Minnesota’s handling of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline has knocked another block from our crumbling wall of democracy.
Government leaders and institution have ignored their promises, rules, logic, and even their own experts to make decisions around Line 3 that benefit powerful elites rather than consider the long-term needs of the bulk of its citizens.
Minnesota’s shrinking newsrooms have fallen flat on their collective faces, too.
As one example, there’s been no substantial critique of the precedent set of having a foreign multi-national corporation using local police as private security. There’s been no analysis of the double standard where water protectors are treated as criminals while Enbridge’s environmental damage gets a tiny financial slap on the wrist.
Unchallenged by a counter narrative, people might accept the Line 3 story as business as usual.
What follows is a collection of alternative media articles that take readers where Minnesota media failed to go. It’s an effort to weave these stories together to show the extent of the systemic bias and disparate treatment in Line 3 policing.
This is laying down a marker as a reminder for the next pipeline struggle.
Here are the highlights:
- Law enforcement committed early to a massive, coordinated response against water protectors,
- Enbridge’s Chief of Security brought to Line 3 a history of counter insurgency tactics
- From the outset, law enforcement coordinated closely with Enbridge
- Enbridge got a lot of good will from law enforcement by paying for its Line 3-related public safety expenses
- Enbridge lobbied to get a law enforcement-friendly manager to oversee the Public Safety Escrow Account
- Minnesota state law enforcement classified its Line 3-related tactics and communications as “secret,” blocking public transparency
- While it wasn’t Standing Rock, police used excessive force
Law enforcement’s Northern Lights Task Force started coordinating with Enbridge long before Line 3 construction started
In early 2019, Unicorn Riot broke the Northern Lights Task Force story: Multi-Agency Task Force Prepares “Rules of Engagement” For Line 3 Protests.
Unicorn Riot has uncovered documents revealing the creation of a task force stockpiling equipment and training police in preparation for Line 3 pipeline protests across the state. The documents show coordination between various law enforcement agencies from states across the region including Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Documents published below for the first time show that state officials have created an incident command structure to rapidly deploy ‘Mobile Response Teams’ (or ‘MRTs’) across each Minnesota State Patrol (MSP) district in Minnesota to quickly confront any protest against the pipeline. The “Northern Lights Task Force” was created in 2018 ” to coordinate planning, resources and response to the Enbridge Pipeline 3 replacement project.”
Enbridge’s chief security officer had a history of using counter-insurgency methods around the world
The Intercept profiled Enbridge Chief of Security Troy Kirby in the story: Oil Company Official Overseeing Crackdown on Pipeline Resistance Cut Teeth at Amazon and Exxon.
The head of security for the oil transport company Enbridge built his résumé managing Exxon Mobil’s response to community protests in Nigeria and helping oversee Amazon’s Global Security Operations Center, a division that has monitored environmental groups and union organizers.
Now, at Enbridge, Troy Kirby oversees efforts to combat a protest movement aimed at stopping construction of the company’s Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota. …
Enbridge’s response to the water protectors is part of a pattern of megacorporations working to quell resistance to their environmentally harmful activities. Enbridge’s close cooperation with police, including payments and intelligence sharing, has been deemed by academics and water protector critics as emblematic of corporate counterinsurgency — a suite of tactics, ranging from public relations campaigns to surveillance and support for armed force, designed to win over communities to controversial profit-making projects.
Deep coordination took place between Enbridge and local law enforcement
The following Intercept article was one of many pieces that highlighted the close coordination between Enbridge and law enforcement: Minnesota Law Enforcement Shared Intelligence on Protest Organizers With Pipeline Company.
By the time construction on Line 3, a tar sands oil pipeline, began last December, a working relationship had been established between Enbridge and police officers. A public safety official even invited the company’s Line 3 security chief to regular intelligence sharing meetings. In one case, the official passed along intelligence to Enbridge’s security chief for Line 3: a list of people who attended an anti-pipeline organizing meeting. …
How law enforcement responds to the protest movement is a matter of training and discretion. The documents obtained by The Intercept suggest that Enbridge has stepped in to influence officers’ choices.
Enbridge reimbursemented law enforcement agencies for their Line 3-related expenses, further strengthening the relationship
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved a plan to create an Enbridge-funded Public Safety Escrow Account to reimburse law enforcement agencies for Line 3-related expenses. An independent third party made reimbursement decisions. Some paid for routine patrols of Enbridge work sites, as if law enforcement was the company’s private security.
The Brennan Center for Justice’s article — How an Oil Company Pays Police to Target Pipeline Protesters — frames the issue well:
A Canadian fossil fuel company is funneling millions of dollars to local Minnesota police to protect its interests and undermine the rights of protesters, many of them from Native American tribes and environmental groups. So far, the practice of companies paying police to do their bidding has faced little public scrutiny. In this case, that’s perhaps unsurprising in light of the scarce attention often given to Native Americans’ rights.
It continues, saying the escrow account wasn’t truly an arms-length transaction. It needs to be understood in the context of the relationships Enbridge already developed with law enforcement.
