A pro-Enbridge Line 3 pipeline group spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars since November on Facebook ads to sway Minnesotans’ perceptions of this unnecessary and risky project.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Senate today approved new felony crimes for those who trespass on pipeline property or damage pipeline equipment or property.
Canadian company Enbridge has proposed building a new and larger Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota, with a capacity of up to 915,000 barrels a day. It threatens the state’s clean waters, indigenous treaty rights and the world’s climate.
Perhaps you’ve seen ads touting Enbridge Line 3 pop up on your Facebook page, such as the one to the right. The group Minnesotans for Line 3 (MN4L3) bought them, according to a story today in E&E News, an environmental and energy trade news service.
The story said Minnesotans for Line 3 spent $247,000 on the ad buy since November, making it “the nation’s 10th-highest spender on issue advocacy digital advertising between November and April, according to the campaign finance tracking organization Tech For Campaigns.”
(Recall from an earlier post, Enbridge Energy Partners spent more than $11 million lobbying in Minnesota in 2018, almost all on influencing the PUC to approve the expansion of Line 3. That made Enbridge the top lobbying spender by far that year.)
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC’s) approved the project last year. These ads buys suggest Enbridge and its supporters know the project still is on thin ice.
The PUC’s approval faces multiple challenges in the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The Line 3 environmental impact statement also faces court challenges. Line 3 still needs a number of state and federal permits.
The Facebook ads are pure pr spin. The statement “Line 3 engages with: environmental groups” is meaningless. Defense attorneys engage with prosecutors, too, but that doesn’t mean they agree on anything.
The Minnesotans for Line 3 website describes the group as “an active, grassroots organization of people who understand how important it is to have reliable energy to power our economy and help maintain everyone’s quality of life.”
This not only ignores key facts, but turns them on their head. First, Minnesotans for Line 3 suggests the pipeline is necessary for Minnesota’s “reliable energy.” It is not. The Administrative Law Judge who spent months reviewing the Line 3 proposal concluded in her report (page 9) that:
[Enbridge] has not, however, established, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Minnesota refiners or the people of Minnesota would be adversely impacted by denial of [Line 3]. The evidence shows that Minnesota refiners are currently receiving sufficient amounts of crude oil to meet their production needs.
Second, Minnesotans for Line 3 suggests the project is needed to “help maintain everyone’s quality of life.” It fails to mention that Line 3’s “social costs of carbon” — the increased storms, floods, and droughts related to the crude oil pumped through Line 3 — would add $287 billion over three decades in damages. That is not a quality of life improvement for anyone.
The names listed on the Minnesotans for Line 3 website are associated with JR Jensen Construction, United Piping, and Gordon Construction.
Minnesota Senate Adds New Felonies for Pipeline Protests
In other news, the Minnesota Senate today approved new felony crimes for those who trespass on property where a pipeline is being built, or who damage pipeline property. The language was attached as an amendment to the Omnibus Jobs and Economic Development Bill. The amendment passed 52-15.
Current law makes it a gross misdemeanor for people who trespass on pipeline property and refuse to leave when asked. The amendment makes it a felony for someone who trespasses on pipeline property — or property where a new pipeline is being built — with the intent to disrupt operations. The proposed penalties for such trespass are imprisonment for up to five years, a fine up to $10,000, or both.
Current law makes it a felony to damage pipeline property with intent to “significantly disrupt” operations. The penalty is up to 10 years in prison, a $20,000 fine, or both. The amendment weakens the burden of proof for prosecutors, deleting the word “significantly.” It also adds a new felony for a pipeline opponent who “alters the equipment or physical operations” of a pipeline. The penalty for this new crime would be up to seven years in prison, a $20,000 fine or both.
The amendment also allows the court to order those found guilty to pay restitution for damages.
Details of the Omnibus bill will be negotiated in Conference Committee.