An Executive Order that wasn’t, Capitol Rally to oppose Line 3 dewatering, Shell River Rally, and more

In this blog:

  • The Executive Order that wasn’t
  • White Earth pushes against Line 3 dewatering increases, Capitol rally Wednesday at 3 p.m.
  • Women for the Rivers Rally at Shell River Thursday, noon-3 p.m., with V and Marisa Tomei
  • Last push for Line 3 monitors; we need eyes on the Horizontal Directional Drilling sites

The Executive Order that wasn’t

The term “Executive Order” has a muscular sound to it. It combines two strong words “executive” and “order.”

Turns out an “executive order” is code for “empty promise.”

In 2019, Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan issued an executive order promising stronger ties and collaboration with Native Nations.

It committed state agencies to meaningful and timely consultation, developing and maintaining “ongoing consultation with the Minnesota Tribal Nations related to each area where the agency’s work intersects with Minnesota Tribal Nations.”

The order said agencies “must consider the input gathered from tribal consultation into their decision-making processes, with the goal of achieving mutually beneficial solutions.”

The Walz/Flanagan executive order went into effect April 19, 2019. When it comes to the controversial issue of Enbridge Line 3, the Executive Order has been an utter flop.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) reviewed Line 3’s water crossing permit. Line 3 crosses treaty-protected territory. Both construction and future oil spills threaten clean water and wild rice.

The MPCA approved the Line 3 permit Nov. 12, 2020 with no meaningful consultation with Native Nations.

Just recently, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) gave Enbridge a massive increase in its Line 3 dewatering permit, from 500 million gallons to 5 billion gallons. It made the approval during a drought. It made the approval without tribal consultation and against tribal wishes.

It raises the question: What if any meaning or authority do executive orders carry?

I wrote the Minnesota Attorney General’s office to ask how I could file a complaint to enforce the Walz/Flanagan an executive order.

I received an email from John Stiles, the Attorney General’s Deputy Chief of Staff, explaining why he couldn’t answer my question.

I’m sorry that I’m not able to help: essentially, you’re asking for legal advice and unfortunately we are not able to provide that to private individuals. It is also the case that it is the role of the Attorney General’s office to defend executive orders against legal challenges, so it would be unethical for the office to offer you advice about how to bring a challenge. I recommend you consult with a private attorney. 

John Stiles, Deputy Chief of Staff, Minnesota Attorney General’s Office

His answer was disappointing, his reasoning a stretch. I was asking for basic information, not legal advice. I just wanted to know the process for filing a complaint based on an executive order.

Further, the suggestion that I should “consult with an attorney” points to a fundamental flaw in our legal system. “Consult” means “pay.” Those with money have access to the legal system. That leaves out a lot of people. It shouldn’t cost money to require the Governor and Lt. Governor to do what they promised to do.

Maybe Stiles didn’t want to state the obvious: Executive Orders are just a piece of paper, only as meaningful as the current Governor wants to make them.

Frank Bibeau, an attorney for Honor the Earth and executive director of the 1855 Treaty Authority, calls the Walz/Flanagan executive order “camouflage.”

“It doesn’t mean what it says,” Bibeau said.  “Otherwise, there would be some meaning to the consultation – and results.”

White Earth pushes against Line 3 dewatering increases

Tribal Council Representatives and members from the White Earth Nation will be at the Minnesota State Capitol Wednesday from 3-4:30 p.m. requesting Nation-to-Nation dialogue with Gov. Tim Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and U.S. Pres. Joe Biden to insist that federal trust responsibilities are respected, treaties are honored, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR’s) Line 3 dewatering permits are revoked, the pipeline is stopped, and the Rights of Manoomin are respected under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.

Facebook event page here.

Press conference video screen grab. From L-R: Winona LaDuke, Frank Bibeau, Alan Roy, and Ray Auginaush, Sr.

The White Earth Nation Business Council held a press conference Friday to address these issues.

Alan Roy, the Secretary Treasurer of the White Earth Nation, expressed great concern about Enbridge’s ramped up dewatering plan for Line 3 construction during the drought. White Earth had spoken to DNR Commissioner Sarah Stromman and asked her to suspend the pipeline’s dewatering permits. She declined.

Roy pressed both Walz and Flanagan, who is enrolled in White Earth, to stop the dewatering.

“We are calling upon you for your help,” he said. “We need your help. Our sacred food needs your help. Our water needs your help. Our people need your help.”

Winona LaDuke, co-founder of Honor the Earth and White Earth member, said Line 3 is crossing the Crow Wing and Shell River systems. “They are at 25 percent capacity according to your DNR reports,” she said. “That same river system is where you have allowed Enbridge to take 3 billion gallons more water out of already dry rivers, affecting to great detriment our wild rice and medicinal plants.”

On July 6, most of Minnesota was either in moderate drought (pale orange) or severe drought (orange). Source: U.S. government

Women for the Rivers Rally at Shell River Thursday @ noon

Water Protectors and special guest supporters from the arts and environmental worlds are rallying near the Shell River Thursday, following a week or more of consistently questionable police tactics and Line 3 arrests.

The Treaty Rights rally, called “Women for the Rivers,” will run from noon to 3 p.m. at the Shell City Campground, in Menahga, MN, south of Park Rapids.

Facebook Event Page here.

The Shell River is one of 19 sites where Enbridge is drilling its Line 3 pipeline under a waterbody or wetland. Enbridge already had one problematic “Frac-Out” at its Willow River crossing. While boring the pipeline tunnel, drilling fluid escaped the tunnel and worked its way to the surface, in this case into the bottom of the Willow River. This is polluting and forced Enbridge to stop construction at the site, at least temporarily.

This Frac-Out originally went unreported by Enbridge and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Joining Indigenous women leaders will be special guests, including V (formerly Eve Ensler, the celebrated writer of The Vagina Monologues), Academy Award-winning actress Marisa Tomei, Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, and others.

Can’t make it? The event will be live-streamed from Honor the Earth’s Facebook page.

Last push for Line 3 monitors; we need eyes on Line 3’s Horizontal Directional Drilling sites

Watch the Line volunteers have been working since last fall to legally monitor Line 3 construction. We expect construction to be done by the end of August.

We are making one last push to recruit volunteers to go north and observe Line 3’s Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) sites, where the company bores a pipeline tunnel under a river or wetland.

We have just posted an abbreviated (30 minute) on-line training video on how to document Line 3 construction and submit observations to our website.

Here is a link to the video.

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