Deeply Flawed Environmental Analysis of Tar Sands Pipeline Needs to Go Back to Square One

The state has released a deeply flawed final environmental impact statement (EIS) for a proposed tar sands crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota, a project known as Enbridge Line 3.

The 5,000 page document ducks the issue of treaty rights. It spends a scant 28 pages on issues of environmental justice, and much of that is unintelligible bureaucratic language. It leaves important questions unanswered.

Enbridge wants to install a three-foot wide tar sands pipeline through 337 miles of northern Minnesota, crossing the Mississippi twice and threatening wild rice areas. It will connect Alberta’s tar sands fields with a terminal in Superior, Wisconsin.

The public responded loudly when the draft EIS was released in May. Many individuals and organizations flooded public hearings with comments and criticisms. Many believe the process is being rushed.

Media analysis is coming in. The Star Tribune headline read: Report: Enbridge Line 3 options all would have negative effect on American Indians. MPR went with the neutral headline: Line 3 oil pipeline environmental review released.

Missing from media analysis and from the EIS is an analysis of whether we need this pipeline.

The answer is no. This pipeline has nothing to do with U.S. energy independence; it has everything to do with corporate profits from gas exports to developing countries. Two important facts. First, Minnesota’s refined petroleum sales (gas, diesel, jet fuel, etc.) is down 19 percent from our 2004 peak. Second, the United States is now a net exporter of refined petroleum products and our exports are growing annually. We don’t need more tar sands crude.

The pipeline threatens our environment and treaty rights and gives the state and nation no long-term benefits.

I am just starting to go through the EIS, but here are some early takes. Continue reading

Red Lake Nation Asks Governor Dayton to Delay Release of EIS on Enbridge Line 3

The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians (Anishinaabe) has written Governor Dayton to ask him to delay releasing the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) on Enbridge Line 3. It is scheduled to be released today.

Line 3 is a proposed tar sands crude oil pipeline from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, via Minnesotas. It would travel 337 miles across northern part of our state, crossing the Mississippi River twice and threatening wild rice areas. It would violate treaty rights that allow the Anishinaabe to hunt, fish and gather wild rice on off-reservation lands.

In an Aug. 15 letter to Dayton, the Red Lake Tribal Council said the state’s draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) of Line 3’s impacts to tribal resources “is clearly inadequate.” It also raises concerns about the departure of Danielle Molliver, the state’s tribal liaison for the project, who recently quit over concerns that the state was not showing a good faith effort to work with tribes.

The letter continues:

In fact, the discussion of tribal impacts in the DEIS and the mitigation that is proposed appears to have been written by Enbridge itself. …

We are also very concerned about the tight time schedule that the Public Utilities Commission and Enbridge are focused on for getting the FEIS released to the Public. The Red Lake Tribal Council believes that it is more important that the drafters of the environmental impact statement meaningfully consider the myriad of issues raised through the public comment, rather than being singularly focused on a tight self-imposed time schedule.

We are also concerned about the abrupt departure of Ms. Danielle Molliver, the Tribal Liaison with the Minnesota Department of Commerce for Tribal Nations throughout the environmental impact statement process. Ms. Molliver opened doors for the Department of Commerce, and convinced tribal people to share their true feeling about the impacts of Enbridge’s proposed project.  Her abrupt departure casts a further cloud over the environmental impact statement process.

For more background on why Molliver quit, see our earlier blog.

The letter is reproduced below. Continue reading

Tribal Liaison For Enbridge Line 3 Quits State Job, Cites Minnesota’s Lack of “Good Faith” Effort

The state’s point person working to elevate Native voices around a proposed crude oil pipeline in northern Minnesota has quit her job, citing a lack of transparency and good faith effort by the state, according to a story in The Intercept.

Danielle Oxendine Molliver, a member of the Lumbee tribe from North Carolina, worked as the tribal liaison for the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the lead agency in shepherding the Enbridge Line 3 project through the regulatory process. Line 3 would carry tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin, traveling 337 miles through northern Minnesota.

Oxendine Molliver explained her decision to resign in a July 24 letter, quoted in The Intercept article.

“There are a multitude of reasons why I have come to this decision. The single most important one is the failure of the state of Minnesota to fulfill its obligations of good faith and fair dealing with the tribes in connection with the Line 3 project.”

She added, “I feel as though my resignation is the only option to maintain my integrity, commitment, and standing with the tribal communities as both a liaison and indigenous woman.”

It is the latest controversy over Enbridge Line 3. In related news, the first non-violent direct action against Enbridge Line 3 is set for Cloquet this Monday. Here is a link to the event page.

