Two new filings came into the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) today. One, a joint letter by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and Enbridge Energy, announced they had reached agreement to allow the new Line 3 to cross the Fond du Lac reservation. In the letter, Fond du Lac also agrees not to oppose the pipeline. In the other filing, the Minnesota Department of Commerce reiterated its concerns that Enbridge has inadequate insurance coverage to pay for a major spill cleanup.
In other news, a federal court dealt a significant set back to the Kinder Morgan tar sands crude oil pipeline.
Fond du Lac Band Agrees to New Easement Across the Reservation
The Fond du Lac Band and Enbridge Energy agreement gives Enbridge a new 20-year easement (through 2039), adjacent to the current Enbridge Mainline Corridor. The financial terms are confidential, according to the Fond du Lac letter. The Band agreed to help acquire needed project approvals.
The letter also says:
The Band will not participate in any opposition to the Project, but may comment on environmental, traditional cultural properties, or other matters directly affecting the Band or its Reservation, and, in the event that Enbridge appeals any aspect of the Commission’s orders, the Band reserves the right to participate in such proceedings to protect the Band’s interests.
To be clear, the PUC gave Fond du Lac a no-win choice. One option was to run the new Line 3 along the current Mainline crossing reservation lands. Fond du Lac didn’t want the pipeline, but that option minimizes land disturbance by following the existing corridor. The other option was running the line south of the reservation, opening a new pipeline corridor, affecting the Band’s watershed and treaty-protected rights to hunt, fish and gather on off-reservation lands.
As reported in the Stop Line 3 website, Fond du Lac was not selling out, but was trying to minimize the damage. It quotes Fond du Lac attorney Sara van Norman responding to the PUC’s options:
“Which circle of hell would you like us to stop in? That’s where we are. Making a choice between these things is impossible, and it’s unfair that we have to. We don’t think we should be here. We don’t think you should be here.”
The new agreement gives Enbridge a double victory. It gets a needed easement and removes one voice of opposition to the project.
Commerce Remains Alarmed by Enbridge’s Lack of Insurance
The Minnesota Department of Commerce filed a letter with the PUC today restating its concerns about Enbridge’s inadequate insurance coverage against crude oil spills. A number of places in the letter were redacted to protect so-called trade secrets. Here is the gist:
… the Department continues to conclude that Enbridge Inc.’s current GL [General Liability] insurance coverage applicable to the Enbridge U.S. Mainline System and, potentially, a new Line 3, include significant exclusions for insurance coverage related to damages caused by a crude oil spill. Enbridge’s current policies with the exclusions and other limiting language will not comply with the terms and conditions in the Department’s insurance regulations. Therefore, the Department continues to recommend that the Commission not approve the Company’s compliance filings related to the insurance conditions.
Major Setback for Kinder Morgan
In a blow to the Canadian Kinder Morgan pipeline, a federal court issued a unanimous decision saying that Canada had failed to adequately consult with each of six First Nations that had challenged the pipeline’s approval, according to a story in the Vancouver Sun. It continues:
The three-judge court … also found the scope of the National Energy Board’s review “unjustifiably” did not include tanker traffic related to the project, which will have a negative effect on endangered killer whales, also known as orcas.
Long-standing opposition to the project in Vancouver led Houston-based Kinder Morgan to back off the project. The company now is selling the pipeline to the Canadian government for $4.5 billion, the story said. The government still plans to move forward with the pipeline.