More than half of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA’s) Environmental Justice Advisory Group resigned today over the agency’s decision to approve a key permit for the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan is distancing herself from Gov. Tim Walz’s support for the project.
The state’s decision to approve Line 3 has polluted the legacy of both Gov. Walz and the MPCA, and shines a spotlight on their hypocrisy.
The new Enbridge Line 3 pipeline will traverse 355 miles of northern Minnesota. Construction is expected to start in the next few weeks.
Walz tweeted his support for the MPCA’s decision saying it followed both the law and science. Flanagan, an enrolled member of the White Earth Nation, tweeted back: “As many people know, I have long expressed opposition to the Line 3 project and my position has not changed.”
Native Nations claim Line 3 violates their treaty-guaranteed rights to hunt, fish and gather on pipeline-impacted lands. The state should have recognized the legitimate treaty issues raised, and not approved the project until they were resolved in federal courts. For inexplicable reasons, Minnesota leaders sided with Enbridge, a Canadian firm, and its interpretation of U.S. treaties.
Walz’ support for the MPCA and its Line 3 process seems to fly in the face of his 2019 executive order committing state agencies to “meaningful consultation with the tribal communities in our state.” (Walz PR staffers at the time touted the executive order as “historic.”)
Yet Line 3 got approved over strong opposition from the White Earth Nation, Red Lake Nation, and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
The MPCA has a standing Environmental Justice Advisory Group (EJAG), part of the agency’s commitment to “fair treatment” of citizens, meaning that “no group of people should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, governmental, and commercial operations or policies. “
Yet 12 of its 17 members resigned today over the agency’s Line 3 decision and its disproportionate impact on Native Nations and peoples. They did so in strong terms.
They wrote that they “cannot continue to legitimize and provide cover for the MPCA’s war on black and brown people.”
Those resigning included Winona LaDuke, founder of Honor the Earth, Maryan Abdinur, Erica Chung, Anita Urvina Davis, Lea Foushee, Charles Frempong-Longdon, Dania Marin Gavilan, Sarah Goodspeed, Magdalena Kaluza, Zeke McKinney, Shirley Nordrum, and Kaleigh Swift.
Their letter continued:
Line 3 will mean violated treaty rights, heightened risk of sexual trafficking and sexual violence, and an insult to the three tribal nations that strongly oppose its construction. Any perceived economic benefits are extremely short-term. …
We demand that Commissioner Bishop and the Walz Administration reflect on the choices that were made. Your decision to side with a Canadian corporation over your own people is reprehensible and devastating. We ask that you do everything in your power to repair the damage you have done and seek a healing path to justice with the communities you have harmed.
Line 3’s environmental impact statement — produced by the state — said the pipeline would result in $287 billion in climate damage over three decades.
Both Gov. Walz and Bishop have said addressing climate change is a top priority. Yet they could find no way to stop this climate-changing pipeline?
Gov. Walz is trying to figure out how to cope with the surge in COVID-19 cases, yet he’s apparently OK with several thousand workers traveling to northern Minnesota for construction jobs.
On top of it all, Walz’s Department of Commerce concluded that Enbridge failed to prove that future oil demand justifies the pipeline, a threshold question for getting state permits. Commerce has a case pending in the Minnesota Court of Appeals right now to reverse Line 3 permits.
Walz contradicts himself. He says the MPCA process followed the law and science and is allowing the project to proceed, yet at the same time supporting a Commerce Department lawsuit to stop it because its application was flawed.
Which is it, Governor?