MN DNR receives $2.2 million from Enbridge for Line 3 security services, raising more conflict-of-interest questions

Enbridge paid the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) $2.17 million for protecting its Line 3 tar sands pipeline. That’s according to a Feb. 12 letter from Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to the DNR.

The money came from the Enbridge-funded Line 3 Public Safety Escrow Account. The letter provided the following breakdown of the DNR’s reported costs:

  • Conservation Officer time responding to Line 3 “incidents”: $870,283
  • Conservation Officer training: $714,995
  • Personal Protective Equipment: $351,224
  • DNR management costs: $156,870
  • Purchased services for the coordination of supplies and resources: $34,250
  • Miscellaneous DNR Conservation Officer staff time not included in Line 3 response, $24,553
  • Staff meals during Line 3 responses and training: $18,884

(I first read this story on the MN Dept. of Snark Twitter account, which is dedicated to “Pushing government accountability one blast thread at a time.” Check it out.)

Reimbursements from the Line 3 Public Safety Escrow Account have topped $7 million now. In addition to the $2.1 million DNR reimbursements, the escrow account had doled out an additional $5.1 million, according to a spread sheet provided by the PUC. The vast majority went to local law enforcement agencies for their Line 3 training and responses. A small amount of that money — roughly $200,000 — went to service providers for victims of human trafficking.)

These financial arrangements raise questions about whether state-funded public safety services are impartial. The DNR and law enforcement had incentives to respond to any requests for Line 3 requests knowing they would be reimbursed. Further, the system built a cozy relationship between a foreign company and our law enforcement system.

The DNR submitted one invoice only, covering all its Line 3-related expenses from July 18, 2018 to Feb. 2, 2022. I’m guessing the DNR delayed filing to avoid the pr hit it would have taken if this news of the payments would have come out during pipeline construction.

While it was taking Enbridge money, the DNR showed lax oversight of the Line 3 pipeline.

(Note: It’s partially the PUC’s fault. It approved a system that allowed Enbridge to select and train the Independent Environmental Monitors who worked on behalf of the DNR, a deeply flawed system. DNR’s professional staff was not a constant presence on the ground.)

The most glaring example of how the system failed comes from Clearwater County. Enbridge violated its pipeline construction plans there, digging a deeper than proposed though an environmentally sensitive area. Workers punctured an artesian aquifer on Jan. 21, 2021, ultimately releasing millions and millions of gallons of water to the surface. The DNR didn’t learn about the breach until June 15, nearly five months after the fact. The DNR waited months before informing the public. It took more months to get it fixed.

The DNR’s work on Line 3 ran counter to its mission statement: “to work with Minnesotans to conserve and manage the state’s natural resources, to provide outdoor recreation opportunities, and to provide for commercial uses of natural resources in a way that creates a sustainable quality of life.”

The DNR’s support for Line 3 did not conserve the state’s natural resources, it destroyed them. It did not provide commercial uses that create a sustainable quality of life. Line 3’s construction harmed the quality of life for many people on or near the route, particularly Indigenous residents. It was done in the name of fossil fuel infrastructure, a system that is not sustainable.

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