Members of the MPCA’s Environmental Justice Advisory Committee discuss mass resignation, and other news

In this blog:

  • Members of the MPCA’s Environmental Justice Advisory Group explain why they resigned
  • As U.S. Presidents turn, Indigenous Environmental Network sues to stop Keystone XL
  • Upcoming prayerful events to oppose Enbridge Line 3
  • New York pension fund announces divestment from fossil fuels
  • For the Dakota, December is “Tree Popping Moon”

Podcast: Members of the MPCA’s Environmental Justice Advisory Group explain why they resigned

In an hour-long podcast three members of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA’s) Environmental Justice Advisory Group (EJAG) explained why they were part of a mass resignation.

Magdalena Kaluza, Maryan Abdinur and Kaleigh Swift were among the 12 members who quit because of the MPCA’s decision to approve a critical permit for the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, one Swift called “frustrating” and “heart breaking.”

Line 3 threatens the environment, crossing more 200 water bodies and 79 miles of wetlands. It threatens climate damage, to the tune of $287 billion over three decades (a number the MPCA signed off on). It violates treaty rights of Anishinaabe to hunt, fish and gather on lands the pipeline would cross. As we reported in a previous blog, those resigning wrote: “… we cannot continue to legitimize and provide cover for the MPCA’s war on black and brown people.”

Their comments are an indictment of stated agency values that aren’t backed up with action. The problem predates the current leadership of MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop, but she’s still on the hot seat.

Two of the three people interviewed, Abdinur and Swift, both had worked as MPCA interns.

Laura Bishop, Commissioner of the MPCA.

Prior to Commissioner Bishop, environmental justice work was buried in the bureaucracy, Swift said. To her credit, Bishop made the team report directly to her.

Still, the agency power structure is predominantly white and male, Swift said. The staff is mostly scientists and engineers “whose understanding of things like environmental racism, or racism more broadly, is extremely limited.”

Environmental justice “is still only one department,” Swift said. “Environmental justice should be in everybody’s job.”

Abdinur said the MPCA had an environmental justice framework for 20 years. It wasn’t activated until 2014, and the EJAG started in 2016. Abdinur had pushed the agency to create the advisory group and she was invited to apply as one of the founding members.

The agency’s Line 3 decision didn’t align with either its stated environmental justice values or the MPCA’s mission, which is “to protect and improve the environment and human health,” she said.

“How do you make a decision like that and say ‘I’m sorry you’re disappointed,’?” Abdinur said. “We’re beyond disappointed.”

Indigenous Environmental Network sues to stop Keystone XL

During President Barak Obama’s tenure, then-Secretary of State John Kerry determined that the Keystone Pipeline, a tar sands crude oil pipeline, was not in the national interest.

Shortly after Donald Trump’s inauguration, he asked Keystone XL owner TransCanada to reapply for a special Presidential Permit. Trump approved it two months later.

President-elect Joe Biden’s has said he plans to rescind those presidential permits, as Trump tries to ram the pipeline through in the final days of his presidency.

A report from U.S.-based Rainforest Action Network says that prominent international banks still are lined up to support both Keystone XL and Enbridge Line 3.

“It’s last call at the Trump bar,” said Jason Disterhoft, the report’s author, in a story in Tuesday’s Global News

Map of Keystone XL Pipeline. (Wikimedia Commons)

In that context, the Indigenous Environmental Network and the North Coast Rivers Alliance filed a suit Friday to stop Keystone XL in the U.S. District Court in Montana. It’s a lengthy complaint. They are suing: President Trump, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

It’s been a long-running legal battle. Here’s a brief recap from the lawsuit.

The Court twice ruled in 2018 that Keystone XL’s final environmental impact statement was invalid. It “failed to address the Project’s new alignment through Nebraska,” the court filing said. Further, it “ignored or understated several of the Project’s significant impacts.”

President Trump refused to comply with the decision, instead, he “actively sought to sidestep – and unlawfully to alter – the law to fit his agenda.”

On March 29, 2019, “he unilaterally and unconstitutionally approved a new Presidential Permit.”

With lots of detail, the suit says the project violates the National Environmental Protection Act, the Mineral Leasing Act, the Federal Land Policy Management Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Administrative Procedures Act. It asks the court to stop any work on the pipeline until those issues are addressed.

Stay tuned.

Upcoming prayerful events to oppose Enbridge Line 3

People are invited to attend two upcoming prayerful events to oppose Enbridge Line 3.

Thursday, Dec. 10, noon – 5 p.m: Prayer for Nibi (water) and Treaty Awareness is being hosted by the RISE Coalition. It will be held where Highway 2 crosses the Clearwater River near Bagley. (It’s about a four hoiur drive from the Twin Cities.) Masks and social distancing required. Bring your own lawn chair, lunch and water. Parking on the frontage road near Airport Drive. There will be helpers available to guide parking and for safety.

Thursday, December 17, all day: Solidarity and Prayer: A Water Protector Gathering. Representatives from different faith and spiritual communities will gather for a circle of prayer and spiritual practice in Palisdale in north-central Minnesota. They will come together on land along the Mississippi River owned by Winona LaDuke and Honor the Earth near the proposed route of Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline.

This day-long event is co-hosted by Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light and Honor the Earth. At 2:00 pm, we will be live streaming on MNIPL’s Facebook page and need people to watch in solidarity and to add your energy, hopes, imaginings, prayers, and spiritual practices from home.

Water protectors and Native leaders are putting their bodies on the line to stop the destructive Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline. The proposed pipeline violates Native treaty rights, takes wealth out of communities and out of sustainable working class jobs in favor of corporate profit, and threatens to destroy our waterways and water quality.

As people of different traditions, faiths, identities, and experiences, we are being asked to be present with our energy, our love, and our shared belief in an interdependent and interconnected world.

New York pension fund announces divestment from fossil fuels

The New York Times reports today that “New York’s $226 Billion Pension Fund Is Dropping Fossil Fuel Stocks over the next five years.”

By 2040, it will sell off any stocks of companies that contribute to global warming, it said.

The decision is part of a large and growing trend of institutional investors divesting from fossil fuels. It’s one more reason why Minnesota’s approval of Enbridge Line 3 was a bad idea.

For the Dakota, December is Tree Popping Moon

This teaching comes from the Lower Phalen Creek Project’s monthly newsletter:

In our language the Dakota year is measured by the moon. Guided by the stars and seasons, our people named the moons after what occurred in nature at that time. December is Chankáphopa wi, or tree popping moon. During this time of year, the air begins to turn very cold and the trees start to make a popping sound. This is often helpful to our hunters as they can get close to animals without them hearing. It is also a moon of creativity as our relatives make the most beautiful moccasins, jewelry and clothing made out of beads, porcupine quills, and now ribbons. We hope you enjoy this beautiful month – keep your ears open for those wonderful tree popping sounds!

The organization does great work. Sign up for its newsletter here.

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