While the third-party liaison reviews and approves the reimbursement requests, the functional separation of power between donor [Enbridge] and recipient [law enforcement] is questionable. Oil and gas companies, including Enbridge, have been instrumental in lobbying for the “critical infrastructure laws” that police use as a basis for arresting protesters at construction sites. Furthermore, local Minnesota law enforcement and Enbridge employees have maintained a close partnership during the construction of the Line 3 pipeline, sharing office space, participating in joint training and meetings, and trading information on protest activities.
Enbridge used its influence to select an Escrow Account manager acceptable to law enforcement, building more good will with sheriffs
Law enforcement leaders worried who state officials would choose to manage the Public Safety Escrow Account. According to The Intercept story: Local Cops Said Pipeline Company Had Influence Over Government Appointment.
Last June , Kanabec County Sheriff Brian Smith wrote an email to other sheriffs along the pipeline route. “I think we need to let the PUC know that the person [escrow account manager] selected needs to be someone that we also agree upon,” Smith wrote. “Not a member of the PUC, not a state, county or federal employee, but someone that has an understanding of rioting and MFF operations” — referring to mobile field force operations, or anti-riot policing.
In response, Enbridge offered reassurances, according to other police on the email chain. “I had a discussion with Troy Kirby (Enbridge Chief of Security) this morning, and expressed concern over that position and the escrow account,” Aitkin County Sheriff Daniel Guida replied. “He indicated they have some influence on the hiring of that positon [sic] and he would be involved to ensure we are taken care of, one way or another.”
Minnesota law enforcement blocked transparency
Stories by Unicorn Riot and The Intercept discussed law enforcement’s effort to keep potentially embarrassing information from the public.
The Unicorn Riot story — Line 3 Fusion Center Data Declared Secret — said the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) denied its request for documents detailing its role in Line 3 policing.
The BCA is part of the Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety (DPS), led by John Herrington. The BCA runs the Fusion Center.
Fusion centers are controversial intelligence hubs created around the USA during the explosion of unchecked domestic surveillance programs after the September 11, 2001 attacks and passage of the PATRIOT Act. They serve as information sharing points for local, state, and federal police as well as private security firms and corporations. …
Harrington’s security determination claims that releasing any Line 3 data from the BCA would create security threats by “making such information available to those who would create public safety hazards, or participate in criminal or terrorist activity.” (Emphasis in the original.)
Comment: This fits with efforts to paint water protectors as terrorists, even though the vast majority of Line 3 resistance has been non violent.
The Intercept article — Minnesota Law Enforcement Agency Blocks Release of Public Records About Surveilling Pipeline Opponents — said the “secrecy tag” happened after critical stories ran about the policing of anti-pipeline activists. The Minnesota Fusion Center “had in the past released records related to its policing of pipeline opponents,” the article said.
Comment: The article said the fusion center refused to release public records pertaining to Line 3 until after it’s built. Now that the pipeline is supposedly operating, we’ll see how forthcoming they are.
Classifying these matters as “secret” highlights the imbalance in access to information.
Law enforcement and Enbridge can monitor water protectors’ Facebook and other social media accounts. They can send drones over water protector camps. They can pay informants to pose as water protectors and gather information. They could even have paid for agent provocateurs to discredit water protectors.
In contrast, water protectors and the public have no access to information on Enbridge’s deliberations and strategies and what influence it had on law enforcement decisions.
While it wasn’t Standing Rock, police were intimidating and used excessive force
According to an article in Vice — An Oil Company Paid Police $2 Million to Defend Its Pipeline From Protests — “on July 29, a group of unarmed environmental activists protesting the pipeline in Thief River Falls, Minnesota were tear gassed, shot with rubber bullets, and arrested.
“It was a really brutal scene,” Tara Houska, an Ojibwe lawyer and activist who was arrested at the protest, told Motherboard. “The level of force being used, partnered with the very close range that law enforcement was facing us, led to some pretty serious injuries … It was really an extreme level of force, partnered with a really punitive and oppressive style of jailing.”
An article by the Center for Protest Law and Litigation said the Giniw Collective had to get an emergency restraining order to bar the Hubbard County Sheriff from its “blockade and obstruction of the Giniw Collective’s camp.” The order “barred the Sheriff from continuing to issue citations and threatening to arrest persons for coming to and from the camp.”
The legal scrutiny applied to water protectors is obscene compared to the lax scrutiny applied to Enbridge for its environmental violations
While water protectors have done jail time for locking down to Enbridge equipment or simply trespassing on the Line 3 corridor, state leaders have done little to penalize Enbridge for its environmental property damage.
In an apparent effort to speed up its Line 3 work, Enbridge willfully ignored its own construction plans and breached an artesian aquifer near Clearbrook on Jan. 21. Enbridge hid the problem from regulators for months. The aquifer has been draining at 106,000 gallons a day, now totaling over 25 million gallons.
Enbridge also had 28 drilling fluid spills at Horizontal Directional Drilling sites at river crossings. It released as much as 13,000 gallons of drilling mud into the environment, all permit violations.
Neither water protectors, nor probably even state regulators, have access to documents reflecting Enbridge’s internal decision making about these permit violations.
The way the system is set up, water protectors live under intense scrutiny and Enbridge gets a pass.