Enbridge: Corporate Social Responsibility or Greenwashing?

Tar sands mining in Alberta, 2008 (Wikimedia Commons)

Energy transportation giant Enbridge is pursuing a 1,097 mile crude oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada, through northern Minnesota, ending in Superior, Wisc., raising concerns among Native American and those concerned with the environment. The proposal is currently before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for review.

At the same time, Enbridge has a Corporate Social Responsibility statement outlining its commitments to “sustainability.” In the introduction, it defines Corporate Social Responsibility as “conducting business in a socially responsible and ethical manner; protecting the environment and the safety of people; supporting human rights; and engaging, learning from, respecting and supporting the communities and cultures with which we work.”

Enbridge Line 3 carries tar sands crude, a particularly dirty form of fossil fuel. The tar sands mining, processing  and pipelines have negatively affected the First Nations Peoples of Canada. Enbridge’s plan calls for replacing an old and failing pipeline with a larger one along a new route. This includes a 337-mile stretch across Minnesota, passing through the Mississippi headwaters region and prime wild rice waters, affecting Anishinaabe people. A major spill here would be devastating.

Some could applaud Enbridge for having a sustainability plan. Others might refer to it as greenwashing, which, Wikipedia explains, is “a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly.”

Let’s take a look at Enbridge’s sustainability statements and how they apply to the Line 3 proposal. Continue reading

“Environmental Justice” Analysis of Proposed Crude Oil Pipeline is Flawed, Lacks Native Voices

The Minnesota Department of Commerce just released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on a proposed crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. The project, Enbridge Line 3, would run 337 miles from the North Dakota border to Duluth/Superior, including stretches through the Mississippi headwaters region and prime wild rice waters.

The 1894-page document includes a short section on Environmental Justice. To its credit, it acknowledges the pipeline would infringe on Anishiaabe (Ojibwe) treaty rights and exacerbate historical trauma. But it lacks Native voices and is silent on some important questions.

The Environmental Justice section concludes:

Disproportionate and adverse impacts would occur to American Indian populations in the vicinity of the proposed [Line 3] Project.
Then a few lines later:
A finding of “disproportionate and adverse impacts” does not preclude selection of any given alternative. This finding does, however, require detailed efforts to avoid, mitigate, minimize, rectify, reduce, or eliminate the impact associated with the construction of the Project or any alternatives.

That’s an indirect way of saying Anishinaabe voices and treaty right don’t really matter — the project can proceed based on what non-Native people consider to be fair mitigation.

Let’s take a hard look at the Environmental Justice chapter in the EIS. Continue reading

Efforts to Stop Tar Sands Pipeline Through Northern Minnesota Enter New Phase

The long simmering debate over the wisdom of running a large tar sands crude oil pipeline through the headwaters of the Mississippi and prime northern Minnesota wild rice areas is entering a new phase. This week, the Minnesota Department of Commerce released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the project, triggering a 60-day public comment period and more media scrutiny.

Minnesota Public Radio ran a piece headlined: New environmental review weighs alternative routes for Enbridge pipeline, City Pages ran: Enbridge pipeline report ignores alternatives (like not building a new one) and the Star Tribune ran: Enbridge pipeline could cause more damage than alternatives, but it’s not largest spill risk.

The EIS looks at the proposed expansion of Enbridge Line 3, a 1,000-mile-plus pipeline from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisc. Enbridge’s current Line 3 is old and failing. Enbridge wants to abandon that line in the ground and install a new and larger pipeline, including a 337-mile stretch through northern Minnesota. Part of the line would follow a new route that would take it through the Mississippi headwaters region (see Honor the Earth’s map. at right).

The Department of Commerce will revise the draft EIS based on public comments and release a final EIS this fall.

Continue reading

The Wonderful Story of the Gandhi Mahal Interfaith Garden and the Community it is Growing

The Gandhi Mahal Interfaith Garden had its first community workday on Friday, May 12.

While this blog has spent time focusing on stopping some bad ideas, such as the Dakota Access Pipeline, we also need to hold up efforts to create a better world. These visionary efforts are often labor intensive, relatively small, and don’t draw a lot of media attention. Yet these community-based initiatives are extremely important. If we don’t have people creating an alternative vision for a better way of living, we will never get there, no matter how hard we protest.

To that end, we spotlight the Gandhi Mahal Interfaith Garden. It is a partnership between Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, the Gandhi Mahal Restaurant, and First Nations Kitchen, a meals program and ministry of All Saints’ Episcopal Indian Mission in Minneapolis.

