Aitkin County Sheriff to bill Enbridge 4,800 staff hours for Line 3 training and responses

And pushing back on Sheriff Guida’s claims his office didn’t take sides in the controversy

[The correct date for this blog is Nov. 11, 2021]

Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office will submit bills to the Enbridge Line 3 Public Safety Escrow Account for reimbursements for 4,800 hours of staff time dedicated to Line 3 work, Sheriff Dan Guida said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Specifically, the county will bill 4,373 hours for public safety responses and 450 hours for staff training on pipeline construction. Guida didn’t include a dollar figure for those costs. A back-of-the-envelop calculation estimates salary costs around $140,000. The final bill could go higher if it includes benefits, travel, equipment and other costs beyond salaries.

In his statement, Guida said his office stayed neutral on the conflict. That claim needs to be challenged.

Aitkin County Sheriff Dan Guida. Photo: Guida for Sheriff Facebook Page.

Aitkin County’s final bill will depend on how much Guida bills for his own time. He earns $105,000 a year, or more than $50 an hour. Sheriff’s deputies make less. On average, Minnesota Deputy Sheriffs base salary is $64,853, according to (It’s probably lower in rural counties like Aitkin.)

Let’s say Aitkin County bills the escrow account on average $25-$29 an hour. The Line 3 salary bill would be around $135,000 to 140,000. There could be additional charges, including staff benefits, mileage, equipment, etc.

On a personal note, Guida has always returned my phone calls and given me time in interviews. That’s not always the case with law enforcement and I appreciate it.

At the same time, I take issue with his statement that law enforcement was neutral.

It wasn’t, and it couldn’t be.

According to Guida’s statement:

The training was 100% intended to reduce issues in Aitkin County through sound policing, knowledge of constitutional rights, and an awareness of the laws and processes. Like any large project, this project went through extensive governmental review and delays, and in December 2020, the project started in Aitkin County.

Comment: The Anishinaabe people of northern Minnesota repeatedly claimed that the Line 3 project violated their treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather on lands they ceded to the U.S. government. At no point did it appear regulators or law enforcement took treaty rights seriously, and treaty rights are constitutional rights. (See Article VI.)

Guida’s claim that the “project went through extensive governmental review” is misleading. It gives the process more validity than it deserves. A long process isn’t is the same as a just or logical one. Regardless of how many hours regulators spent, their process was deeply flawed. That’s the core reason people were on the front lines.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) cherry-picked facts to fit its desired decision. It ignored:

  • The Minnesota Department of Commerce’s recommendation to reject Line 3’s Certificate of Need
  • The Administrative Law Judge’s conclusion that the project’s costs outweighed its benefits.
  • Treaty rights.
  • Climate science analysis that said the pipeline would create $287 billion in climate damage over three decades.

The Minnesota Senate threatened to fire state department heads to influence their Line 3 decisions. In fact, it fired Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley for going to court to overturn Line 3 permits. That’s no appeal to logic and justice, it’s old-fashioned bullying.

The process treated Indigenous people with disrespect. For starters, Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order in 2017 promising state agencies would engage in meaningful consultation with Native Nations on projects like Line 3. That didn’t happen.

Guida said law enforcement didn’t pick sides. It “met with leadership from the constructions crews and leadership from the opposition to the project,” his statement said. “We shared space with both sides, and spent our time in the middle of the situation.”

This statement ignores the fact that Guida participated in the Northern Lights Task Force. It was created in 2018 for the sole purpose of coordinating law enforcement to quickly confront Line 3 resistance, working hand-in-hand with Enbridge.

As mentioned above, Guida’s office soon will get a six-figure payment from Enbridge’s Line 3 Public Safety Escrow Account.

There’s no way that law enforcement’s front-line engagement could be neutral given its deep partnership and financial ties with Enbridge.

I can imagine some law enforcement agencies saying something like: “Hey, don’t blame us. We’re just doing our job. We didn’t approve Line 3.”

At the same time, law enforcement is part of the larger system that protects property rights over treaty rights and short-term profits over Minnesota’s long-term environmental health.

It’s an uncomfortable truth, but the Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement responders are the tip of the spear defending the broken and biased system that approved Line 3.

Click here for Guida’s full statement.

Water protectors with experiences in Aitkin County — positive of negative — are invited to share their stories below.

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