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
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Mother Earth: ‘Is there a doctor in the house?’

MPCA not living up to its mission to ‘protect and improve’ the environment

I’ve been thinking recently about comparisons between the medical and environmental protection professions.

The medical profession has gone through a significant patient care evolution in my lifetime. It used to be patients just did what the doctor said. If you had rheumatoid arthritis, you took the drugs the doctor told you to take, period. Today, there’s online medical resources and on-line support groups that help people understand their illnesses. People can crowdsource alternative treatments. Then can ask their doctors for more information or a different approach. It’s been a gradual transition, but the medical community is adapting.

Environmental protection professionals — those working for government regulators charged with protecting and healing Mother Earth — haven’t made a similar transition. They still seem to see themselves as the “experts.” Yet more and more ordinary people are getting knowledgeable about very technical environmental issues, such as crude oil pipeline construction and climate damage. They have become patient advocates for the planet. Yet regulatory agencies don’t seem to want to listen to or collaborate with the public who care deeply about these issues.

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As Enbridge races to finish Line 3 construction, more suspected frac-outs

Water Protector Shanai Matteson points to the Willow River frac-out. Screengrab from Honor the Earth video.

On July 6, water protectors found an Enbridge Line 3 frac-out at the Willow River.

On Monday, Honor the Earth reported a suspected Line 3 frac-out at the Shell River. [Update July 22: The MPCA says there was no frac-out on the shell. It did report that Enbridge has had frac-outs at nine different construction sites. Updated blog coming soon.]

Today, the Indigenous Environmental Network reported a suspected Line 3 frac-out near the Mississippi headwaters. (Video here.)

Details of the frac-outs are still coming in.

It’s possible to see frac-outs on the surface of rivers and wetlands. There could be other frac-outs below the surface that remain unseen.

How many frac-outs will it take for state regulators to require something different, or do they dismiss frac-outs as an acceptable environmental cost?

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Latest PolyMet court decision again highlights the MPCA’s failure to do its job

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA’s) mission is to protect and improve the environment and human health. It’s supposed to be the state’s leading environmental watchdog. But it’s been the kind of watchdog that, when a robber enters the room, it rolls over on its back in hopes of getting a belly rub.

The courts are doing more to protect our environment than the MPCA. That’s backwards. The MPCA should be in court pushing for more environmental protection.

The latest MPCA embarrassment came in the form of a Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling Monday that rejected the air quality permit the agency approved for PolyMet’s proposed copper-sulfide mine.

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The PUC isn’t acting in the public interest or even answering public questions about flaws in its Line 3 permits

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is a uniquely confusing state entity. It’s not a state agency. It’s not a court. It’s a quasi-judicial entity, something of a hybrid which also happens to lack both transparency and accountability.

I watched the PUC’s deliberations on the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline going back to 2017-18, and I remain confused about why the Commission seemed to bend over backwards for Enbridge and ignore the public interest.

It led me to reread the PUC’s convoluted mission statement and question whether that’s part of the problem:

The Commission’s mission is to create and maintain a regulatory environment that ensures safe, adequate and efficient utility services at fair, reasonable rates consistent with State telecommunications and energy policies. It does so by providing independent, consistent, professional and comprehensive oversight and regulation of utility service providers. One of the key functions of the commission in performing this mission is to balance the private and public interests affected in each docket, and to make decisions that appropriately balance these interests in a manner that is “consistent with the public interest.” (Emphasis added.)

PUC website

If you blur your eyes and don’t think too hard, you might think it’s reasonable. Boiling it down into its simplest terms, it makes no sense. The mission statement says the PUC is supposed to balance the private and public interest in a manner consistent with the public interest.

It implies there are two kinds of “public interest.” One is the full-blown public interest. Then the PUC balances the public interest against the corporate interest — compromising the public interest — and still comes up with a decision that’s “consistent with the public interest”?

The PUC didn’t consider the public interest in approving Line 3. The public interest was nowhere to be found.

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Water protectors highlight Willow Creek frac-out, and the out-of-whackness of state Line 3 regulators and law enforcement

A government-Enbridge alliance is doing all it can to block Minnesota citizens from observing and critiquing the construction of Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

Tania Aubid, Winona LaDuke, Shanai Matteson and other water protectors arrived around 7 a.m. this morning at the site where Enbridge is drilling a tunnel for Line 3 under the Willow River in Aitkin County. The water protectors found what appeared to be a “frac-out,” the release of pipeline drilling mud into the river.

The state’s response focused more on trying to intimidate the water protectors for their activism than addressing the frac-out, Matteson said.

It’s a sign of the state’s upside down values. It raises questions about the state’s ability and interest in protecting the environment for future generations and who state agencies are working for.

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Enbridge Line 3 stands in a long line of Minnesota’s treaty violations

This day in history, Congress creates the ‘White Earth Roll Commission’

The White Earth Nation (Gaa-waabaabiganikaag) is invoking its treaty rights to stop the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline from being built. To date, it’s had no success. For White Earth and other Ojibwe bands and nations, it’s the latest in a long string of treaty abuses.

Let’s look at one other example. On this day in history, June 30, 1913, Congress created the White Earth Roll Commission to determine which White Earth Band members were “full blooded” and which were “mixed blood.” This was not a distinction Native communities made. Congress created these designations so businesses could “legally” steal White Earth’s valuable pine lands.

On one hand, it’s a typical story about people with money and power abusing the system to enrich themselves. On the other hand, it’s a little known story about how the United States decided, in its hubris, that it could dictate who is an “Indian” and who is a “mixed blood.”

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