MPR Continues to Disappoint in its Enbridge Line 3 Coverage

Minnesota does not need Enbridge Line 3. (Source: Healing Minnesota Stories)

MPR continues to disappoint in its coverage of Enbridge Line 3.

Today’s MPR story: Dayton: No ‘viable way’ to build new Line 3 pipeline on current route includes the following lines:

The governor said he is not taking a position on the issue [Line 3] until the Public Utilities Commission decides whether to give Enbridge its blessing to construct the Line 3 replacement.

Comment: This is a sin of omission. The story fails to acknowledge that Gov. Dayton’s own Department of Commerce issued a statement September 11 stating Minnesota did not need Line 3:

Oil market analysis indicates that Enbridge has not established a need for the proposed project; the pipeline would primarily benefit areas outside Minnesota; and serious environmental and socioeconomic risks and effects outweigh limited benefits.

Further, that same day Commerce released its analysis, Gov. Dayton issued a statement saying:

“The Minnesota Department of Commerce has filed its review of Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 Pipeline project. I commend the Department’s professional staff for its very comprehensive analysis.

Lastly, an MPR ran a story that day with the headline: State better off without Enbridge oil pipeline, Dayton agency says.

Seems like the Sept. 25 story left out important context.

That is the lesser of my MPR complaints.

MPR’s Line 3 Coverage Fails to Name Climate Change Impacts

On Monday, April 23, MPR ran the story: Pipeline plan tests state’s environmental-business balance. It was a lengthy piece that seemed to promise the big picture overview, offering multiple perspectives on the proposal.

However, the 2,000-plus word article fails to mention Line 3’s climate change impacts at all, a major argument against the pipeline and a major flaw with the story. This omission is all the more surprising when you realize MPR seems to pride itself in this arena, devoting a webpage to its Climate Change coverage.

The closest the April 23 story comes to talking about climate change is the context of other pipeline projects:

But after environmentalists targeted the proposed Keystone XL project for its impact on climate change, and thousands of Native American activists focused international attention on the Dakota Access pipeline last year, companies proposing oil pipelines find themselves under greater scrutiny.

The April 23 story fails to mention that Line 3’s environmental impact statement estimates the “social costs of carbon” — such as increased storm damage and agricultural impacts — at $287 billion over 30 years. That seems like a key number and its missing from MPR’s story.

The April 23 story links to an equally disappointing March 19 MPR story headlined: Why no one agrees on Line 3 pipeline’s climate change impact. That story, too, fails to mention Line 3’s $287 billion climate change cost.

Instead, with an air of resignation, the story seems to say that climate change is just too complicated for people to understand.

Here is this blog’s response to that particular story: MPR Buys Into Enbridge Line 3 Spin that Climate Change is Just Too Confusing. Here is what we wrote at the time:

Corporate efforts to muddy the facts are nothing new. Recall how tobacco companies tried to undermine the science linking smoking and lung cancer. Pipeline companies don’t need to convince people that tar sands crude oil doesn’t affect climate, they just need to raise doubts, making it so hard to understand that people walk away scratching their heads.

MPR’s story reflects that narrative. Here’s the opening paragraph:

Calculating the carbon footprint of a project like Enbridge Energy’s proposed Line 3 oil pipeline is complicated. Not only are there multiple steps involved in the analysis, but there’s also a need to make an educated guess about what the world would look like with and without the new pipeline.

Comment: Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly’s recommendations on Line 3 affirm the $287 billion climate change estimate. Maybe MPR will start including it now. We can only hope.

MPR’s Line 3 Coverage Favors Conflict Over Key Issues

MPR ran a story July 5, 2017 with the headline: Minn. oil pipeline fight stokes threats, fears of Standing Rock. This blog responded with: MPR Tar Sands Pipeline Story Flawed, Slanted.

Here is the short version of the criticism:

Starting with the headline, the story raises “threats” and “fears” over the pipeline fight. So the first question to come to mind is: Who is doing the threatening and creating fear?

Here’s how the story sums it up:

Activists are pressing Minnesota officials now to deny the permit and kill the project. State officials and company executives working to head off a confrontation say they’re doing more than ever to listen to the concerns of those in the pipeline’s potential path.

That may not be enough to stop a confrontation.

Comment: In this frame, activists are “pressing” and even trying to “kill” the project. (“Kill” is a violent word.) State officials and company executives, on the other hand, are framed as peacemakers. They are “working” to head off a confrontation. They are doing “more than ever to listen” to concerns. As this frame goes, all that hard work and listening might not be enough to stop the confrontation, the threats, the fears.

You get the picture. This makes the activists seem unreasonable and the state and the company seem reasonable. The people — not the pipeline and the damage it would cause — are the threat.

Now go back and read the April 23 story. After the MPR coverage goes over Enbridge’s arguments in favor of the pipeline, it turns its attention to pipeline opponents. The first subhead reads: “The next ‘Standing Rock’?

The focus is on conflict, not issues. That section reads in part:

That growing opposition has led to tense protests with activists chaining themselves to pipeline construction equipment and to the doors of banks investing in Enbridge.

Protest camps have sprung up, and some are threatening that Minnesota will see “the next Standing Rock” if it approves Line 3, a reference to the massive demonstrations that broke out in North Dakota over the Dakota Access pipeline.

That section could have led with the climate change impacts, which were ignored. It could have lead with the fact that state officials have concluded that Minnesota doesn’t need the pipeline, that was further down. It could have framed that section around indigenous rights with the subhead “Treaty Rights Threatened.”

Instead, the section framed pipeline opposition around Standing Rock and conflict.

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