There are more than two dozen Independent Environmental Monitors spread out along the 337-mile Enbridge Line 3 pipeline corridor in northern Minnesota. They are supposed to be the eyes and ears for state regulators, making sure Enbridge is following all permits and rules and minimizing environmental damage.
Half of the 25 independent monitors hired to work on behalf of Minnesota state regulatory agencies have worked on Enbridge projects at some time in the past, according to monitor resumes obtained through a public information request.
It raises questions about how “independent” these monitors really are.
The Minnesota Public Commission (PUC) approved Line 3 with a requirement that Enbridge fund independent monitors. While Enbridge funds the monitors, they report directly to state regulatory agencies, such as the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Enbridge developed Line 3’s Independent Environmental Monitor Staffing Plan in coordination with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Energy Environmental Review and Analysis, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture; the DNR and the MPCA, Enbridge said.
Regulatory agency’s ceded significant decision-making to Enbridge.
First, they allowed Enbridge to choose the monitors. According to Enbridge’s plan: “Once candidates are selected by Enbridge, Enbridge will provide the resumes of each candidate to the Agencies for review and concurrence.”
Second, state regulators outsourced training the independent monitors to Enbridge. The training is similar to what Enbridge gives its own environmental inspectors.
Allowing Enbridge to select the monitors allows bias into the system. The company would seem to have an incentive to hire people it’s worked with in the past and is comfortable with. (Put another way, would Enbridge hire someone who has been a stickler on past jobs and flagged lots of problems?)
Allowing Enbridge to train monitors creates a power dynamic where independent monitors see Enbridge staff as the authority rather than state agencies.
The Line 3 Independent Environmental Monitors face their own pressure.
What’s clear from reviewing all 25 resumes is that these monitors have itinerant jobs similar to pipeline construction workers. They move from job to job, and often state to state. (One monitor worked jobs in five states, from California to Pennsylvania, over less than a decade, his resume showed. Each job lasted between six to 28 months.)
These workers have no guarantees for the next job. To the extent that they want to apply for work on future Enbridge projects, they will want to retain good working relationships. That’s human nature.
Here’s the job history for the 12 current Line 3 independent monitors who have previous work with Enbridge. Healing Minnesota Stories is choosing to use first names only. This analysis isn’t meant to throw shade on the monitors (who are dealing with the system that exists); it’s about highlighting Minnesota’s flawed regulatory system.
Three of the current Line 3 Independent Environmental Monitors — Andrew, Steve, and Tom — have extensive work histories with Enbridge prior to their current work, their resumes show.
(Note: Monitors working on Enbridge projects technically aren’t Enbridge employees. They work through consulting firms such as Merjent or Perennial Environmental Services. As a practical matter, they work for Enbridge.)
Andrew worked on Enbridge projects almost non stop for seven years, from August, 2009 – December, 2016. He worked:
- November 2013 – December 2016 on Enbridge’s Sandpiper Pipeline, first as an Environmental and Safety Inspector, then Field Supervisor Manager and then Environmental Inspector. (The pipeline never got built.)
- January – December 2012 as an Environmental Inspector for Enbridge’a Montana Alberta Tie Line Project.
- March 2011 – December 2011 as an Environmental Inspector for Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper and Southern Lights Diluent Pipeline Project.
- October – November 2010 as Site Utility Inspector for Enbridge’s SORTI Pipeline doing geotechnical investigation for Lake Sakakawea Crossing in Williams and McKenzie Counties, North Dakota.
- August 2009 – October 2010 as an Environmental Inspector for Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper and Southern Lights Diluent Pipeline.
Steve worked on Enbridge projects for seven to eight years. He worked:
- 2017 as an Environmental Compliance Inspector for an Enbridge pipeline project in Wisconsin
- 2006 – 2012, in various capacities on Enbridge’s Southern Access Project, Alberta Clipper, and LSr. “Operated at all levels of Environmental Compliance Inspection from initial survey to final restoration. Managed multiple construction spreads. Managed 25 environmental compliance professionals,” his resume said.
Here’s the relevant portion of Steve’s resume.
Tom worked about three-and-a-half years total on Enbridge projects:
- April – December in 2013, 2014 and 2015 as a Field Manager coordinating biological survey activities for the proposed Sandpiper Pipeline and Line 3 Replacement Project.
- January – March 2015 in Floodwood, Minn. doing pipeline maintenance repairs in wetlands.
- January – December 2012 as Lead Environmental Inspector, representing Enbridge during the construction of their 238 KV transmission line from Sweetgrass to Great Falls Montana.
Here’s the relevant portion of Tom’s resume.
Other Line 3 independent monitors had shorter stints with Enbridge.
Arthur worked on Enbridge’s Kalamazoo River Oil Spill Cleanup for about 12 months total in two stints between 2010 and 2012.
Ben worked July, 2008 – February, 2010 as an Environmental Inspector on both Enbridge’s Southern Access Pipeline and the Alberta Clipper.
Chad worked August – November, 2015 as an Environmental Inspector for Enbridge’s SAX Project in Illinois and from May 2013-November 2014 as Lead Environmental Inspector and liaison for the Enbridge Line 6B Replacement Project through southern Michigan.
Daryl worked from 2011 to 2012 as a Utility Inspector for Enbridge projects in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
David worked November, 2017 – April, 2018 as Lead Environmental Inspector on the Enbridge Line 4 Segment Replacement project in Cass County, Minn.
Donald worked from October, 2006 – April, 2008 as a Bending, Stringing, and Grading Inspector for Enbridge, examining contractors’ equipment for defects and proper pipe fit.
Hans worked on two Enbridge projects (no dates given). He worked as an Assistant Compliance Manager on Enbridge’s Atlantic Bridge Project. He also worked reviewing restoration environmental inspection reports for Enbridge’s Southern Access Project.
Michael worked April – October, 2013 as an Environmental Field Manager/Inspector for Enbridge’s Sandpiper Pipeline.
Susan worked for two years, from September, 2013 – September, 2015, as an Environmental/Utility Inspector Level 3 on Enbridge’s Eastern Access Project.
That’s twelve, not counting Larry.
Larry got hired as a Line 3 independent monitor after a very brief stint working on contract for Enbridge Line 3. His job included inspecting equipment along the right of way for damage and vandalism, and watching “for protestors and vandals.”