Public Utilities Commission, Enbridge need to go back to square one on Line 3’s Human Trafficking Prevention Plan

When the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved the Route Permit for the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline, it required the company to develop a Human Trafficking Prevention Plan for the project’s construction phase.

Enbridge Line 3 is a proposed multi-billion dollar crude oil pipeline project that would run 340 miles through northern Minnesota. Public testimony and the state’s Line 3’s environmental impact statement raised concerns about the connection between the large influx of out-of-state construction workers for the project and increases in drug and sex trafficking along the construction route.

The Human Trafficking Prevention Plan is done, but Enbridge won’t release it. It appears Enbridge failed to engage a key participant — the Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force — as the Public Utilities Commission required. Enbridge doesn’t even seem to think the Human Trafficking Prevention Plan is needed as it relates to Line 3.

It’s time to reset this conversation and start over.

A Minnesota Court of Appeals decision has put the Line 3 issue back before the Public Utilities Commission. The Commission now has chance to fix the problems.

Here are six reasons to worry that, without changes, Enbridge’s plan will be inadequate.

1. Enbridge has the primary responsibility to write the plan, but the company denies Line 3 construction will impact human trafficking.

File: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s March in Minneapolis (2018).

The Public Utilities Commission’s Line 3 Route Permit gave Enbridge “primary responsibility for coordinating, completing, delivering, and implementing” the Human Trafficking Prevention Plan, including putting sufficient money in an escrow account to reimburse local communities for the estimated increases in law enforcement and social service costs.

Enbridge acknowledges that human trafficking is “a real and important problem,” according to an Aug. 27 email from Juli Kellner, an Enbridge communications specialist. However, she reiterated the company’s position:

Enbridge absolutely rejects the allegation that human trafficking will increase in Minnesota as a result of the Line 3 Replacement Project. All our employees and contractors are held to high standards and must act in accordance with the policies outlined in our Statement on Business Conduct and within the law.

The company’s statement differs with the state’s own analysis in Line 3’s environmental impact statement. It estimates Line 3 construction will draw 2,100 non-local construction workers to northern Minnesota for more than a year. According Chapter 11, pages 20-21:

The addition of a temporary, cash-rich workforce increases the likelihood that sex trafficking or sexual abuse will occur. … American Indian and minority populations are often at higher risk if they are low-income, homeless, have a lack of resources, addiction, and other factors often found in tribal communities …

The Public Utilities Commission shared that concern, according to a Sept. 12 email from Dan Wolf, the Commission’s executive secretary. He wrote:

In its October 26, 2018 Order issuing a Pipeline Route Permit, the Commission recognized the legitimate and serious concerns that parties raised about the potential for human trafficking during the construction of the Line 3 Pipeline Replacement Project. As a result of those concerns, the Commission established permit conditions that would prohibit construction of the Project until a human trafficking plan had been developed.

Enbridge was asked — if the company rejects any link between Line 3 construction and human trafficking — how is the public supposed to take its plan seriously?

Enbridge’s answer was non-responsive. It reiterated its previous statements denying any link between Line 3 construction and trafficking. It didn’t address the company’s credibility problem when its statements contradict the Public Utilities Commission’s concerns about human trafficking associated with Line 3 construction.

Comment: If Enbridge doesn’t think there is a link between Line 3 construction and trafficking, it has every incentive to minimize its costs and obligations and the amount of money it will put in escrow.

2. Enbridge’s Human Trafficking Prevention Plan is done, but Enbridge won’t release it yet.

An email from Enbridge indicated the plan was done. According to a January 28 article on Enbridge’s website, the plan was done by the time the article was published. That’s more than seven months ago.

Healing Minnesota Stories requested a copy. Here’s Enbridge’s response:

We are currently awaiting additional procedural guidance from the [Public Utilities Commission] regarding the Line 3 Route Permit. It would not be appropriate to share the document at this point.

That’s a thin excuse. If the plan is done, there is no reason to withhold it from the public. Why not give people a chance to see it and comment?

Healing Minnesota Stories also asked Enbridge the estimated cost of its Human Trafficking Prevention Plan and how much it would put in escrow. The company again said it was awaiting direction from the Public Utilities Commission.

Click here for the Sept. 6 email response from Enbridge (email converted to PDF.)

3. Enbridge has a history of withholding information on its human trafficking prevention.

The Youth Climate Intervenors have highlighted Enbridge’s past foot dragging on this issue. (The youth were one of the official intervening parties before the Public Utilities Commission on the Line 3 case.)

In a May 18, 2018 filing to the Commission, the youth recalled how in late 2017 Enbridge’s Project Manager Paul Eberth committed to provide human trafficking prevention training as part of Line 3’s construction kickoff meetings. Eberth said he would provide a draft by early 2018. That would allow other parties time to comment ​prior to the Commission’s Line 3 vote.

According to the Youth Climate Intervenor’s May 18 filings:

Enbridge has thus far failed to produce a plan, or any indication of a reasonable timeline on which that plan will be published …

In a subsequent Nov. 15, 2018 filingthe Youth Climate Intervenors asked the Public Utilities Commission to reconsider the Route Permit. They wrote that “Enbridge has still failed to produce even an outline of their curriculum” on human trafficking. They continued:

This demonstrates a remarkable disregard for serious concerns about the potential increase in human trafficking and the proliferation of other public safety issues due to the Project, and inspires little confidence in Enbridge’s commitment to taking these issues seriously.

