PUC Discusses Protests After Line 3 Vote, Police Response and Sex Trafficking

Day Four of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) deliberations on Enbridge Line 3 included concerns about  possible civil disobedience after the vote, how law enforcement should respond, and plans to mitigate the sex trafficking and drug problems that can follow these large construction projects. Continue reading

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Standing Rock Update: Iron Eyes Lawyers Allowed to Subpeona Tiger Swan; Some Key Evidence Likely Destroyed

Attorneys for water protectors at the Standing Rock say they had a significant victory in court Wednesday, including the right to key information that the state so far has withheld. They also won the right to depose members of the private security firm Tiger Swan as well as other law enforcement officials.

The legal team also learned that key evidence most likely was destroyed.

Quick check in: Standing Rock hasn’t been in the news recently, as attention has shifted to efforts to stop the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline through Minnesota. But water protector cases are still being prosecuted in North Dakota, long after the Dakota Access Pipeline forced its way under the Missouri River near Standing Rock.

The Lakota Peoples Law Project sends out periodic updates on the cases against Chase Iron Eyes and HolyElk Rafferty. Here is the most recent update:

For months, the State of North Dakota has failed to pursue or provide required evidence to the defense team representing Lakota People’s Law Project Lead Counsel Chase Iron Eyes. At a crucial hearing on Tuesday, Apr. 4, Judge Lee Christofferson made several rulings in favor of the defense.

Christofferson ruled that Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier and the State of North Dakota must hand over all missing evidence by May 1, and he scolded the deputy state’s attorney for his lack of action. Christofferson also granted defense lawyer Alex Reichert and Lakota People’s Law Project attorneys Daniel Sheehan and Lanny Sinkin the authority to subpoena employees of TigerSwan, the mercenary security firm hired by Dakota Access pipeline parent company Energy Transfer Partners. Our defense team alleges that TigerSwan ran a targeted, racist, no-holds-barred surveillance and smear campaign against Chase and other water protectors.

The defense team wants to show what it says was illegal collusion between industry, law enforcement, and TigerSwan. Click on the link above and you can watch a 36-minute video of defense attorneys talking about recent developments. The highlights follow.

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DAPL Documentary Now Available Online for Free (and a Correction)

For those of you unable to make the theater premiere of Black Snake Killaz: A #NoDAPL Story, the documentary is now online and available to stream for free, courtesy of Unicorn Riot. Just click on the link.

My earlier post PUC to Vote Thursday, Dec. 7 on Line 3’s Environmental Impact Statement listed the incorrect time for the Public Utilities Commission vote. The meeting starts at 9:30 a.m.

Enbridge Updates: Problems in Minnesota, Problems in Michigan

Wikimedia Commons

Tar sands crude oil pipeline company Enbridge repeatedly has shown itself to be an  trustworthy partner. Here are the two latest examples.

Enbridge withheld information from the state of Michigan about problems with Line 5, the portion which passes underwater in the Straits of Mackinack (between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan). According to an Oct. 27 AP report published by WOOD TV, Enbridge says it knew about pipeline damage 3 years ago:

The company that operates twin oil pipelines in a Great Lakes waterway says it knew three years ago that protective coating had been damaged but didn’t inform regulatory agencies.

Enbridge Inc. says a gap was opened in enamel coating on one section of Line 5 in Michigan’s Straits of Mackinac as a support anchor was being installed in 2014. The coating gap is one of several that have exposed bare metal on parts of the pipelines.

That led to strong criticism by the Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, released that same day:

“Trust and transparency are critical in any relationship. This latest revelation by Enbridge means that the faith and trust Michigan has placed in Enbridge has reached an even lower level. Enbridge needs to do more than apologize, Enbridge owes the citizens of Michigan a full and complete explanation of why they failed to truthfully report the status of the pipeline.”

In related news, Honor the Earth has criticized the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) for its inaction after it found out that Enbridge had made false statements its applications for Minnesota pipeline staging areas. For several years now, Enbridge has been stacking up pipeline around northern Minnesota in anticipation of getting state approvals for Line 3. It had to get storm water construction permits in 2014 and 2015 to create these staging areas. Enbridge indicated on its online form that the project had all necessary environmental reviews — which it did not.

MPCA did not catch the mistake until this March. And it is taking no action against Enbridge. According to Honor the Earth’s post:

These violations have irreparably undermined the state’s ability to conduct an objective process for reviewing the projects and determining if they are in the state’s best interest….

This has also introduced enormous bias into the court of public opinion, as rural communities across Northern Minnesota have now spent years living with pipe for the proposed project transported on their roads and piled in their backyards.

Disappointment: Conservative Judge Rules Enbridge Line 3 EIS “Adequate”

There has been a lot of news in the past few days about Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline, as debate moves forward on a two-track process. On one track is the question of whether the environmental impact statement (EIS) prepared by the Minnesota Department of Commerce is adequate or needs to be rewritten. On the other track is the question of whether the state should issue a “Certificate of Need” and “Route Permit” for Line 3.

This post will focus on the EIS.

Eric Lipman, the administrative law judge tasked with reviewing the Line 3 EIS, has determined it is adequate. That is a big disappointment, as many native and environmental groups and ordinary citizens had found it deeply flawed. Lipmans’ recommendation goes to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which will make the final determination.

Here are stories in the StarTribune and MPR on Lipman’s decision. The StarTribune story  notes:

Among criticisms of the EIS, the environmental group Friends of the Headwaters maintained that the EIS did not assess a possible large oil spill into the headwaters of the Mississippi River or other “high consequence areas” in Itasca and Hubbard counties. Specifically, the group wanted an analysis of a potential leak on par with Enbridge’s massive 2010 pipeline spill in Michigan, which cost the company over $1 billion to clean up.

