Updates on Line 3 law enforcement and job creation

In this blog:

  • Lack of Minnesota workers on Line 3 gets more curious
  • Apparently no charges against driver who took a run at water protectors in a pick-up
  • DNR eyes body cameras for conservation officers

Lack of Minnesota workers on Line 3 gets more curious

File: Line 3 staging area in Pennington County.

This blog reported last Tuesday that Enbridge is falling short of its promise to create local jobs. This seems odd, given the Dec. 12 reporting in the Star Tribune that said Line 3 was “hitting at key time for union laborers.”

“I got a lot of people who said that it’s been nearly a whole year since they went to work,” said Royce Schulz, a union steward working on the [Line 3] project in Carlton County. “It couldn’t have hit at a better time, to get people back on their feet and making money again.” …

Star Tribune, Dec. 12

The article also quotes Kevin Pranis, the Laborers’ Minnesota (LIUNA) marketing manager, stating: “Minnesota provides by far the largest share of the [Line 3] workforce.”

Yet that hasn’t been the case so far. To recap: Enbridge promised Line 3 would create about 8,600 jobs (6,500 of them local) over a two-year period, or 75 percent of the total workforce. Additionally, Enbridge said Line 3 would create 4,200 union construction jobs, 50 percent of which are expected to be filled from local union halls.

According to Enbridge’s 4th quarter, 2020 jobs report, only 33 percent of the 4,632 workers employed on the project were from Minnesota and they worked only 28 percent of total hours.

A Thursday Star Tribune article quotes Pranis apparently contradicting both Schultz and himself.

Pranis said the relatively low Minnesota quotient of workers partly stems from recruiting difficulties faced by the unions. The coronavirus pandemic has played a role in that, as has uncertainty over when Line 3 construction would begin, Pranis said.

Star Tribune, Feb. 18

So in December, Minnesota has a pent-up demand for Line 3 jobs because of the coronavirus; in February, the coronavirus has made Line 3 job recruiting difficult in Minnesota (though apparently not for out-of-state workers).

Pranis added that the Labor Hall in Duluth-Superior has a lot of Wisconsin members. “If you live on the Superior side, you are not in-state, but we consider that local,” he told the Star Tribune.

A Common Dreams article on the new Enbridge jobs data quoted Tom Watson of Crosslake, former President of the Whitefish Area Property Owners Association, who wasn’t surprised by the news. He called it “embarrassing, but not unexpected” for those who have followed the process.

“There is obviously no follow-up or consequence with Minnesota regulatory agencies for Enbridge’s failed promises to hire 50% of employees from Minnesota residents,” he said.

Apparently no charges against driver who took a run at water protectors

There apparently will be no charges against a pick-up driver who pulled onto the shoulder of Highway 169 in Aitkin County and drove at water protector who were walking there. The driver swerved back on the road, but the water protectors were shaken.

Healing Minnesota Stories reported on the Jan. 9 incident. Water protectors had blocked traffic on highway 169, held space and documented pipe irregularities, according to a Giniw Collective media release. Nearly 30 squad cars from multiple counties and the Department of Natural Resources responded.

The action had ended and water protectors were walking back to their cars when the pick-up driver made his threatening move. Mille Lacs County Deputy Jake Hillesland was on the scene, apparently as part of the Northern Lights Task Force. He handled the incident, flagging down the pick-up driver and talking to him.

Some water protectors at the scene were upset Hillesland didn’t do more on the spot, including a sobriety test. In a January interview, Hillesland told Healing Minnesota Stories he expected some legal follow up, either the driver would receive a citation or a court summons.

Sheriff’s deputy speaks to pick-up truck driver Jan. 9 in Aitkin County.

In a call this week to follow up on the case, Hillesland said he couldn’t say whether a citation was issued or not. “It’s a government data thing,” he said. He directed me to the Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office had no record of a citation or summons. Since the incident happened in Aitkin County, Healing Minnesota Stories contacted the Sheriff’s office there, too. They had no record or charge on the incident.

A couple of observations.

With multiple law enforcement jurisdictions responding, accountability got murky. It wasn’t clear which jurisdiction would have the incident record, if there was one. It doesn’t appear the driver was charged. It’s not clear who made the call and why they chose not to press charges.

Also, eight water protectors were arrested that day. One of them was Michele Narr-Obed of Duluth, who said she didn’t disperse when ordered to by police. She ended up spending two nights in the Aitkin County clink.

It’s these kinds of incidents that reinforce the narrative that laws are enforced differently depending on whether you are a water protector vs. a Line 3 supporter. If a water protector drove onto the shoulder of a highway to intimidate an Enbridge worker, yu can bet they would have been charged and jailed.

DNR eyes body cameras for conservation officers

DNR conservation officers historically enforce laws related to fish and wildlife, state parks, and trails. Is someone over the daily limit of walleyes? Are people using ATVs on state land where they shouldn’t? That sort of thing.

Yet more and more, they are being deployed to respond to Line 3 resistance and other forms of civil disobedience. Recall 75 DNR conservation officers were deployed as part of state response to Oct. 7 protests that erupted when Derek Chauvin, the police accused of murdering George Floyd was released on bond.

Maskless DNR conservation officer at a Line 3 action.

Healing Minnesota Stories recently learned that DNR conservation officer aren’t wearing body cameras, which would be important for documenting what happens when responding to a protest.

Turns out the DNR’s policy governing conservation officers states: “Body worn video cameras may be worn on the outside of the uniform so long as they are issued and approved for wear by the Director of Enforcement.”

So far, the Director of Enforcement hasn’t issued such a policy, said Joe Albert, the DNR’s communications coordinator for the enforcement division. The agency has started looking into the issue, including checking on camera prices.

The trend in law enforcement is to wear cameras, Albert said. Conservation officers have a different kind of work environment, working in trucks, boats and ATVs, “quite a ways from power sources.”

Is the DNR conservation officer’s role evolving, responding to more traditional law enforcement calls?

“Hard to tell what is going to happen in the future,” Albert said. “Certainly conservation officers are licensed peace officers. When they are working in their home stations, it’s common for them to respond to a variety of different situations.”

Comment: The DNR is heading in the wrong direction on this one.

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