The interfaith garden is in the backyard of a duplex owned by Julia Frost Nerbonne, the executive director of Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, and her husband. Gardening season opened Friday, May 12, with a day-long community event to prepare the beds. Prayers were offered by Rev. Cannon Robert Two Bulls, missioner of the Department of Indian Work for the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. Gandhi Mahal provided food for the volunteers. Young and old contributed labor.

The Interfaith Garden not only provides food for b0th Gandhi Mahal and First Nations Kitchen, it is creating a new community.

How it came to be is a beautiful story. Continue reading

United Way Cuts Affect Many, Including Native Youth

The Greater Twin Cities United Way has missed its funding goals and has begun cutting staff and programs. Among those affected are the American Indian Youth Enrichment Program and Project Spirit, according to Randi Roth, executive director of Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul which oversees the programs.

Roth’s blog titled: “Spotlight on Children: Crisis in Resources for Healthy Development” said the United Way eliminated all funding for its literacy-related work in the kindergarten through fifth grade age group. Those cuts threaten Interfaith Action’s after school programs with being “seriously diluted or worse,” Roth wrote. Continue reading

Dakota Elders Support Rematriation of Sacred Red Rock, In-Yan Sa, to Wakan Tipi

Wolfchild talks about In-Yan Sa.

In-Yan Sa, the sacred red rock of the Dakota people should be moved to Wakan Tipi (also known as Carver’s Cave), one of the Dakota people’s sacred sites, Dakota elders say.

Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota/Lower Sioux) has been leading Dakota efforts to “rematriate” the rock. (Rematriation because the rock is part of Mother Earth.) He visited Dakota elders in South Dakota and North Dakota to speak about the Red Rock and get their feedback. “This is an apolitical process,” Wolfchild said. “It is the elders who are in charge of our sacred sites and objects.”

The elders gave a positive response, and backed plans to move In-Yan Sa to Wakan Tipi.  Wolfchild announced the elders support at a meeting of Dakota elders and allies on Saturday at All My Relations Gallery.

In-Yan Sa used to reside near the Mississippi River near the Dakota village of Kaposia. United Methodist missionaries took the rock after the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862. The rock became a symbol of their church camps. The rock now sits outside Newport United Methodist Church, and calls have been growing from Dakota people for its return.

Bruce R. Ough, the Bishop for the United Methodist Church in Minnesota, agreed earlier this year to restore In-Yan Sa to the Dakota people. While that was a significant milestone, that commitment required serious conversation within both the Minnesota Annual Conference of the UMC and the Dakota community about next steps. Continue reading

Oȟéyawahe/Pilot Knob Gets National Historic Designation

View from Oȟéyawahe/Pilot Knob today. No wonder it was targeted for development. (Photo: National Park Service)

Good news: Oȟéyawahe, or Pilot Knob Hill, a sacred Dakota burial site, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 14 by the National Park Service.

The site is in Mendota Heights on the east bank of the Mississippi River across from Fort Snelling. To white settlers, it was called Pilot Knob, an important landmark for riverboat navigation. The Dakota name for it means “The hill that is much visited.” It was “a burial place, and an important Medicine or Wakan Ceremony grounds,” according to the historic designation application filed by the Pilot Knob Preservation Association.

[Update: The hill has a magnificent view of Fort Snelling and both downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. It is a great place to watch a sunset. In 2002, developers announced plans to build “The Bluffs,” high density housing on the hill. The late Bob Brown, then head of the Mendota Mdewakonton Dakota Community, first began alerting people to the threat. He reached out to the veterans of the Coldwater Spring protests to work in defense of the hill. Opposition eventually coalesced in the formation of the Pilot Knob Preservation Association.]

In 2003, the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota called Pilot Knob one of the 10 most endangered historic places in the state. As will be described below, the housing development never happened.

It’s worth remembering that the Dakota people are the state’s original inhabitants. Other than areas connected to the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862, the state has few places on the Historic Register that focus on the Dakota people and their culture, the application said. Exceptions are Maka Yusota (Boiling Springs) in Shakopee (2003), and Indian Mounds Park in St. Paul (2014). More typical are sacred sites destroyed by settler developments. “Taku Wakan Tipi or Morgan’s Mound is now covered with a Veteran’s Administration Hospital, a major highway, housing, and portions of the Twin Cities airport.”

Here’s what you need to know about Oȟéyawahe, or Pilot Knob, and why preservation is important. Continue reading