Local media fails to cover Line 3’s harms; Michigan cites treaty rights to justify revoking Line 5’s easement

Local media has provided pretty thin coverage of Enbridge Line 3’s harms, including recent news about the human trafficking sting that included the arrests of two Line 3 workers.

The Star Tribune ran one story on the arrests; MPR hasn’t run even one, according to searches of their websites.

The Native American community and allies repeatedly raised concerns about the link between projects such as Line 3 and human trafficking. They warned state regulators about the risk and real-world harm to women and other relatives.

As we wrote yesterday, the PUC approved Line 3 without providing meaningful accountability for Enbridge to monitor and address human trafficking problems. The public has no way of knowing the extent of the problem beyond the recent arrests. No government agency is tracking information about Line 3’s harms, including sexual harassment and human trafficking.

If there’s no data, people are left believing that there isn’t a problem. The fact is, we know little because regulators aren’t looking and local media isn’t reporting on it.

Some independent media outlets have brought a more critical eye and reporting leg work to Line 3’s harms. For instance, Tuesday the website Truthout ran the article: Exploiting More Than the Land: Sex Violence Linked to Enbridge Line 3 Pipeliners.

One former pipeline worker told Truthout he witnessed a culture of rampant misogyny and sexual harassment at the Line 3 sites he worked last year, despite Enbridge’s mandatory human trafficking and sexual harassment trainings. …

Fond du Lac Band member Jason Goward told Truthout many of his former co-workers made sexual “jokes” at work sites, and one in particular made comments “about hookers” at a Line 3 site just north of the reservation in Floodwood that were so lewd, he had to walk away from the conversation. “It’s not cool. They think it’s funny and cute,” he says. “I’m pretty sure if they’re that way on the job, then they’re that way out in public too on their time off.”


Where’s the local media? Why isn’t it providing this kind of coverage?

Line 3 promotional ad run in the Star Tribune.

The most information about Line 3 that StarTribune readers get is through the half-page ads Enbridge runs, touting the pipeline’s so-called “benefits.” Last fall, Enbridge ran a half-page ad titled “A Safe Economic Boost for Minnesota” 14 times in both the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press, according to Jerry Striegel, an MN350 volunteer who tracks the ads.

The half-page ads now running are ironically titled: “We’re engaging with Minnesota Tribes and creating opportunities for their citizens and communities to benefit.”

Striegel says the Line 3 ads go back to 2017.

MPR is running Enbridge ads, too, or its non-profit version of ads that help boost Enbridge’s brand name.

The Duluth News Tribune broke the human trafficking sting story on Feb. 23. Since that time, MPR ran two stories on Line 3, neither about the arrests, according to search of its website. It ran a story from Indian Country Today, “Enbridge Line 3 divides Indigenous lands,” (Feb. 24) and “Leaders of tribal nations in MN ask Walz to pause Line 3 work during legal appeal” (Feb. 26).

Maybe our local media is working on in-depth investigative pieces. I really hope so.

I know there is a wall between the media’s news and advertising departments. I know newsrooms have taken repeated staffing hits. Still, it’s a really bad look when local media is taking Enbridge cash and doing so little to cover Line 3’s downside.

The Line 3 influence and PR campaign has been going on for years. The group LittleSis issued the 2017 report: The University of Minnesota Duluth Sold Its Credibility to Enbridge. Can It Get It Back? It called out the Duluth News Tribune’s hidden role in promoting Line 3.

The report unveiled how pro-Line 3 groups tried to manufacture public support for the pipeline. They financed a University of Minnesota-Duluth study — and influenced the study — to promote the pipeline’s so-called economic benefits.

Here are two key take-aways from the report:

  • An Enbridge consulting firm and an Enbridge-backed business group paid UMD over $15,000 to produce the study. None of this was disclosed in the study.
  • The Duluth News Tribune finances and directs the group that commissioned the UMD report, but doesn’t disclose this in positive editorials that tout the UMD’s study’s findings.

Those opposing Line 3 don’t have Enbridge-type funding to run ads and give the counter narrative. That makes critical local media coverage all the more important. From what I’ve read, it’s not there.

Michigan cites treaty rights as justification to revoke Enbridge Line 5’s Great Lakes easement

We’ve reported previously on Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s bold decision to revoke Enbridge Line 5’s easement to run along the floor of the Straits of Mackinac (Governor envy, Feb. 13). Line 5, like Line 3, carries tar sands crude oil.

Michigan Radio reported last Friday that treaty rights were part of the Governor’s justification.

Cited in the revocation, for the first time in the history of Line 5, Michigan’s administration officially acknowledged nearly 200-year-old Indigenous Chippewa and Ottawa treaty rights as one of the reasons to shut down the pipeline project and protect Great Lakes ecology and fisheries.

“The Ojibwe [Chippewa] in Michigan signed five different treaties throughout history, but the really big treaty that everyone talks about is the 1836 Treaty of Washington,” says Whitney Gravelle, in-house counsel and tribal attorney for the Bay Mills Indian Community. “We ceded almost 14 million acres of territory, but in return we asked for certain rights, the most important being our continued relationship with the water and our right to fish and provide food for our families.” 

Michigan Radio

It seems like Gov. Tim Walz could made a similar argument here in Minnesota, if he chose to.

For the full story: Treaty rights acknowledged for first time in oil pipeline’s controversial history.

4 thoughts on “Local media fails to cover Line 3’s harms; Michigan cites treaty rights to justify revoking Line 5’s easement

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