PUC Casts Final Pro Pipeline Vote: Line 3 Opposition Now Heads to the Courts, Streets, Camps, Pulpits, and Gov. Walz’s Office

The Minnesota Senate Building opens at 7:30 a.m. but the powers-that-be required those wanting to attend the PUC hearing on Line 3 to wait outside in the cold until after 9 a.m. to get inside

As expected, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) today rejected requests to reconsider its approval of the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. As predictable as it was, the decision remains heart breaking.

Pipeline Resisters visited with Gov. Tim Walz transition staff Randolph Briley and Alexis Kochanski after the PUC vote.

Red Lake, White Earth, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Honor the Earth, the Sierra Club, the Youth Climate Intervenors, and Friends of the Headwaters had asked the PUC to reconsider approving Line 3. Commissioners summarily and unanimously dismissed their request, 5-0. The PUC continued to ignore the Environmental Impact Statement’s conclusion that Line 3 would generate $287 billion in climate damage. It continued to ignore the Administrative Law Judge’s findings that approving Enbridge’s preferred route failed to meet the cost/benefit test. It continued to ignore Commerce’s conclusion that Enbridge failed to prove Line 3 was needed. It continued to ignore the impacts the pipeline would have on treaty rights.

The PUC took no comments from intervening parties asking for reconsideration. The whole process probably lasted five minutes, enough time for a few commissioners to say they had already considered these issues and there was nothing more to talk about.

The PUC gave Enbridge pretty much everything it wanted. It’s an example of corporate capture, where the government institutions created to protect the public get co-opted by corporate interests. Its the Minnesota version of what is happening with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Today’s vote ends the PUC process and allows pipeline opponents to sue in court to stop Line 3. Several groups already have announced their intent to sue, including the Youth Climate Intervenors.

The large contingent of pipeline resisters chanted their disapproval after the vote, causing a visibly angered PUC Chair Nancy Lange to gavel the meeting to order. (Didn’t work.) Pipeline opponents walked out of the meeting, held a rally outside the hearing rooms, then marched to the Capitol to talk to Gov. Tim Walz’s transition staff, sharing the many reasons people oppose the pipeline.

An Intimidating Space

A heavy security presence was clear as soon as people entered the Minnesota Senate Building.

The PUC and the state created an air of control and intimidation around the hearing, which was held at the Minnesota Senate Building instead of the usual PUC hearing room. The Senate building’s posted hours are 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., yet participants were required to stand outside in the cold before being allowed in after 9 a.m. for the 9:30 a.m. hearing. (I have called Capitol Security, the State Patrol and the Sergeant-at-Arms Office to find out who made the call to make people wait outside. I am waiting for responses. It seemed unnecessary)

We were told we could not wear our coats in the hearing room, but had to hang them up in the hallway. There was a “no sign” policy, so pipeline resisters wore large stickers on the front of their shirts. The top of the stickers read: “TOO MUCH AT STAKE — STOP LINE 3.” On the bottom were reprints of different climate disaster news stories from the past 30 days. (Several had reports on the California wildfires; my sticker was an Oct. 24 reprint from The Guardian on how a large hurricane had erased a Hawaiian island.)

Those opposed to Line 3 (obvious by the stickers) seemed to be shepherded into the overflow room, not the main room where the PUC met. (I sat in a packed overflow room watching the hearing on a video screen; six somber-faced officers were watching the watchers.)

Sen. Patricia Torres Ray: “We are building a system of exclusion.”

Sen. Patricia Torres Ray and a few other elected official were present. Torres Ray was upset that a PUC staff member was barring Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, from the hearing because of space. Torres Ray said LaDuke was an important voice on this issue and she personally intervened to get LaDuke seated, she said. Torres Ray’s concerns extend beyond that particular incident. She personally counted 42 Capitol Security cars in the Senate Building parking lot, and that’s not counting security cars parked on the city streets. She believed the number of security personnel outnumbered the number of pipeline opponents, she said.

We are building a system of exclusion and restriction, particularly on Native people and People of Color and young people of color, and it is just incredibly upsetting to me. … We need to do the opposite — open the door.

Torres Ray plans to talk to Senate leadership to find out how these kind of rules are put in place and what kind of training Capitol Security receives to deal with such large crowds, she said.

A “Climate Damage” Invoice for Enbridge

Winona LaDuke holds up an invoice for climate damage from The Creator to Enbrdige.

Speakers at the rally continued to raise the issues that they have been raising for years.

LaDuke came with a $266 billion dollar Invoice for Climate Damages from The Creator to Enbridge. The bill included line-item costs for the release of carbon, the destruction of forests, the destruction of wetlands, and all the social costs of climate destruction to global citizens.

Several legislators submitted letters to the PUC voicing their opposition to Line 3, including a letter from retiring Rep. Karen Clark and  Sen. John Marty. (Marty had hoped for the opportunity to read his letter to the PUC, but was not allowed.)

What Next?

The resistance will continue on many fronts, in the courts, in the streets, in the pulpits and prayer camps, and in conversations with the incoming administration of Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan. Here’s just a few updates.

Julia Nerbonne, executive director of Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light (MN IPL), reminded people about the 550 faith leaders who signed onto a letter to Gov. Dayton and the PUC expressing their opposition to Line 3 on moral grounds. “Congregations are continuing to have conversations across the state, especially along the pipeline route,” she said. If you are part of a faith community and want to work on Line 3, consider connecting with MN IPL.

Line 3 still needs to secure more than two dozen state and federal permits. Efforts are underway to make sure the environmental regulations on the books are held to the highest standards.

Several environmental groups are hosting an education event “We Can Stop Line 3” on Saturday, Dec. 8, 1-3 p.m. at the CWA Local 7200 Hall, 3571 East Lake Street, Minneapolis. Come and figure out how you can best support the resistance.

Here is a list of public-facing camps resisting Line 3. It’s not comprehensive, but what we have right now. (Thanks to Akilah for creating the list!)

Stay tuned.


One thought on “PUC Casts Final Pro Pipeline Vote: Line 3 Opposition Now Heads to the Courts, Streets, Camps, Pulpits, and Gov. Walz’s Office

  1. Over the last 11 years that I’ve lived in Minnesota, I have attended many PUC meetings, frequently leaving with a sense of anger and disgust. At the same time, various NGOs, including Sierra, were legitimizing the PUC, encouraging people to “trust the process.” Now, people need to pressure Walz to get rid of these commissioners and replace them with commissioners with some loyalty to the people and the future. Will it happen?


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