ABSF statement said.

Fox 21 TV news in Duluth obtained a statement from an Enbridge Energy spokesperson who noted that products from crude oil are used to power the groomers for Birkie trails and that petroleum is an element of polyfibers and plastics in many ski-related products.

“Sadly, the Birkie has chosen to end our sponsorship, dissolve our agreement and return our sponsorship money,” the Enbridge spokesperson said. “Enbridge plans to donate the money to a different non-profit organizations serving the Hayward area, in keeping with our tradition of community investment.”

Enbridge Energy currently is building its Line 3 pipeline across northern Minnesota to bring Canadian crude oil to Superior. It is a replacement for an existing line that will increase the amount of crude oil being sent to Superior. In Minnesota, Line 3 has faced stiff opposition from environmental and Native American groups, but after years of legal wrangling and procedural decisions, Line 3 was permitted by the Minnesota environmental agency.

Locally, Enbridge has four pipelines running through Sawyer County: three take crude oil to a refinery to the south and one returns to the north a chemical added to the crude oil to make it easier to be pumped through the pipelines.

In 2017, the Lac Courte Orielles Ojibwa Tribe signed an easement agreement with Enbridge that eventually could exceed $60 million for two pipelines that cross approximately two miles of the reservation.

The statement from the ABSF said it would, via Birkie Green, address “solutions to our changing climates; of implementing sustainability practices whenever feasible; of creating solutions to support the environment and use of the land; and to consciously choose like-minded partners who demonstrate green and sustainability based practices, whenever possible.”

(Copyright © 2021 APG Media)

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