The Minnesota State Senate booted Steve Kelley as the Commissioner of Commerce because his department filed a legal challenge to the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline. In so doing, the Senate abused its role to “advise and consent” on top state administration appointments.
Kelley didn’t violate any ethics rules. He didn’t break the law. The Senate didn’t argue he wasn’t qualified. The Senate failed to make an argument against his appointment other than a policy disagreement.
If a policy dispute was sufficient to reject a commissioner’s appointment, the Senate could justify rejecting any and all appointees.
Also worrisome, the Senate seems to be sending a thinly veiled threat to Laura Bishop, Commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). The MPCA has yet to act on Enbrdige’s request for Line 3’s water crossing permit. The Senate has yet to confirm Bishop’s appointment, so there’s an implied threat that she could be next if she blocks the permit.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis held an Enbridge Line 3 Town Hall meeting today in Bemidji; in spite of the statewide mask mandate for indoor gatherings, almost none of the 50 people in attendance wore masks, according to a report by Lakeland PBS. The event was held at the DoubleTree Hotel Conference Room.
Nancy Beaulieu, an enrolled member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, attended the event and tried unsuccessfully to get either the hotel staff or Bemidji police to enforce the mask mandate. Beaulieu also is the northern Minnesota organizer for MN350 and works to stop the Line 3 pipeline. (Full disclosure: The blog’s author is a colleague of Beaulieu’s, Facebook friends, and we have worked together on Stop Line 3 efforts.)
Beaulieu’s efforts to get the mask mandate enforced shows just how empty the mandate is, at least in Bemidji.
In terrific news for those opposing the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline, the Minnesota Department of Commerce late today announced it would refile its appeal to stop the project. (Thanks to MPR’s Dan Kraker for the tweet.) The case now heads to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
The Walz administration faced a Wednesday deadline to file its appeal. The Governor hadn’t indicated which way he was leaning. The pressure was on.
Earlier today, Indigenous Nations and environmental groups filed a joint appeal to reject Line 3’s permits. Group representatives called on Walz to renew the state’s appeal at a press conference outside the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
“Yet again, the PUC has refused to acknowledge the reality that Line 3 would pose untenable costs to Minnesota, all to deliver tar sands oil we don’t need,” Sierra Club North Star Chapter Director Margaret Levin said in a media release. “Their bad decision — ignoring state’s agencies’ recommendations, and based on a faulty process — would be devastating for Minnesota’s clean water and communities. The Court must reject the PUC’s decision once and for all.”
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for the first time has established an official policy on Tribal Engagement and Consultation.
In it, the Commission commits to annual consultations with each Native Nation and establishing a formal process to consult with Native Nations throughout the year when specific issues emerge. Continue reading →
Last week, Healing Minnesota Stories’ blog passed a milestone, publishing its 1,000th post since we started writing in 2015. Below, we provide links to some of the best-read blogs.
Healing Minnesota Stories’ mission is to create dialogue, understanding, healing, and repair between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, particularly with those non-Indigenous people who belong to faith communities.
Since our organization launched in 2011, Healing Minnesota Stories Founder Jim Bear Jacobs became Program Director for Racial Justice for the Minnesota Council of Churches. The blog has followed suit, expanding its coverage of racial justice issues, such as the recent protests over George Floyd’s murder.
We have 377 followers so far. Please consider following the blog if you don’t already, and sharing it with friends and networks so we can expand our reach.
The blog’s main author is Scott Russell of Minneapolis, a volunteer with Healing Minnesota Stories. He can be reached by posting comments in the blog, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments, criticisms, and questions always welcomed. Thanks for your support over the past five years! Continue reading →
The proposed construction of the new and expanded Enbridge Line 3 pipeline has raised fears about increasing drug and sex trafficking along the route, particularly sex trafficking of Native women.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved Line 3’s permits with several conditions. Among them, it required Enbridge to develop a Human Trafficking Prevention Plan.
Enbridge submitted its plan to the PUC May 5. It’s so short and vague it’s hard to tell what if any impact it would have. The PUC staff needs to reject the plan and require Enbridge to start over, if for no other reason than the company failed to follow directions.
Thirty-four state lawmakers submitted a letter to Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Commissioner Laura Bishop Wednesday, urging action to deny the Enbridge the environmental certificate it needs to build the Line 3 pipeline expansion.
Line 3 threatens our state’s clean waters, our climate, and treaty rights, they said.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Commerce faces an Aug. 19 deadline to refile its legal objections to Line 3. Commerce’s independent analysis shows that Enbridge failed to prove this pipeline is needed. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved the project over Commerce’s objections. Commerce now needs to take the issue to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
Recent news from the Canadian tar sands region strengthens Commerce’s hand. It shows the industry is tanking, meaning there’s even less demand for Enbridge’s new pipeline.
Action by the MPCA and the Department of Commerce could help stop this dangerous project.
Winona LaDuke: ‘PUC has a systemic blind spot in dealing with Native tribes’
Sierra Club: ‘A bad process leads to bad outcomes’
PUC: ‘Improved public engagement is a priority’
The Minnesota Office of Legislative Auditor released a report today critical of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and its public engagement process. The PUC has done a “poor job” in helping the public engage in its complex review process, it said. Specifically, the PUC was “not adequately prepared” for engaging the public during the controversial Enbridge Line 3 pipeline hearings.
The report makes a number of recommendations, such as directing PUC leadership “to provide more oversight of the agency’s public participation processes” and to “better prepare for cases with significant public interest.” (Summary here.)
The 98-page report disappoints in one aspect: It fails to clearly call out that, at least in the case of the Line 3 hearings, the PUC’s public engagement failures focused on Line 3 opponents. The report doesn’t explicitly name staff bias as a problem that needs addressing, and it does.