The MPCA failed at meaningful consultation with Native Nations on Line 3: Here’s what it did

Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order in 2019 committing the state and its various departments to “meaningful and timely consultation” with Native Nations on issues of mutual concern. So what did the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA’s) “meaningful consultation” look like around Enbridge Line 3? Second in a two-part series.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) failed to engage Native Nations in “meaningful consultation” around the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline’s Water Quality Permit, according to documents obtained through the state’s Data Practices Act.

Part I of the series discussed the MPCA’s weak Tribal Consultation Policy. Written in 2013, it defines “consultation” as “a process of meaningful communication and coordination” between the MPCA and Tribal Nations.

“Meaningful consultation” should change the MPCA’s business as usual. For Line 3 it didn’t.

The state’s commitment to “meaningful consultation” isn’t just a “Native Nations” issue. Many white and other non-Indigenous Minnesotans want the state to live up to this commitment. This is one part of a broader reparations work that needs to happen.

Making one more promise to Native Nations and breaking it recreates the historical harms.


Having access to consultation records is one part of holding the MPCA accountable.

In response to the information request, MPCA sent 18 unique documents. Of those, 12 were emails, five were PDFs, and one was an Excel spread sheet. None of those documents discuss the changes and outcomes that resulted from the consultation. They document the MPCA’s process, mostly around information sharing.

The MPCA wrote that the agency’s Tribal Liaison would likely have records “outlining a higher level of consultation” but she is out of the office until fall. Agency staff promised to provide additional information when it becomes available.

Access to this information shouldn’t depend on one staff person. Consultation should be taking place with the agency’s decision makers, and they should know the record.

Further, the MPCA’s Tribal Consultation Policy says the agency “will work together with the Tribes to build an administration record of the consultation.” There doesn’t appear to be such a record on Line 3.

Here’s a summary of the information received.

Excel Spread Sheet

The Excel Spread Sheet is titled “Outreach.” On the “Tribal” tab, it has 29 entries on consultation with no details.

Screen shot of part of the spread sheet.

PDFS

The MPCA provided five documents that were shared with Tribal leaders:

  • 4/15/2019: A draft document with MPCA’s comments on Enbridge’s Water Quality Certificate and Enbridge’s responses.
  • 4/15/2019: A draft document with state agencies’ comments on Enbridge’s Line 3 Environmental Protection Plan, and Enbridge’s responses.
  • 5/3/2019: A draft document with MPCA comments on Enbridge’s permit application for hydrostatic testing activities for Line 3, and Enbridge’s responses.
  • 5/6/2019: A draft document with MPCA’s comments and Enbridge’s responses to the company’s construction permit including such things as a storm water pollution protection plan.
  • 10/17/2019: A draft Interagency memo on Wetland Mitigation Ratios.

Emails

4/29/2019: Melissa Kuskie, Manager for Certifications, Environmental Review & Rules Section at the MPCA, emails a staff member at the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa to introduce herself.

“I understand that our Commissioner’s Office – together with DNR – has reached out to your tribal chairperson to possibly initiate formal government-to-government consultation on the Enbridge Line 3 Project, and a meeting may be scheduled in the weeks ahead,” the email said.

Comment: The MPCA provided no information on whether this high-level meeting took place.

The email continues: “I wanted to reach out to you in the meantime while we’re still reviewing the application and making additional information requests of the applicant, to discuss any issues of specific interest you’d like the MPCA to consider in its review.”

4/29/2019: Kuskie sends a similar email to the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

5/10/19: Kuskie emails Ojibwe nations four of the five PDFs above.

“We welcome your input on any additional topics or concerns on the project applications that may help inform our review,” the email says.

5/15/2019: Peter Tester, MPCA Deputy Commissioner, emails staff at the Prairie Island Indian Community with a brief overview of MPCA’s Line 3 permits.

“We, the MPCA, are more than happy to set up a time to run through our work with you, so please let me know if you would like such a briefing,” he writes.

5/15/2019: Tester sends Prairie Island staff information he promised in his earlier email.

File: White Earth Chairman Michael Fairbanks has pressed Gov. Walz for meaningful consultation on Line 3.

11/22/2019: Kuskie emails White Earth staff providing hyperlinks the MPCA’s Line 3 webpage, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource’s (DNR’s) web page, and Enbridge’s request for a Water Quality Certificate.

11/22/2019: Internal email from Kuskie to Helen Waquiu, MPCA’s tribal consultant. It refers to a Sept. 23 tribal/state coordination meeting.

Comment: There was no additional information on this meeting.

1/15/2020: Per request, Kuskie emails Grand Portage staff a link to Enbridge’s document: “Downstream Waters That Support Natural Wild Rice Stands.” It estimates the distance of wild rice stands to the Line 3 route.

2/16/2020: Email from Melissa Kuskie, MPCA, to 26 Tribal contacts with a link to the Pre-public Notice of Enbridge’s draft Line 3 Water Certification Certificate. She lets them know about an upcoming public hearing.

2/18/2020: Kuskie resends 2/16 email to Leech Lake.

2/23/2020: Email from Kuskie to 25 contacts at Native Nations updating them on minor changes to Line 3’s Water Quality Certificate.

3/30/2020: Kuskie emails staff at the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior in Wisconsin with a link to the Interagency memo on Wetland Mitigation Ratios.

That’s what we know about the MPCA’s “meaningful consultation.”

Comments?

One thought on “The MPCA failed at meaningful consultation with Native Nations on Line 3: Here’s what it did

  1. “Meaningful” and “Consultation” both denote and connote dialogue, 2-way communication and collaboration in the results. Neither word seems to apply to what we see here. Boo and hiss, MPCA, boo and hiss.

    Like

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