PUC allows Enbridge to save hundreds of millions of dollars by shifting burden to future Minnesotans, and more

In this blog:

  • PUC allows Enbridge to save hundreds of millions of dollars by shoving future pipeline cleanup costs onto Minnesotans
  • Non violent treaty camp makes important statement, gets little media coverage
  • Help protect wild rice from mining pollution
  • This Day in History June 18, 1934: The Indian “New Deal” stops privatization of Indian lands

PUC allows Enbridge to save hundreds of millions of dollars by shoving future pipeline cleanup costs onto Minnesotans

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved Enbridge’s new and larger Line 3 tar sands pipeline without requiring the company to clean up its old and deteriorating Line 3 pipeline.

Instead, Enbridge is abandoning as much of the old Line 3 as it can in the ground. It’s creating new right-of-way, clear cutting more trees, and installing a new Line 3 in a brand new trench.

It’s one of many ways Enbridge bamboozled the state. This particular PUC gaff will save Enbridge hundreds of millions of dollars, shifting those costs to future Minnesotans.

Enbridge got the PUC to agree to a “Landowner Choice Program.” Under the plan, landowners have the choice between asking the company to remove the old pipeline or taking a one-time lump-sum payment to leave it in the ground.

Enbridge was supposed to provide landowners the information they needed to make an informed choice, including that they could hire a consulting engineer at Enbridge’s expense. An attorney for a group of landowners said the company wasn’t living up to its agreement, failing to provide adequate information.

The landowners took the issue to the PUC, thus putting Enbridge’s bottom line savings into full public view.

Carlton County, June 2021. Photo: Watch the Line

Enbridge is offering landowners $10 per linear foot to leave the old pipeline in the ground, according to a story in the Star Tribune.

Let’s do the math. The old Line 3 is 282 miles long. If Enbridge were able to pay off every landowner a one-time payment of $10 per foot, it would cost the company approximately $15 million (5,280 feet in a mile, times 282 miles of pipeline, times $10 a foot.)

Had the PUC required Enbridge to remove and clean up the old Line 3, it was going to cost Enbridge $1.2 billion. So if Enbridge were able to get everyone to take the one-time payment, it would save a billion dollars, or more than one-third of the $2.8 billion Line 3 project cost in Minnesota.

“So far, Enbridge has signed 737 agreements with landowners to keep the old pipeline in place,” the Star Tribune reported. “Pipeline removal has been requested by landowners of 38 tracts; owners of 227 tracts of land haven’t made a decision.”

Following the landowners’ legal challenge, the PUC is requiring Enbridge to notify the undecided landowners to let them know the resources available to support their choice. Yet the Commission isn’t requiring any evaluation of whether landowners who already inked a deal with Enbridge were duped.

Why is the PUC working so hard to save Enbridge money? It seems like another example where the Commission has aligned with corporate interests over Minnesota interests.

One open question is whether the state of Minnesota itself will ask Enbridge to remove the old Line 3 from state-owned lands, or whether it will take the lump-sum payment.

Enbridge’s preferred route would cross nearly 40 miles of state lands, or more than 10 percent of the entire route, according to Chapter 6 of the Line 3 Environmental Impact Statement (page 6-749). They include:

  • Bowstring State Forest (28.2 miles)
  • Mississippi Headwaters State Forest (4.7 miles)
  • Savanna State Forest (2.6 miles)
  • Fond du Lac State Forest (2.4 miles)
  • Welsh Lake State Forest (1.1 miles)

Healing Minnesota Stories submitted an information request to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources May 6 asking about how it was going to respond to the Landowner Choice Program. Still waiting for a response.

The federal government will face the same question. Line 3 would cross 5.8 miles of the Chippewa National Forest.

Non violent treaty camp makes important statement, gets little media coverage

For a week, Anishanabee women and their supporters occupied the site where Enbridge plans to bore its Line 3 pipeline under the Mississippi River headwaters.

It was called Camp Fire Light, and it was a treaty camp, not a protest camp. Anishinaabe leaders were exercising their rights to hunt, fish and gather in the 1855 Treaty Territory. They invited non-Indigenous allies to attend.

Posted at Camp:

People did not chain themselves to equipment. There weren’t helicopters flying low to kick up dust into the faces of Line 3 protesters. There weren’t the kind of things that get intense media coverage.

But it was a beautiful thing. People fasted. People prayed. People created community.

Credit goes to the Clearwater County Sheriff Darin Halverson as well as those treaty people gathered in ceremony. Halverson treated people with respect and contributed to a peaceful end of the event without confrontation or massive jail lock ups.

Indian Country Today did a good write up, check it out: Sheriff, water protectors keep peace at Enbridge site.

Help protect wild rice from mining pollution

For years, business interests have exercised political pressure to keep the state of Minnesota from protecting wild rice from mining pollution. As one result, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has failed to even publish a list of impaired wild rice waters.

Listing wild rice waters as impaired under the Clean Water Act would equire their protection from further pollution and a plan to restore them.

This year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exercised oversight under the federal Clean Water Act, according to WaterLegacy, an organization formed to counter the threat of sulfide mining in Northern Minnesota. EPA disapproved MPCA’s failure to list sulfate impaired waters and proposed to list 30 Minnesota wild rice waters polluted with sulfate.

WateLegacy is asking for the public’s help to encourage the EPA to protect wild rice, clean water, and the exercise of tribal treaty rights.

Comment today to support EPA and protect wild rice from sulfate pollution!

The loss of wild rice is accelerating due to climate change impacts, such as temperature fluctuation and water volume variability, WaterLegacy said. This sacred plant and the Minnesota communities who rely on wild rice for healthy nutrition and exercise of treaty rights need your help.

This Day in History June 18, 1934: The Indian “New Deal” stops privatization of Indian lands

In a long litany of broken treaties, the Dawes Act of 1887 ranks among the worst. The U.S. government broke up community-held tribal lands and forced private land ownership onto Indian families as one form of assimilation, and another way to steal Indian lands.

The Dawes Act contributed to significant land loss in Indian Country. The government gave Indigenous heads of household a certain amount of acreage within the reservation, 40 to 160 acres per family, according to the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. After divvying it up, there was still plenty of reservation lands left over. The federal government declared it “excess” land and sold it to white settlers or businesses.

Some Indian families eventually sold their individual lots, as they couldn’t make a living there.

This federal law altered treaties without negotiations and without Indigenous nations’ consent.

The Minnesota Congressional delegation pushed Minnesota’s version of the Dawes Act, called the Nelson Act, in 1889. It was euphemistically called “An act for the relief and civilization of the Chippewa Indians in the State of Minnesota. More on the act’s namesake here.

On this day in history, June 18, 1934, the federal government passed the Indian Reorganization Act, also called the Indian New Deal, which put an end to any additional allotments. Yet the damage done was massive.

At the start of the Dawes Act, Indians held 138 million acres nationally. By 1934, Indian land holdings dropped to 48 million acres or a 65 percent loss.

John Collier, the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs under President Franklin Roosevelt, pushed the Indian New Deal. In retrospect, it’s received mixed reviews, according to analysis in Wikipedia. The Indian New Deal protected Indian’s traditional religious practices, obtained additional relief money for reservations, and provided a structure for self-government. However, it failed stimulate the Indian economy and provide “a usable structure for Indian politics.”

As MNOpedia explains, the boilerplate Indian Reorganization Act constitutions “centralized power in the Tribal Councils or a similar governing body,” a templates that “failed to accommodate traditional leadership structures and other community lifeways.”

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