4. The Public Utilities Commission provided little accountability for Enbridge.

The Public Utilities Commission’s Line 3 Route Permit states:

The [human trafficking prevention] plan shall be filed with the Commission 60 days prior to construction and must be included as part of the employee training and education required [by this permit.] …

The Youth Climate Intervenors asked the Public Utilities Commission to impose a earlier filing deadline. More importantly, they requested the Commission add a 15-day public comment period followed by a formal Commission review and vote on Enbridge’s plan.

That would provide a “bare minimum level of accountability,” the Youth wrote in their Nov. 15 filing.

The Public Utilities Commission rejected their recommendations.

Dan Wolf, the executive secretary of the Public Utilities Commission, was asked to explain the Commission’s decision. He said the Commission “did not specifically adopt the recommendations of the Youth Climate Intervenors on this issue.” However …

That plan will be reviewed by the Commission’s staff and its Executive Secretary, and by the Department of Commerce Energy Environmental Review and Analysis unit. The Executive Secretary could refer the Plan to the Commission for a vote. The Commission did not establish an explicit comment process, but parties may decide to file comments pursuant to the procedures laid out in Minnesota Rules Chapter 7829.

Comment: That’s news. Enbridge’s plan is getting more scrutiny than appeared to be the case in the permit. There is a chance the Commission will review and vote on the plan, a good step forward. Better yet would be a formal public comment period.

Click here for Wolf’s Sept. 12 response.

5. It’s unclear to what extent Enbridge engaged with community partners and what those partners thought of the process.

The Public Utilities Commission’s Line 3 Route Permit required Enbridge to coordinate with several parties in developing its plan: The Minnesota Department of Commerce, the Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force, the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council and any of Minnesota’s 11 Native nations that wished to participate.

Kellner, an Enbridge spokeswoman, said input from those organizations and tribes “was incorporated into the final plan.”

Efforts to get comments from the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, the White Earth Nation and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa were unsuccessful.

Enbridge said it also worked with the Tribes United Against Sex Trafficking (TRUST) Task Force to develop the plan. The Task Force is led by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and includes representation from eight of Minnesota’s 11 tribes.

Reached by phone, Fond du Lac Investigator and Task Force Commander Kelly Haffield declined to comment on the plan, saying she was not authorized to speak.

Amy Kenzie, the Coordinator for the Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force, had not heard of the Line 3 Human Trafficking Prevention Plan. In an Aug. 11 email, she wrote:

“I’m not sure what you are referring to when you mention the Human Trafficking Prevention Plan. I have not heard from anyone on this but I am checking …”

On Aug. 22, a follow up email came from Caroline Palmer, director of the Minnesota Department of Health’s Safe Harbor program, which connects trafficking victims with support services. She said:”We have not received a request, likely because the permit process is in flux.”

The Line 3 Route Permit required Enbridge to coordinate with the Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force to develop the plan. It appears there is a finished plan without its consultation.

Enbridge was asked if this was an oversight, or, if not, to provide a contact person they worked with at the Task Force. The company responded that it was working with the Minnesota Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force led by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is inside the Department of Public Safety.

Comment: First, Enbridge didn’t provide a contact name as requested. Second and more importantly, the Public Utilities Commission’s Route Permit specifically required Enbridge to coordinate with the Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force. According to its webpage:

Established by state legislation in 2006, the Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force  advises the commissioner of public safety on how to address the issue of human trafficking in Minnesota. The Task Force is comprised of governmental and non-governmental members.

Please note that legislation for this Task Force expired in 2011. Currently, the Task Force is convened by the MN Department of Health. For more information on the Task Force, please contact Amy Kenzie, Program Coordinator, Sexual Violence Prevention Program at Amy.Kenzie@state.mn.us

As noted above, Kenzie was not contacted to be a part of the Line 3 Human Trafficking Prevention Plan.

A message was left with a spokesperson at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension asking to talk to the staff person on point with the Enbridge Line 3 Human Trafficking Task Force. The call was not returned.

Click here for Enbridge’s Sept. 12 response (a PDF made from an email).

Comment: The Public Utilities Commission required Enbridge to document its efforts to engage the various organizations and tribes named in its order. That information needs to be made public.

6. Supporting local community service organizations is good, but doesn’t address the link between massive construction projects such as Line 3 and human trafficking

In its defense, Enbridge said it has made donations to a number of local services, such the Center Against Sexual and Domestic Violence (CASDA) in Duluth; the Program to Aid Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA) in Duluth; Truckers Against Trafficking, and the First Witness Child Advocacy Center in Duluth.

Enbridge was asked the dollar amounts of its donations. The company did not respond to that request.

Enbridge’s January 28 article indicated it gave a recent $5,000 grant to PAVA. Kelly Burger, executive director of CASDA, said Enbridge has contributed annually for the past four to five years in amounts between $2,500 and $10,000 a year. She wrote that Enbridge’s support has been towards “our mission which is ‘to provide supportive services to individuals hurt by domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse while advocating fort a community effort to end violence.'”

Comment: It’s all good to contribute to local charities. But it needs to be said that Enbridge’s mandate was “to develop a Human Trafficking Prevention Plan to educate, equip, and encourage people associated with pipeline construction and operation, and members of the public generally, to prevent and report Project-related human trafficking.” [emphasis added].

That is the task at hand. It doesn’t appear to be happening.

3 thoughts on “Public Utilities Commission, Enbridge need to go back to square one on Line 3’s Human Trafficking Prevention Plan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s