Protests Shut Down PUC Meeting on Enbridge Line 3

Water Protectors kept their backs to the PUC throughout today’s hearings, with messages pinned to their backs.

Water Protectors interrupted today’s Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) meeting, keeping the Commission from a vote allowing the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline to move forward. It’s a sign of the escalating tension and resistance to the project and the Commission’s ill-considered vote.

“You all should be ashamed of yourselves,” said one Water Protector, using a bull horn from the back of the hearing room. “You are supposed to be representing the state of Minnesota. You are supposed to be representing our safety — the citizen’s safety. And you are also supposed to be respect treaty rights.” (Short video segment here.)

According to a Star Tribune story: “PUC Chairwoman Nancy Lange recessed the meeting but eventually canceled it when a protester playing music on a boombox refused to turn it off. … The PUC will reschedule the meeting as soon as possible, said Dan Wolf, the commission’s executive secretary.”

This action comes weeks after a non-violent direct action event closed off a Bemidji intersection for four hours to draw attention to Enbridge Line 3 opposition and to prod Governor Mark Dayton to get off the fence and take a position on the project. (The action included indigenous, religious and environmental leaders. See: Water Protectors Ask You To Call Gov. Dayton to Stop Line 3!)

The PUC voted in June to approve Line 3’s Certificate of Need and Route Permit, but it also put five conditions on its approval. These conditions included financial guarantees and insurance requirements to assure that Enbridge had the financial capacity to clean up a major spill in Minnesota. The PUC required Enbridge to submit a detailed plan to meet these conditions; today’s meeting was set to discuss these plans.

The hearing began with Line 3 opponents turning their backs on the PUC with signs pinned to their shirts which read: “Enbridge Lapdogs,” Think Seven Generations,” “Public Utilities Cowards” “PUC You Turned Your Backs on Us,” and “94% Opposed.”

All of this opposition come in response to the PUC’s deeply flawed process. The PUC ignored testimony from the Minnesota Department of Commerce that Enbridge had not proved that the pipeline is needed. The PUC ignored the basic findings of the Administrative Law Judge who spent months taking testimony. It took no responsibility for the negative impacts Line 3 would have on treaty rights. It ignored the $287 billion climate change impacts the project would have. The list goes on. (This blog has written extensively on the failings of the PUC’s process and final decision. See Eighteen Criticisms of the PUC’s Approval of the Enbridge Line 3 Tar Sands Pipeline.)

Monday’s hearing quickly dove into the deep legal weeds with questions about whether Enbridge’s financial assurances were strong enough, or whether Enbridge was trying to craft some legal loopholes to make the agreement more difficult to enforce in the future. Representatives from the Minnesota Department of Commerce raised their own going concerns about Enbridge’s proposed language. Honor the Earth has a motion before the PUC to force Enbridge to release the details of its insurance coverage, something Enbridge claims is protected as a trade secret.

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