The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved a scheme for Enbridge to reimburse local law enforcement and fire departments for any Line 3-related expenses they incurred. This blog recently updated the reimbursements and it turns out it under reported the amount. Based on new information from the PUC, the total is now $1.67 million.
A few reimbursements date back to 2016-2018, when law enforcement agencies were already getting trained to respond to Line 3 opposition.
Enbridge funds the Line 3 Public Safety Escrow Account. Law enforcement units submit invoices for reimbursement.
In addition, Enbridge has paid $237,000 to police and nonprofit organizations for human trafficking stings and services to victims of human trafficking. The final decision to pay or not to pay is made by a third-party independent manager.
Native Americans and enslaved Africans included in the sculpture were neither immigrants nor refugees
On Friday, the sculpture “Angels Unawares” arrived in front of the Minneapolis Basilica of St. Mary, an effort to call attention to both the suffering and sacredness of immigrants and refugees and the importance of welcoming them with an open heart.
The statue is a replica of one commissioned by Pope Francis, installed in St. Peter’s Square in Rome in 2019. It was the first new sculpture in the Square in 400 years. A replica statue is on a U.S. tour; previous stops included Boston and Miami.
The sculpture includes 140 immigrants and refugees crowded on a boat, representing different cultures from different historical times. Its 140 figures echo the 140 statues of saints on St. Peter’s Square.
I’ve been updating this blog since I posted it. I want to acknowledge up front the good intentions behind this project. During a time of anti-immigrant sentiment, the sculpture brings an important message of tolerance and compassion. It encourages empathy instead of hostility towards more recent immigrants and refugees, such as Somali, Hmong, Mexican and Central American people. Kudos for that.
At the same time, the sculpture includes a Native American and enslaved Africans on a boat full of immigrants and refugees, suggesting some commonality. There is little if any commonality.
I worry this is too preachy, but I also want to be direct: At a time when faith communities are wrestling with racial justice and truth telling, this sculpture miscasts the Native American and enslaved African experiences. By including them as just two narratives in a boatload of immigration stories, it ignores their unique experiences and arguments for reparations that are now gaining steam.
Enbridge Line 3 construction might be nearly done, but efforts to stop it from operating are far from over. Lawsuits are still pending.
Yet as we continue the important work of Line 3 resistance, we also need to have a keen focus on the broken regulatory system that approved Line 3, and is backing harmful projects such as the PolyMet Mine.
Line 3 provides an important window into that broken regulatory system. The term now in vogue is “regulatory capture.”
Regulatory capture is an economic theory that says regulatory agencies may come to be dominated by the industries or interests they are charged with regulating. The result is that an agency, charged with acting in the public interest, instead acts in ways that benefit … the industry it is supposed to be regulating.
State officials have dodged tough questions and accountability for their flawed decisions and complicity in the harm Line 3 will bring. Local media has let us down with its thin coverage.
What follows is a set of 14 questions that our state leaders and regulators still need to answer. In broad terms, they are: How do you understand the “public interest?” How does citizen participation affect decisions or is it just for show? How are you holding polluters accountable?
Last, week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized the Cuban government for suppressing peaceful protests by its citizens seeking a better life. Cuba’s actions lay bare “the regime’s fear of its own people and unwillingness to meet their basic needs and aspirations,” Blinken said.
Note to Blinken: Come visit northern Minnesota where 600 people have been arrested for resisting the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline. Indigenous communities are trying to protect their way of life, their wild rice, and their treaties. Others have joined to support them to protect the planet and a livable climate.
The Line 3-related arrests and police actions show that our “regime” fears its own people, too.
MPCA not living up to its mission to ‘protect and improve’ the environment
I’ve been thinking recently about comparisons between the medical and environmental protection professions.
The medical profession has gone through a significant patient care evolution in my lifetime. It used to be patients just did what the doctor said. If you had rheumatoid arthritis, you took the drugs the doctor told you to take, period. Today, there’s online medical resources and on-line support groups that help people understand their illnesses. People can crowdsource alternative treatments. Then can ask their doctors for more information or a different approach. It’s been a gradual transition, but the medical community is adapting.
Environmental protection professionals — those working for government regulators charged with protecting and healing Mother Earth — haven’t made a similar transition. They still seem to see themselves as the “experts.” Yet more and more ordinary people are getting knowledgeable about very technical environmental issues, such as crude oil pipeline construction and climate damage. They have become patient advocates for the planet. Yet regulatory agencies don’t seem to want to listen to or collaborate with the public who care deeply about these issues.
On July 6, water protectors found an Enbridge Line 3 frac-out at the Willow River.
On Monday, Honor the Earth reported a suspected Line 3 frac-out at the Shell River. [Update July 22: The MPCA says there was no frac-out on the shell. It did report that Enbridge has had frac-outs at nine different construction sites. Updated blog coming soon.]
Today, the Indigenous Environmental Network reported a suspected Line 3 frac-out near the Mississippi headwaters. (Video here.)
Details of the frac-outs are still coming in.
It’s possible to see frac-outs on the surface of rivers and wetlands. There could be other frac-outs below the surface that remain unseen.
How many frac-outs will it take for state regulators to require something different, or do they dismiss frac-outs as an acceptable environmental cost?
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA’s) mission is to protect and improve the environment and human health. It’s supposed to be the state’s leading environmental watchdog. But it’s been the kind of watchdog that, when a robber enters the room, it rolls over on its back in hopes of getting a belly rub.
The courts are doing more to protect our environment than the MPCA. That’s backwards. The MPCA should be in court pushing for more environmental protection.
The latest MPCA embarrassment came in the form of a Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling Monday that rejected the air quality permit the agency approved for PolyMet’s proposed copper-sulfide mine.
The current Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline is more that 50 year’s old. It’s badly corroded and only runs at only 50 percent capacity to reduce spill risks.
Monitoring tools inside the pipeline identify potential problems. When found, workers dig down to the pipeline, inspect it, and make repairs. This is called an “integrity dig.” Enbridge estimated the current Line 3 would need 4,000 integrity digs over 15 years for its safe operation. That’s a lot of digging.
There’s a lot more integrity problems than just one old pipeline. Our entire regulatory system has integrity problems, including its failure to stop the dangerous and unnecessary Line 3 pipeline.
Collectively, we need to dig into this corroded system, understand how it got so compromised, and fix it.
[CORRECTION: This blog was updated to indicate that Line 3 construction could be completed in three weeks, based on Enbridge’s reported data. Enbridge itself didn’t make that claim.]
Based on Enbridge’s progress reports to the state, if it’s able to maintain its current construction pace, all Line 3 pipe will be in the trenches and buried in approximately two to three weeks. Enbridge has made public statements that it expects to start running the pipeline by the fourth quarter of the year.
Front line camps (resistance camps, prayer camps, treaty camps) are asking for people to come north and stand in solidarity.