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Water Protector Updates from Minnesota to Maine; Burial Site on Fond du Lac Disturbed; Another Public Art Controversy … And More

Update on Enbridge Line 3:

Thanks to the people who are paying attention to Enbridge Line 3, the proposed tar sands crude oil pipeline that would cross 337 miles of northern Minnesota. The line would run from Alberta, through Minnesota, into Superior Wisconsin. While Minnesota is more than seven months away from a vote, Enbridge already has started work in Canada and Wisconsin. Here are photos of the work being done in Wisconsin from Neo Gabo Benais’ Facebook page.

Enbridge Line 3 would cross the Mississippi River, twice, and threaten wild rice areas. For more, see our Enbridge Line 3 page.

Penobscot Nation Thwarted in its Attempts to Protect the Waters of the Penobscot River

Here is another example of a Native nation trying to protect its sacred waters. In this case, the Penobscot are losing. Indian Country Today lays it out in a story:  Termination or Extermination for Penobscot Indian Nation? The State of Maine Declares Jurisdiction Over Penobscot River; Federal Courts Agree. The story says:

On June 30, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that severs the Penobscot Indian Nation from the waters of the Penobscot River, a ruling that Penobscot Indian Nation Chief Kirk Francis says is reminiscent of federal termination policy—or worse.

“The river and our relationship to it and the 200 islands [that form the reservation] are the core of our cultural identity. If our ability to protect the river is taken away, we lose a big part of who we are,” Francis told ICMN [Indian Country Media Network].

The Penobscot River has significant pollution problems already, the story said. A 2014 federal study recommended that members of the Penobscot nation limit themselves to eating one to two fish per month. That’s barely a meal. Young children and pregnant women aren’t supposed to eat river fish at all. That is a tremendous burden for nation that traditionally depends on fish for its diet, and a nation that cares deeply about the water.

More news follows. Continue reading

Congress Needs to Investigate Corporate Influence on Law Enforcement’s DAPL Response

An Open Letter to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Al Franken, and Rep. Keith Ellison:

Regardless of your view on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), I hope we all can agree that the standoff and violence that occurred near Standing Rock should never have happened. We must learn from this tragic event.

In that regard, I ask you to investigate the actions of the National Sheriffs’ Association and  its role in doing opposition research against water protectors and its ties and coordination with TigerSwan, the private security firm hired by Energy Transfer Partners to protect DAPL. This should include a review of the rationale and appropriateness of the law enforcement tactics used.

Screen capture of 2016 video showing the heavily militarized response to water protectors.

This is a national issue. Law enforcement  from several states — including Minnesota — were deployed to Morton County, North Dakota through mutual assistance agreements. What are the lessons these law enforcement agents will take back to their home communities?

This should be of particular to concern to those of us in Minnesota. Canadian company Enbridge Line 3 has proposed expanding a tar sands crude pipeline through the state, called Line 3. It would run from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, and includes 337 miles of pipeline through Minnesota. It would cross the Mississippi River, twice, and cross many wild rice lakes. This project most likely will provoke a similar resistance movement as happened in North Dakota. (See MPR story: Minn. oil pipeline fight stokes threats, fears of Standing Rock.)

How will we respond if and when that happens?

We need a thorough review of law enforcement’s response at Standing Rock so that we don’t repeat the mistakes that were made.

Continue reading

In Show of Hubris, Enbridge Starts Tar Sands Pipeline Work Well in Advance of Minnesota Approvals

Pipelines stored in northwestern Minnesota, near White Earth.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) won’t vote until next spring on whether to allow an expanded tar sands crude oil pipeline to cut through the heart of northern Minnesota, threatening our lakes and rivers. But that hasn’t stopped Enbridge from starting pipeline construction in both Canada and Wisconsin, apparently assuming Minnesota approvals are a done deal.

Also, the movement and storage of pipelines through northern Minnesota has those opposed to Enbridge Line 3 very nervous.

Enbridge is proposing a 1,097-mile tar sands crude oil pipeline, starting in Alberta, crossing the length of northern Minnesota, and ending up in Superior, Wisc. The company wants to leave the old and failing Line 3 pipeline in the ground and install a new and larger pipeline. The plan includes a partial reroute of the line. The reroute  crosses the Mississippi River, twice, and also threatens wild rice areas

The Line 3 expansion is nowhere near approval in Minnesota, yet earlier this week, Wisconsin Public Radio reported that Enbridge is already working on replacing a 12-mile section in Wisconsin — investing $100 million. According to the story:

Elizabeth Ward with the John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club in Wisconsin said she’s surprised construction is already underway in Wisconsin “given that the Minnesota process is still underway and they’re not even really close to getting their permits on the Minnesota side.”

Continue reading