Red Lake rejected Enbridge financial deal to drop Line 3 lawsuits

A lot of the $56 million offer Enbridge should be doing anyway

Native nations are quite familiar with divide-and-conquer tactics.

The first treaty made in what would become Minnesota happened in 1805, two years after the Louisiana purchase. Lt. Zebulon Pike reported in his journal that two of the seven Dakota leaders present agreed to sell the site that would become Fort Snelling.

Two of seven, and Pike considered it a done deal.

The Star Tribune ran a story Monday on how Enbridge tried to buy off the Red Lake Nation, a key Line 3 opponent, and get it to drop its lawsuit against the project. Red Lake rejected it.

All five Anishiaabe nations who intervened in Line 3’s regulatory proceedings initially opposed the project: Red Lake, White Earth, Mille Lacs, Leech Lake and Fond du Lac. Fond du Lac and Leech Lake both would later drop their opposition, each for different reasons. (Both cut deals to take the least bad deal of the bad deals offered.)

Enbridge’s efforts to get some Indigenous nations to back off on their opposition have resurfaced in the news lately. MPR recently ran a story: Enbridge Line 3 divides Indigenous lands, people.)

The Star Tribune story ran a similar story, but also broke the news that Enbridge made a financial offer to Red Lake last October to try to get it to drop its Line 3 lawsuits.

Healing Minnesota Stories has since obtained a copy of Enbridge’s offer.

The deal

On Oct. 23, 2020, Enbridge offered Red Lake a deal it valued at around $56 million to drop its lawsuits against Line 3’s environmental impact statement, certificate of need and route permit.

Had Red Lake agreed, it wouldn’t have ended Line 3’s legal challenges. There are other plaintiffs involved in those cases. It would have been a symbolic win for Enbridge.

Enbridge’s deal would have required Red Lake to publicly oppose any “unlawful protesting, resistance, or action against the Line 3 Replacement Project in the 1863 Treaty Territory…”

The fact that Red Lake turned down the offer is a statement about the strength of its opposition to the pipeline and its commitment to protect land and water and defend its treaty rights.

To the left of the fence: Staging area for Enbridge to bore a pipeline tunnel under the Red Lake River (seen in the distance). Right of fence: Public land where Red Lake members have established a treaty camp to oppose the project.

Here’s a breakdown of Enbridge’s offer, along with an analysis of its flaws and PR spin.

1. Enbridge offered Red Lake $30 million in jobs and economic development, more than half the total package.

Here’s the verbatim:

As part of Enbridge’s $100MM Tribal Economic and labor commitment with the State of MN, Enbridge will spend $30,000,000 on labor and contracting with Red Lake citizens, Red Lake businesses, or Red Lake citizen owned businesses during Line 3 Replacement construction and Line 3 deactivation & removal activities.

Enbridge offer to Red Lake

Enbridge is trying to double dip. In order to get Line 3 approved, Enbridge proposed a Tribal Economic Opportunity and Labor Education Plan, which the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) accepted and approved. That plan states: “Enbridge is committed to working with Tribes and their members to provide economic opportunities related to Enbridge’s work.”

If Enbridge is sincere about its commitment to Indigenous nations, why isn’t it doing the right thing and hiring Red Lake citizens as part of this earlier agreement? Was it withholding jobs from Red Lake in order to leverage concessions?

Seems pretty disingenuous.

2. Enbridge offered Red Lake $25 million to develop a solar power project.

Enbridge and Red Lake are aligned on the need to transition our energy supply [to] renewable energy sources. Enbridge agrees to negotiate a 15-year Power Purchase Agreement for a 10-12 Megawatt solar project to be owned by Red Lake and Minnesota Power/ALLETE, for the purposes of providing renewable energy for the operations of the Line 3 Replacement. Estimated value of the solar project $25MM.

Enbridge offer to Red Lake

Comment: It’s murky at best to say Enbridge and Red Lake are “aligned “on the issue of clean energy transition. In 2018, Enbridge sold off part of its renewable energy portfolio. Further, the new Line 3 project is doubling the carrying capacity of the old Line 3 it’s replacing. That’s not transitioning, that’s doubling down with a long-term infrastructure commitment to dirty tar sands oil. Lastly, Enbridge’s deal says the solar power would be used to pump Line 3’s crude oil. (Tars sands crude is so viscous it needs extra pumps to get it to flow.) “Transitioning” to clean energy doesn’t mean using renewable energy in the service of fossil fuels.

3. Enbridge offered Red Lake $1.25 million for community investments.

Here are the details.

  • Ponemah Powwow rebuild: $500,000
  • Ponemah day care: $50,000
  • Red Lake Radio Station: $100,000
  • Covid-19 school funding: $50,000
  • Continue to fund Red Lake Welding and Scholarships: $85,000
  • Other community investments: $465,000

Enbridge’s $1 million offer to bolster Red Lake services is a very small part of its offer. Still, this money would be difficult to turn down.

4. Protection of Red Lake Treaty Resources

As part of Enbridge’s Landowner Choice Program, Enbridge shall elect to remove Line 3 from West Four-Legged Lake.

Hire four (4) Cultural Resources Specialists (through Fond du Lac) from Red Lake for the Line 3 construction inspection in the 1863 treaty territory: $200,000.

Contribute $15,000 per month to Red Lake until the existing Line 3 is deactivated to fund environmental inspection, cultural monitoring, and Line 3 Replacement project engagement.

Enbridge offer to Red Lake

Comment: These offers shouldn’t be add-ons; they should be part of good-faith, ongoing engagement with Native communities to build this (unnecessary) project. For instance, it should be a no-brainer to hire Red Lake members as cultural resources specialists for the portion of Line 3 that runs near their territory. (Enbridge contracted with Fond du Lac for this work.) Red Lake members would be the ones who know the area best. That should have happened at the very beginning of the project, not a part of this negotiation.

Further, Enbridge shouldn’t be patting itself on the back for offering to remove a piece of old pipeline near a lake, presumably from property it owns. It’s the kindergarten rule: Clean up your own mess. The state screwed up my not requiring Enbridge to remove all of the old Line 3 and clean up any leaked oil.

Enbridge pushed back against being required to remove the old pipeline. It would be too costly, it said.

That only adds the argument about why the state should have rejected the project in the first place.

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