PUC to Vote Thursday, Dec. 7 on Line 3’s Environmental Impact Statement

Honor the Earth map of Enbridge Line 3.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is scheduled to vote on the Enbridge Line 3 environmental impact statement (EIS) Thursday, Dec. 7, starting at 9:30 p.m. at its regular meeting space in Metro Square, 121 7th Place East, Suite 350, St. Paul.

The public will not have an opportunity to speak, but public presence sends a message to the PUC that people are watching.

To recap: Enbridge’s existing Line 3 is old and failing; Enbridge wants to abandon it in the ground. (Bad idea.) It has proposed a new and larger pipeline along a new route through northern Minnesota. It threatens the Mississippi headwaters, lakes, rivers and wild rice areas. It violates the interests of Ojibwe people who have reserved rights to hunt, fish and gather along lands crossed by the pipeline.

The EIS decision is one of several key  Line 3 votes. Should the PUC find the EIS “inadequate” it would not kill the project, but would likely delay it. The EIS would need further work. (A project delay would also cost Enbridge money.) Even if the PUC approves the EIS, the PUC still needs to vote on Line 3’s Certificate of Need and Route Plan. Those votes are not expected until April.

The EIS has been criticized by indigenous and environmental groups. The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, in cooperation with six Chippewa bands and Honor the Earth, has released its own draft environmental impact statement, called the Tribal Cumulative Impact Statement.

Here is the PUC’s Dec. 7 agenda:

1. Should the Commission find that the Final Environmental Impact Statement is Adequate?
2. Should the Commission adopt the administrative law judge’s Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation?
3. Whether the data identified as Trade Secret in Appendix F and Appendix I of Enbridge Energy, Limited Partnership’s Certificate of Need Application for the Proposed Line 3 Replacement Project is public under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

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Bad News, Good News on Keystone XL

The bad news is that the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC) today approved the Keystone XL Pipeline through the state on a 3-2 vote. The good news is that it approved an alternative route to the one proposed by TransCanada, a route the company opposes.

Articles from news organizations and environment groups has been quick. An initial article from Politico says this could bring to an end a nearly decades long regulatory battle over the pipeline and Reuters is framing the vote as a win for Trump.

Environmental groups are saying they will continue the fight through the courts and through boycotts. Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, looked for a silver lining in today’s vote:

The Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline was just approved by Nebraska’s Public Service Commission, but there is some good news. The PSC has approved an alternative route that TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, has called unworkable.

That means TransCanada still has multiple hurdles to overcome — so this pipeline may never be built. That gives Sierra Club and our allies the perfect opportunity to fight back by urging banks to stop funding Keystone XL.

The Sierra Club is urging members to Send a message to Wells Fargo, a key funder of TransCanada, demanding that they stand with the landowners and tribes along the path of Keystone XL and not fund this dangerous pipeline.

Greenpeace is targeting Chase banks: Share today’s news on Facebook to put Chase Bank and other funders on notice that you are watching and you are not going anywhere. YOU will keep resisting this pipeline.

And court challenges remain. According to Politico:

The pipeline already is the focus of a court challenge stemming from Trump’s State Department approving the project. A coalition of groups is arguing the State Department did not do due diligence before approving the cross-border pipeline in March. The case is still in the beginning stages, with a decision pending from the U.S. District Court of Montana on a Trump administration motion to dismiss.

Native groups also have opposed Keystone XL. I will add their comments when I get them.


Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline Storage Yards Appear to Violate Law, MPCA Approved Them with No Scrutiny

Pipeline storage yard near White Earth.

For years, Enbridge has operated large pipeline storage yards around northern Minnesota in anticipation that the Minnesota Pubic Utilities Commission (PUC) would eventually approve its Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline through the state.

However, critics say Enbridge got permits for these storage yards in 2014 and 2015 under false pretenses. It applied online through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) for storm water construction permits. It checked the box that said the project had completed all necessary environmental reviews. While that wasn’t true, the permit got electronically approved because all the correct boxes were checked.

The Star Tribune wrote about the controversy today’s paper in an article headlined: Pipeline opponents claim Enbridge skirted permit rules for storage yard: Enbridge in a statement said the “permits were issued in compliance with applicable regulations at the time.”  A key passage says:

Under law and MPCA regulations, permits such as those for Enbridge’s pipe yards aren’t supposed to be issued before the completion of an environmental review for an entire project. The MPCA wrote to Enbridge in March that the pipe-yard permits were approved “prior to completion of the required environmental review” of Line 3.

(Note: It was only this month that the Line 3 environmental impact statement was deemed “adequate” by an administrative law judge, and it still needs final PUC approval.)

These storage yards create the impression that this pipeline is a done deal. They show disregard for the ongoing review and approval process. They are an attempt to bias the project.

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Deck is Stacked Against Water Protectors

I went to the Parkway Theater last night to watch the premiere of Black Snake Killaz. The documentary had its uplifting moments, but was a reminded that the deck is stacked against water protectors. Treaty rights don’t matter. A lack of adequate environmental review didn’t matter. The government could use military weapons. concussion grenades, mack and more and call the water protectors terrorists. A para-military private security firm was allowed to operate against the water protectors and influence law enforcement’s response, and did so without a license to operate in the state.