Lipman disagreed, writing that such specific spill modeling wasn’t necessary.

Lipman’s decision on the Line 3 EIS wasn’t a surprise. He had been assigned to the Sandpiper project earlier. (Sandpiper would have carried fracked oil from North Dakota east into Minnesota, joining up with the proposed new Line 3. Click here for map of the two projects.) In the Sandpiper case, Lipman ruled in favor of the company, recommending approval of Sandpiper’s Certificate of Need and Route Permit.

Ultimately, Enbrdige dropped the Sandpiper proposal. According to a Sept. 2, 2016 article in the Star Tribune, Enbridge made the decision after deciding to buy into the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The White Earth Nation attempted unsuccessfully to get Lipman recused as the judge for reviewing the Line 3 EIS, saying he was prejudiced. (Its motion was in support of a request by Friends of the Headwaters.)

White Earth attorney Joseph Plummer’s court filing noted that in the Sandpiper case, Lipman had concluded that “lifecycle issues related to crude oil,  greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change are outside the scope of what the PUC may consider.” Lipman would not come into the Line 3 debate with an open mind. As Plummer wrote, he was unlikely to reverse himself on previous decisions.

Another strong argument against Line 3 was that it violated the Treaty of 1855 which guaranteed the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) the right to hunt, fish, and gather along the pipeline’s route. Lipman also had ruled on that issue in the Sandpiper case, saying did not think the treaty forbid the issuance of a pipeline permit.

So Lipman’s Sandpiper ruling suggested that serious criticism of the Line 3 project’s impact on climate change and treaty rights would be off the table before the debate even started.

Plummer also noted that Lipman was the most political of the administrative law judges the PUC could have chosen. (Plummer came to that conclusion after reading all the judge biographies  on the Office of Administrative Hearings website.) “In addition to being a state Republican legislator,  he [Lipman] also was General Acting Counsel to Governor Pawlenty, a Deputy Secretary of State under Republican Mary Kiffmeyer, and the Political Director for Rod Grams for U.S. Senate,” he said. None of the other administrative law judges had that kind of political resume.

You can read Plummer’s full affidavit, here.

Lipman’s recommendation on the EIS will carry weight with the Public Utilities Commission. Line 3 opponents could chose to challenge his decision in court. And there still is the separate opportunity to press the PUC to reject the Certificate of Need and Route Plan.

DAPL Update: Pipeline Company Donates ‘Influence Money’ to North Dakota First Responders; a Disappointing Court Decision; and Charges Against Journalist Dismissed

It’s been a while since we have written on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL); here are a few updates.

File photo

First, Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind DAPL, is donating $140,000 to North Dakota first responders. I am not quite sure what to call this. At a minimum, it’s influence money. It almost feels like legal bribery for future aid. Whatever you call it, it stinks. If first responders are supposed to treat everyone impartially, these kinds of donations mess up the equation and create favorites.

KFRY TV in Bismarck, ND, reported that Energy Transfer Partners representatives hand delivered $20,000 each to the seven counties DAPL crosses, money meant for their first responders.

“And now we want to go into each county and let them know how grateful we are. We know everyone has worked hard and has been patient through this whole process and we are so grateful,” said Dakota Access Pipeline spokesperson Lisa Dillinger.

KSFY, an ABC affiliate in Sioux Falls, SD, reports that Energy Transfer Partners donated $65,000 for agricultural education, spread among the 13 South Dakota counties crossed by DAPL.

To make matters worse, on top of the influence it buys, Energy Transfer Partners probably also gets a charitable donation tax write-off.

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Events: Reflections on Standing Rock and “Killers of the Harvest Moon”

Unitarian Social Justice Group to Hear about Work at Standing Rock at Oct. 5 Event

Rev. Karen Van Fossan and her Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Bismarck/Mandan worked to develop a close partnership with the Water Protectors at Standing Rock and other Native nations for the duration of the struggle to resist the Dakota Access Pipeline and work for Indigenous sovereignty. She will be the keynote speaker at the Minnesota Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Alliance (MUUSJA) annual fundraiser and celebration, Thursday, Oct. 5, 6-8:30 p.m. at First Universalist in Minneapolis, 3400 Dupont Ave. S. in Minneapolis.

It’s a fundraiser, but you invited whether or not you can contribute. All donations are appreciated. The evening is meant to bring together Unitarian Universalists and partners to build relationships, deepen connections, and celebrate everyone’s shared work for justice.

Rev. Karen will reflect on the relationship between healing work and decolonization as spiritual justice practices, the transformative power of deep partnerships across experiences and identities, and the inevitability of making powerful mistakes in the work for powerful change.

At the event, you’ll hear from MUUSJA’s new statewide organizer, Pastor Danny Givens, and enjoy some delicious food and drink from the Sioux Chef.

Click here to RSVP.

Discussions That Encounter Holds “Killers of the Flower Moon” Event About the Theft of Indigenous Lands in Oklahoma

The group Discussions That Encounter will host a conversation about the outrageous theft of Oklahoma oil lands in the 1920s through marriage, murder and the complicity of the white community.  The event is Thursday, September 28 at St. Olaf Church (215 South 8th Street, Minneapolis) in the Forliti  Gathering Room. Supper and social begins at 6:30 p.m. with program from 7-8:30 p.m. All are welcome, free of charge!

Ms. Liz Moore will provide a book review of Killers of the Flower Moon, a documentary of the Osage Nation murders and the birth of the FBI. The book has been described by New York Times author John Grisham as “A fascinating account of a tragic and forgotten chapter in the history of the American West.” Ms. Moore will lead us in discussion of the implications for our Native population and for all of us, and does not require that we have read the book. Please join us! (Here is a previous blog on the book.)

Free parking is available in the church lot, enter from South 8th Street or 3rd Avenue just past the church.