MinnPost gives Walz administration more credit than its due for environmental justice work

In this blog:

  • MPCA policy promises don’t meet the facts: A critique of stories in MinnPost and Energy News Network
  • Good news, bad news: Line 3 nearly 50 percent complete, will take 2 month hiatus
  • Rise by the River photo
  • New Line 3 Fact Sheets

MPCA equity, environmental promises don’t meet the facts

MinnPost and the Energy News Network got run through the spin cycle by Gov. Tim Walz’s administration. MinnPost wrote a story, which the Energy News Network reprinted, about the great environmental justice work being done by the Walz administration in general and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) in particular.

They haven’t been paying attention.

The story opens by referencing the state’s Climate Change Subcabinet, a group Walz created by executive order because he saw climate change as an “existential threat.” The subcabinet’s recent report gave examples of how state agencies are addressing climate issues and building equity into their work, the story said. For instance, the Agriculture Department’s doing outreach with new immigrant communities.

Outreach is important, but the story missed the elephant in the room. It ignored the Walz administration’s failure to stop the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline and how it would add significantly to climate change. It ignored how Black, Indigenous and other people of color would bear the greatest harm from climate damage.

For perspective, Line 3 would add more carbon pollution than all of Gov. Walz’s initiatives to reduce climate damage combined. (See MN350’s A Giant Step Backward.) By the state’s own estimate, Line 3 would create $287 billion in climate damage over three decades.

The MinnPost story calls the MPCA “an agency deeply immersed in efforts toward environmental equity or justice.”

Then it glossed over powerful evidence to the contrary without pressing the agency for answers:

Last fall, for instance, the majority of the MPCA’s environmental justice advisory group [EJAG] resigned after regulators issued a key water permit to Enbridge Energy for its Line 3 oil pipeline, which cuts across northern Minnesota watersheds where Native Americans hunt, fish and harvest wild rice. In a letter to agency Commissioner Laura Bishop, the group characterized the move as a “clear violation of environmental justice” and said that “we cannot continue to legitimize and provide cover for the MPCA’s war on Black and brown people.”

The agency stood by its decision. [Helen Waquiu, the agency’s director of public engagement and tribal liaison] told me the advisory group continues to operate with its five remaining members and that “we are on a journey and definitely don’t have all of the answers and want to work with them.”

MinnPost story

That’s it? No follow-up?

How does the MPCA square its Line 3 decision with its supposed deep commitment to environmental justice? How does the agency respond to the EJAG letter stating it’s at war with Black and brown people? Can it name one significant environmental justice decision the agency has made based on recommendations from EJAG?

The MPCA seems to think if it repeats “we care about environmental justice” often enough, people will buy it without looking at its track record. It will keep doing it until the media challenges it more.

The MPCA’s Line 3 failings aren’t unique. The agency was slow to respond to air pollution problems in north Minneapolis coming from Northern Metal Recycling. The agency has allowed the Minntac mine in northern Minnesota to pollute surrounding waters for decades, apparently killing off wild rice, a sacred food to the Anishinaabe.

Near the end of the MinnPost story, it adds this piece of unintended irony:

Interestingly, the climate group’s report actually looks to one oft-marginalized group for inspiration and possible partnering – American Indian tribes, calling them “national leaders in climate change work.” (As this MinnPost story from last fall shows, solar panels now power large parts of the Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota).

MinnPost story

Approving solar panels is easy. Stopping pipelines is hard and takes conviction.

The Red Lake and White Earth nations have repeatedly called on Gov. Walz and his administration to do that hard work and stop Line 3. It’s the single most important thing he could do to address climate change. It would be an administration-defining moment, showing its commitment to environmental justice in general, and to the Native nations who are “national leaders in climate change work.”

Instead, the Walz administration again marginalized this “oft-marginalized group.”

The story missed the counter narrative to the MPCA’s platitudes.

Good news, bad news: Line 3 nearly 50 percent complete, will take 2 month hiatus

Otter near the Line 3 pipeline route. According to his press secretary, the otter voted “no” on the pipeline. Photo: Aimee Sutherland

Enbridge sold the Line 3 project to state regulators as a jobs generator; the pipeline would take two years to build, it said. (That statement is still on its website.)

Then Enbridge reduced it to a nine-month project.

Now, less than three-and-a-half months into construction, the project is nearly 50 percent complete, according to KBJR.

If construction stays on this pace, the whole thing will add up to seven months’ worth of jobs. As far as we know now, most of those jobs have gone to people who don’t live in Minnesota.

Minnesota state regulators have traded seven to eight months of jobs for decades and decade of problems. A very poor deal.

In April, Enbridge plans to take a two-month break soon, due to springtime construction restrictions. Work would resume sometime around June 1, the story said.

It’s a welcome work stoppage. Lawsuits trying to reverse Line 3 permits are working their way through the courts. Decisions from the Minnesota Court of Appeals are expected by mid-June.

Rise by the River

Hundreds of people gathered today above the Mississippi River in St. Paul to march and pray in opposition to the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline.

New Line 3 Fact Sheets

The Stop Line 3 website has posted a series of new fact sheets developed by Honor the Earth

  • The Weathered Pipes Fact Sheet raises concerns that some of Enbridge’s pipes have been exposed to the elements since 2017. That could diminish the pipe’s anti-corrosion coating and lead to premature leaks.
  • The Horizontal Directional Drilling Fact Sheet explains procedure and the risks from Enbridge’s plans to drill pipeline tunnels underneath 21 waterbodies — including the Mississippi River.
  • Another fact sheet deconstructs Enbridge’s argument that building a new Line 3 is all about safety.

One thought on “MinnPost gives Walz administration more credit than its due for environmental justice work

  1. Based on activity here near the first proposed Mississippi River crossing the morning of 3/12/21, there is no hiatus yet. MANY Enbridge work trucks at the river crossing and up the road at the gravel pit on County 2.

    Staging of materials continues at the River Crossing construction pad.

    Work continues in the woods along the scenic drive from US Highway 2, south to the North Entrance of Itasca State Park.


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