I checked my email when I got home and read a news update from MPR, another “stacked deck” story  about water protectors.

It requires that I also run a correction to the post I wrote Thursday: Keystone Spills 200,000 Gallons of Tar Sands Crude, Could Affect Keystone XL Vote Monday. It discussed how the timing of a big spill on the Keystone Pipeline could affect a key vote on its sibling project, Keystone XL. The Nebraska Public Services Commission is scheduled to take a final vote on Keystone XL Monday.

Yes the leak happened, but no, it won’t affect the vote, according to the MPR story: Keystone pipeline leak won’t affect Nebraska ruling on expansion. State law “does not allow pipeline safety to be a factor in their decision,” the story said.

Nebraska lawmakers gave the five-member commission the power to regulate major oil pipelines in 2011 in response to a public outcry over the pipeline and its potential impact on the Sandhills, an ecologically fragile region of grass-covered sand dunes.

But when they passed the law, legislators argued that pipeline safety is a federal responsibility and should not factor in the state decision.

The law makes no sense and is one more example of a rigged system.

Keystone Spills 200,000 Gallons of Tar Sands Crude, Could Affect Keystone XL Vote Monday

The Keystone Pipeline is in dark red, Keystone XL is in green. (Wikimedia Commons)

The current Keystone pipeline that runs from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska spilled 5,000 barrels, or more than 200,000 gallons of tar sands crude oil this morning, according to accounts in the Washington Post and other media outlets.

The spill occurred just southeast of the small town of Amherst in northeast South Dakota, affecting either grasslands or agricultural land, the story said.

This gives pipeline opponents one more example to use to try to stop other major projects, such as Keystone XL and Enbridge Line 3 through northern Minnesota.

A story in the Atlantic described the Keystone as a 1,100-mile-long pipeline that links oil fields in Alberta, Canada, to the large crude-trading hubs in Patoka, Illinois, and Cushing, Oklahoma. … It was completed in 2011.”

Keystone is the older sibling to the highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline proposal, which still awaits final approvals. (See map.) TransCanada, a Canadian-based pipeline company, is behind both projects.

During his term, former President Obama rejected Keystone XL. But President Trump quickly reversed that, issuing an executive order to approve it. As the Post reports, the project still needs the approval of the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC). It just so happens the PSC had scheduled a key vote on Keystone XL for Monday.

Activists are citing today’s spill as one more reason to reject Keystone XL.

As a story by CNN summarizes:

The approval [by Trump] followed years of intense debate over the pipeline amid hefty opposition from environmental groups, who argued the pipeline supports the extraction of crude oil from oil sands, which pumps about 17% more greenhouse gases than standard crude oil extraction. Environmentalists also opposed the pipeline because it would cut across the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground deposits of fresh water.

Tar sands oil is much thicker and stickier than traditional oil, significantly complicating cleanup efforts. The fact it’s thicker also means it needs to be combined with other hazardous materials to allow it to be transported in pipelines.

It Appears the “i” in “iPhone” is for Indian

And now for a lighter moment … 

My friend Bob Klanderud sent me this article and it made laugh hard enough I thought it must be worth sharing. It is from the website Truth Theory, and the headline is: 1937 Painting Includes Tribesman Holding What Appears To Be An Iphone. The painting is called: Mr. Pynchon and the Settling of Springfield.” Check out the Native man on the bottom, center-right. Let the conspiracy theories begin!

If you want to see an image of the entire painting, click here.


Black Elk Takes Initial Steps Towards Sainthood

Black Elk took initial steps towards sainthood at an Oct. 21 Mass at Holy Rosary Church in Pine Ridge, according to a story in the National Catholic Reporter.

A story published by the Catholic News Agency said Black Elk’s cause for sainthood took another step forward Tuesday when ” the U.S. bishops unanimously approved his canonical consultation.” It continued, “the next step in Black Elk’s cause will be for a tribunal to investigate and document examples of heroic virtue in his life.”

Last year, members of the Nicholas Black Elk family presented a petition with over 1,600 signatures to Bishop Robert Gruss of Rapid City, opening Black Elk’s cause for canonization.

Black Elk was a Lakota medicine man who converted to Catholicism. He is perhaps best known because of the 1932 book: Black Elk Speaks. The book was based on John Neihardt’s interviews with Black Elk. Neihardt wasn’t Indian and the book has been criticized for not accurately reflecting Lakota beliefs, according to a Wikipedia entry.

The National Catholic Reporter story, paraphrasing Bishop Gruss, said that Black Elk led others to Christ for 50 years and blended his Lakota culture into his Christian life.

The road to canonization involves three major steps: First is the declaration of a person’s heroic virtues, after which the church declares the person “venerable.” Second is beatification, after which he or she is called “blessed.” Third is canonization, or the declaration of sainthood.

In general, two miracles must be accepted by the church as having occurred through the intercession of the prospective saint; one must occur before beatification, and the other after beatification.