Treaty People Walk for Water Aug. 7-25, Gazelka puts undue influence on MPCA to approve Line 3, and more

In this blog:

  • Treaty People Walk for Water, Aug. 7-25
  • Gazelka crosses line in Line 3 lobbying
  • What we know, and don’t know, about Enbridge’s drilling mud and frac-outs
  • MPCA not providing information on Line 3 frac-outs
  • Comments critical of the MPCA disappear from the MPCA’s Facebook Page.
  • Concerns raised that a federal bill gives “blank check” to crack down on pipeline protesters

Treaty People Walk for Water Aug. 7-25

Water protectors are organizing a two-week water walk, starting near the Mississippi Headwaters and ending at the Minnesota State Capitol, to continue the pressure on political leaders to Stop the Line 3 Tar Sands Pipeline.

Facebook Event Page here.

In the style of walks led by the American Indian Movement (AIM), people are asked to join in a prayerful walk in solidarity with Mississippi River, “Nibi” (water), and to #HonortheTreaties that all of our ancestors signed.

The walk will start at Coffee Pot Landing on August 7th. Organizers are planning a large welcome event at the Capitol Aug. 25 to celebrate the walkers, and to tell President Biden to step in and direct the Army Corps to cancel this pipeline’s permits.

Organizers are asking for your support in any capacity you have. You are invited to join some or all of the walk, host walkers, and join events along the route. For more information, please look at the expectations document and sign up on our google form.

Gazelka crosses line in Line 3 lobbying

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka left a voicemail for then-Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Commissioner Laura Bishop on the eve of a key Line 3 decision in a transparent attempt to influence her decision.

Gazelka, (R-East Gull Lake) called Bishop and left a voice mail urging her approval of Line 3, MinnPost reported: “I just can’t stress enough how important it is that you do your job with these and that the permits get issued,” Gazelka told Bishop.

Gazelka downplayed the voice mail, calling it “respectful advocacy,” MinnPost said.

That’s bunk.

Sen. Majority Leader Paul Gazelka

The Minnesota Senate has been using Commissioner appointment hearings as a way to influence and intimidate policy makers. For instance, last September the Senate sacked Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley for pursuing a lawsuit to overturn Line 3 permits. The Senate hadn’t confirmed Kelley yet. After Commerce refiled the lawsuit, the Senate called up Kelley’s confirmation vote and rejected his appointment.

Kelley didn’t violate any ethics rules. He didn’t break the law. The Senate didn’t argue he wasn’t qualified. It was a policy dispute.

In the fall of 2020, Bishop was under Senate scrutiny for the MPCA’s clean car initiative. She hadn’t been confirmed yet, either. She saw what happened to Kelley. Gazelka’s call was far from “respectful advocacy.” The message was clear: “Approve Line 3 or you’re next!”

In spite of the fact that she approved Line 3, Bishop resigned in June rather than face a contentious confirmation hearing.

My friend Andy Pearson offered this reflection:

What we need for this story to work is a stronger protagonist — an MPCA commissioner who stands up to the intimidation and does the right thing by the science and by her agency’s Environmental Justice Advisory Group, and denies the permits. Unfortunately, that’s not what we got. I do appreciate the Clean Cars policy, but its positive impact is undone hundreds of times over by Line 3.

Andy Pearson

What we know, and don’t know, about Enbridge’s drilling mud and frac-outs

Enbridge is tunneling under 21 water bodies and wetlands to install it’s Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline. The process is called Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD). It requires “drilling mud,” something that helps lubricate and cool the drill bit and keeps the tunnel open. This mud can seep through cracks in the subsoil and get pushed outside the tunnel and up to the surface. This is called a “frac-out.”

Christy Dolph, a Ph.D. in water resources science and member of Science for the People, created this image and explanation of a frac-out that occurred near the Mississippi Headwaters. The frac-outs are marked in orange.

Credit: Christy Dolph

Dolph also prepared a Drilling Mud Fact Sheet, which includes the following:

  • There are 17 different drilling fluid additives that Enbridge may be using at different locations along the Line 3 route.
  • MPCA confirmed that the additive in the drilling fluid spilled in the ‘frac-outs’ at its first Mississippi River crossing was Polyselect Power PACTM-L.
  • Neither MPCA nor Enbridge has disclosed the chemical composition of the Polyselect drilling fluid, which is listed as a trade secret.
  • Drilling mud contains bentonite, a very fine sediment that will stress aquatic life if spilled into rivers and wetlands. Fine sediments can clog the gills and suffocate aquatic life like mussels, insects, and fish.

Click on the Fact Sheet link above for more details.

Legislators press the MPCA for more transparency on Line 3 frac-outs

More than 30 legislators have written the MPCA asking the agency to be more transparent about Line 3 frac-outs and requesting a work stoppage until the drought abates. The letter says:

We write to express our concerns with the reported releases of drilling fluid at nine separate locations along the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline route. The severe drought and excessive heat experienced throughout Minnesota impact the ability of waterways, wetlands, and marshes to effectively dilute harmful chemicals and excessive sediment. The drought is also causing rapid evaporation of waterways and could result in a lack of clean water available to assist with any cleanup of spills and releases. …

Given the frequency and nature of these releases, we are asking that you temporarily suspend the Section 401 Certification and order Enbridge to immediately halt all drilling along the Line 3 route until the state is no longer experiencing drought conditions and until a thorough investigation can be completed by your agency so that the causes of these releases are fully understood and further releases can be avoided.

Legislator’s letter

The letter includes a lengthy list of information requests, from the dates and locations of each spill to a comprehensive list of pollutants spilled.

Comments critical of the MPCA disappear from MPCA’s Facebook Page

On a July 20 Facebook post, the MPCA invited public comments seeking “bold ideas” for addressing climate change.

It’s hard to take the MPCA seriously.

The agency approved Line 3 which it knew would add $287 billion in climate damage over three decades, according to state estimates. (The MPCA wrote a letter to other state regulators commending the analysis.)

The MPCA ignored the concerns from many, many residents about Line 3’s climate impacts. It missed its biggest and best opportunity to address the problem.

The MPCA’s Facebook Post is like the farmer posting online seeking ideas for better barn door designs after he intentionally left the old barn door wide open and shooed the cows out himself.

I know a number of people who left comments critical of the agency on its Facebook Post, me included, but checking again today there were only two.

Mine was gone. I don’t have it word for word, but it went something like this:

Your mission statement is “to protect and improve the environment and human health.” You have failed to live up to your mission, for example approving Line 3 and the PolyMet Mine. My idea for bold action is that you live up to your mission statement. Otherwise, be honest with the public and change it to your actual practice: “We help corporations get the permits they want.”

Sarcastic? Yes. But at some point a critical mass of agency staff has to be embarrassed enough about the disconnect between the mission and agency actions to push for change.

Want to add a comment to the MPCA Facebook Page? Here’s the link.

Concerns raised that a federal bill is a ‘blank check’ to crack down on pipeline protesters

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bi-partisan energy security bill that has alarmed some environmental and Indigenous activists, reports the Grist. The legislation could not only address cyber attacks, but because of its overly broad language, it could be used to stifle pipeline protesters.

Its opponents “argue that encouraging states to counter unspecified physical threats could be read as an invitation to quell or even criminalize protests against fossil fuel pipelines, like those currently targeting construction of Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement pipeline in Minnesota.”

Click on the link above for more details.

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