MMIW rally today (Saturday) to put heat on Gov. Walz
A Thief River Falls non-profit providing emergency services to victims of domestic and sexual violence says its seen an increase in demand for help since construction began on the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline.
A document submitted to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) from the Violence Intervention Project (VIP) says local women and girls are getting verbally harassed by Line 3 workers, too.
This news comes on top of the recent report of a human trafficking sting in Northern Minnesota which resulted in the arrest of two Line 3 workers. One of those men was charged with soliciting sex with a minor.
Indigenous people warned state regulators that Line 3 would bring increased sex and drug trafficking to the area — and add to the existing epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives. State regulators and labor unions didn’t seem to take their concern very seriously at the time the permits were issued.
Indigenous people and allies are gathering Saturday, noon – 2 p.m. at the Governor’s residence, 1006 Summit Ave, St. Paul, to demand that Gov. Tim Walz revoke the Line 3 permits to protect Indigenous communities. Facebook Event Page here.
Enbridge was required to establish a Public Safety Escrow Account as a condition for its PUC-approved Line 3 Route Permit. Law enforcement agencies can submit reimbursement requests for Line 3-related costs. Human trafficking and drug enforcement agencies and social services can submit reimbursement requests “to address illegal drug and human trafficking in the area of construction.”
The Escrow Account is managed by an independent trustee. Those seeking reimbursement submit requests to the PUC. There’s review process, but the PUC’s Executive Secretary makes the final call.
Healing Minnesota Stories has made periodic document requests for information on reimbursements. Here’s the latest batch.
$150,000 in grants to prevent human trafficking, sexual violence
On Feb. 17, PUC approved $42,000 to VIP in Thief River Falls. It serves five counties in northwestern Minnesota: Pennington, Red Lake, Roseau, Marshall and Kittson, as well as the Red Lake and White Earth nations.
“Since the Line 3 Replacement project has come to our area, we have experienced an increase in calls and need for services,” VIP’s narrative to the PUC said. “We have provided services to several victims who have been assaulted by employees working on the Enbridge Line 3 project.”
The PUC approved an additional $259.28 for Safe Hotels rooms for two victims who said they were assaulted by Line 3 workers. (One incident happened in January, the other in February. The hotels were needed because the program’s shelter was full.)
VIP also struggles to find hotel rooms for victims needing a safe space when the shelter is full, their letter said. Line 3 workers have taken up the hotel space. “The hotel that is closest to us is regularly full,” VIP wrote. “So we have to search for available space and usually pay twice the rate …”
On Feb. 17, the PUC also approved a $115,093 reimbursement for Duluth-based Support Within Reach, a sexual violence resource center with offices in Aitkin, Bagley, Bemidji Grand Rapids, Park Rapids, and Walker. The PUC didn’t provide supporting documents explaining the request for funding.
Law enforcement gets reimbursed another $400,000
Here are the latest PUC reimbursements approved for law enforcement expenses. They are:
- $352,576.22 to the Cass County Sheriff’s Office. The breakdown was:
- 327,224.65 for security wages for routine patrols paid through Feb. 19, 2021
- 18,563.15 for LiveScan Fingerprint System
- 3,392.50 for a cargo trailer
- 3,395.92 for cutting tools
- $24,655 to Carlton Fire Department for expenses responding to a Feb. 25 incident. Costs included $14,000 for use of Urban Search and Rescue equipment, and more than $4,000 to use fire vehicles and an ambulance.
- $18,620 to the Virginia Fire Department for a response to a Jan. 22 incident.
- $2,600 to FIRE, Inc. to attend a Northern Lights Task Force trainings. (11/12/2020, 11/30/2020 and 12/1/2020)
- $2,600 to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to attend a Northern Lights Task Force trainings. (11/12/2020, 11/30/2020 and 12/1/2020)
Previous blogs reported on a $190,000 reimbursement request from the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office. A second blog reported on much smaller requests totaling less than $4,000. [Update: Healing Minnesota Stories hasn’t confirmed whether the PUC approved these payments.]
Minnesota has been very generous in allowing Enbridge to use public lands for its pipeline. According to the Cass County Sheriff’s narrative, Line 3 crosses approximately 48 miles of county lands. Of that, approximately 35 percent is on private property and 65 percent on public property.
Enbridge has been busy in Cass County: “We were told that at the height of the project 300-400 workers could be coming and going from the Backus Contractor yard daily and we observe this daily,” the Sheriff’s Office wrote.
Taking a proactive approach upon the start of the project, we instituted Safety Patrols in and around the project corridor. A supervisor is assigned to the project and meets several times daily with Enbridge Public Safety Liaison (PSL) staff to discuss project work areas, safety concerns, calls for service, intelligence gathering and public safety initiatives for the day.Cass County Sheriff’s Office
Enbridge doesn’t need that much private security. It’s got the Sheriff working as a contract security detail. It doesn’t really give a sense of impartial policing.
[Update: Some information from the original blog was deleted at the request of the PUC. It could have revealed too much information about services provided to abuse victims. The PUC is providing a revised version soon. It will be posted when provided.]