The proposed construction of the new and expanded Enbridge Line 3 pipeline has raised fears about increasing drug and sex trafficking along the route, particularly sex trafficking of Native women.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved Line 3’s permits with several conditions. Among them, it required Enbridge to develop a Human Trafficking Prevention Plan.
Enbridge submitted its plan to the PUC May 5. It’s so short and vague it’s hard to tell what if any impact it would have. The PUC staff needs to reject the plan and require Enbridge to start over, if for no other reason than the company failed to follow directions.
Even without pipeline construction, there already is an epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women. “Our women are murdered at a rate 10 times higher than other ethnicities and it’s the third leading cause of death for our Women,” according to the Centers for Disease Control, writes Native Women’s Wilderness.
Line 3 construction would require 4,000 workers, some from out of state.
The Line 3 environmental impact statement concluded:
“The addition of a temporary, cash-rich workforce increases the likelihood that sex trafficking or sexual abuse will occur. Additionally, rural areas often do not have the resources necessary to detect and prevent these activities.
The PUC required Enbridge to “develop and implement a Human Trafficking Prevention Plan in coordination with the Department of Commerce, the Minnesota Human Trafficking Taskforce, MIAC [Minnesota Indian Affairs Council], and all Minnesota Tribes that wish to participate.”
Will Seuffert, the PUC’s executive secretary, wrote in an email that the Commission staff hasn’t yet reviewed or approved the plan.
One indication that Enbridge’s Human Trafficking Prevention Plan lacks substance is that it’s less than three pages long. (The document itself is 14 pages, but most of it is background.)
Enbridge submitted a draft plan on Dec. 10, 2018, according to background materials. The draft was circulated among key stakeholders, who had a Jan. 10, 2019 deadline to submit comments.
In summary: Enbridge wrote a generic plan, asking only for edits. It gave stakeholders one month to respond — that month included Christmas and New Years holidays. It doesn’t seem Enbridge was interested in getting written comments, let alone meeting with experts face to face.
Native Nations and other stakeholders should have been involved from the start, before Enbridge wrote a first draft. In the end, stakeholders offered only 11 suggested changes. Enbridge didn’t accept them all.
For instance, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force requested that Enbridge should offer human trafficking prevention training for local authorities, in addition to its own workers,
Enbridge appreciates this comment but is not typically involved in training local law enforcement in areas other than pipeline safety and, as such, does not propose changes to the Plan in response to this comment. However, Enbridge is exploring how this comment could be incorporated into the role of the Public Safety Liaison and/or the Public and Worksite Awareness Campaign …
A key stakeholder made a suggestion and Enbridge rejected it. There was no back-and-forth discussion. Enbridge got the final word. That’s not collaboration.
The PUC specifically directed Enbridge to work with the Minnesota Human Trafficking Taskforce and the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council (MIAC) to develop the plan. There is no indication in the report that Enbridge met this basic requirement.
The Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force is “a coordinated, multi-disciplinary statewide response that aims to end sex and labor human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Minnesota.” It’s an important voice to engage in this conversation.
Who knows where communication broke down, but if Enbridge wanted to meet its permit obligations it could have gotten these two organizations to the table. Perhaps those organizations didn’t engage because they saw Enbridge wasn’t offering authentic engagement but was seeking a rubber stamp.
(See also our earlier post on this issue for more context.)
The plan itself
Enbridge’s brief Human Trafficking Prevention Plan has five sections, starting with two-paragraphs on its “Zero Tolerance Policy.” It’s got more corporate PR than content:
At Enbridge, we are guided by a strong set of values: Integrity, Safety and Respect. We hold ourselves and others to these values. … Enbridge’s Statement on Business Conduct states that we will respect human rights and conduct our business in a socially responsible manner by never tolerating human rights abuses or being complicit in any activities [that] cause or contribute to abuse.
Enbridge will communicate a zero tolerance approach to our contractors by incorporating it into contract language and with all Line 3 Replacement Project workers through onboarding training.
The plan lacks details on Enbridge’s required contract language, and doesn’t explain the consequences for violating its Zero Tolerance Policy. The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa wrote to Enbridge that the Zero Tolerance Policy had little detail. “[I]t is unclear what ‘zero tolerance’ means. Does it include internal investigation, firing, reporting to authorities, or other provisions? Please develop and distribute the policy for comment.”
Enbridge responded that “A link to Enbridge’s Statement on Business Conduct has been added to the Plan. The Statement on Business Conduct provides additional detail and explanation concerning Enbridge’s expectations and standards.”
Enbridge’s link goes to a 34-page document. The word “Zero Tolerance” doesn’t appear in the document. Fond du Lac deserved a better answer. Enbridge needs to produce its Zero Tolerance Policy, if it exists.
Enbridge’s statement that it respects human rights — and that it won’t be complicit in activities that cause abuse — is suspect. It would be interesting to hear the company describe its response to the human rights violations at Standing Rock. In August 2016, Enbridge Inc. and Enbridge LLP acquired an equity stake in the Bakken Pipeline System, which includes the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). How did Enbridge apply its Zero Tolerance Policy there, when law enforcement used a fire hose to spray DAPL protesters in freezing weather?
Toll Free Hotline on Human Trafficking
In this one-paragraph section, Enbridge takes credit for services already in place. It writes:
Enbridge will use the toll-free National Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888) and/or Minnesota Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force Hotline (651-793-7000) for reporting suspected human trafficking activities versus setting up a new line. …
Enbridge doesn’t even say if or how it will publicize the number.
Public Safety Escrow Account
The PUC’s order requires Enbridge to deposit money in a Public Safety Escrow Account to reimburse local human trafficking prevention efforts, drug enforcement agencies, and social services near Line 3’s construction. The PUC’s Executive Secretary will determine how much money Enbridge needs to contribute and how it will be distributed, in consultation with stakeholders.
The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and Fond du Lac both had concerns about the vague wording. Mille Lacs wrote:
“This process for determining the amount to be deposited into the Public Safety Escrow Account should be explained in more detail. At a minimum, it should include soliciting cost estimates from all relevant law enforcement agencies, including tribes, counties, and cities.
Enbridge responded that those decisions would be determined by the state.
Fond du Lac also sought more details, recommending such things as “billboards, other print advertisements, and public service announcements in all communities touched by the project” as well as direct funding for non profits.
Enbridge responded that it’s “exploring the options.” Again, that isn’t a plan, but a promise.
The funding process is opaque and Native Nations deserve more clarity.
Human Trafficking Awareness Training
Enbridge has developed human trafficking awareness training for new Line 3 Replacement Project workers, the plan said. “This training program was developed by a leading human trafficking expert in Minnesota and in coordination with the Tribes United Against Sex Trafficking Task Force, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and other interested parties.”
Enbridge fails to identify who the “leading human rights expert” is. Its statement that it coordinated with other key stakeholders is empty, given how little Enbridge “coordinated” with others to develop this plan.
Community and Workplace Awareness Campaign
This section is one paragraph long.
Enbridge is working with the Tribes United Against Sex Trafficking Task Force, Minnesota Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force and other interested parties to develop a community and workplace awareness campaign plan. The campaign plan developed by those parties will be implemented by a native owned public affairs firm funded by Enbridge. …
Glad to see a Native-owned business is getting some money. But again, this isn’t a plan but a promise to create a plan. There are no details here. Enbridge doesn’t even name the Native-owned public affairs firm.
This is a serious issue and Native Nations, and the public, deserve more details and transparency.