Reflections on violence and justice along the Enbridge Line 3 route

Honor the Earth got pushback on its planned Aug. 18 music festival in Duluth, a fundraiser to oppose Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

A group of 11 northern Minnesota mayors and councilmembers wrote Duluth Mayor Emily Larson telling her to pull the event’s permit, claiming Honor the Earth has been involved in “violent” protests against the pipelines. “Honor the Earth has played a significant role in creating the dangerous and harmful environment surrounding the Line 3 pipeline replacement project.”

Winona LaDuke, co-founder of Honor the Earth, called the elected officials’ claims “scandalous” and “wrong.” “We haven’t led any violent protests,” LaDuke said. “We have been entirely non-violent and educational.”

“We spent eight years trying to make the system work in the legal and regulatory hearings and are now encouraging people to express their First Amendment rights.”

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MPR fails to cover Line 3’s connection to human trafficking and recent trafficking stings

What gives?

[Update: MPR did run on-air stories about the Line 3 human trafficking sting. It didn’t post an on-line story until the day after this blog ran. I had emailed MPR media relations to ask if I had missed any coverage of the sting on MPR. MPR media relations didn’t respond, apparently not checking on-air coverage. I friend emailed the news department to complain about the lack of coverage on this issue and got an email from the Deputy Managing Editor informing her of the on-air stories. A separate updated post will run soon.]

Four workers on the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline have been arrested in two separate human trafficking stings, one in February, one in June. Line 3 workers represent at least 30 percent of all arrests in the two incidents.

MPR didn’t cover either sting. In fact, MPR hasn’t written anything about the concerns and connection between Line 3 and human trafficking, according to a website search. Asked about the lack of coverage, MPR’s media relations department ducked the question.

MPR supporters and listeners need to contact the newsroom and tell it to cover this important issue. Details below.

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Two more Line 3 workers arrested in sex trafficking sting

The state lacks transparency on the extent of the problem

A sex trafficking sting in northern Minnesota resulted in six arrests, including two men who were working on the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline, the Bemidji Pioneer reported. They have been fired.

Last February, a similar sex trafficking sting resulted in seven arrests, and again at least two of them worked on Line 3.

In both stings, law enforcement set up a phony sex advertising website and arrested men who arrived to arranged meeting, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) said.

Out of the two stings, Line 3 workers represent 30 percent of those arrested. It’s a small sample but it seems like a high number.

The state of Minnesota has failed to provide needed transparency and accountability for Line 3-related sex trafficking. The very structure is flawed. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) required and approved Enbridge’s Human Trafficking Prevention Plan. But the plan has no teeth and no one is responsible for follow up.

What’s the point of requiring a plan if no one is going to enforce it?

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Why don’t I trust Enbridge? Let me count the ways

Big month ahead, including major Line 3 court ruling

File: Gichi-gami Gathering to Stop Line 3 in Duluth.

Tribal nations and environmental and Indigenous-led groups have worked for years to stop Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 tars sands pipeline through northern Minnesota. Line 3 is bad for the environment, bad for climate, violates treaty rights and simply isn’t needed.

Enbridge is a multi-national, bottom-line company seeking to minimize its costs and maximize its profits. It prioritizes its profits over the environment, climate, and treaty rights.

Minnesota regulators shouldn’t have put their trust in Enbridge, let alone approved Line 3 permits. There are plenty of examples to show how Enbridge has lacked transparency and not been a reliable partner, both here and in other states.

Work on Line 3 has slowed in the past few months due to springtime construction restrictions. It’s now picking back up.

Water protectors and their allies are hosting the Treaty People Gathering up north from Saturday-Tuesday, with large-scale, non-violent civil disobedience being organized.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals will rule no later than June 21 on the first of three major legal challenges to Line 3 in state and federal courts. This first suit seeks to overturn Line 3’s Certificate of Need, Route Permit, and Environmental Impact Statement.

With a busy and important month ahead, I’m take this opportunity to review the red flags I’ve seen surrounding Enbridge and its Line 3 proposal.

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Ten ways structural racism permeated Enbridge Line 3 decisions, and continues to influence them

Structural racism has played a significant role in Enbridge Line 3’s approval and law enforcement’s responses to water protectors.

Structural racism, as defined by The Aspen Institute Round Table on Societal Change, is:

A system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness” and disadvantages associated with “color” to endure and adapt over time. Structural racism is not something that a few people or institutions choose to practice. Instead it has been a feature of the social, economic and political systems in which we all exist.

Aspen Institute on Societal Change

Here’s a top ten list of structural racism in Line 3 decisions. Got more to add? A critique? Submit them in the comments section, below.

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Local media fails to cover Line 3’s harms; Michigan cites treaty rights to justify revoking Line 5’s easement

Local media has provided pretty thin coverage of Enbridge Line 3’s harms, including recent news about the human trafficking sting that included the arrests of two Line 3 workers.

The Star Tribune ran one story on the arrests; MPR hasn’t run even one, according to searches of their websites.

The Native American community and allies repeatedly raised concerns about the link between projects such as Line 3 and human trafficking. They warned state regulators about the risk and real-world harm to women and other relatives.

As we wrote yesterday, the PUC approved Line 3 without providing meaningful accountability for Enbridge to monitor and address human trafficking problems. The public has no way of knowing the extent of the problem beyond the recent arrests. No government agency is tracking information about Line 3’s harms, including sexual harassment and human trafficking.

If there’s no data, people are left believing that there isn’t a problem. The fact is, we know little because regulators aren’t looking and local media isn’t reporting on it.

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PUC doesn’t have to answer for Line 3-related human trafficking problems

Nor is it going to hold Enbridge accountable for them

It took me a long time to get this through my head, but there’s no mechanism in place to hold the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) accountable for its poor decisions, or even explain them.

I wanted the PUC’s comment about recent reports of sexual harassment and violence towards women by Line 3 workers. The PUC was warned about these risks when it permitted Line 3. Was the PUC concerned about this news? Had the PUC been in contact with Enbridge or law enforcement about these issues? Does the PUC regret putting such lax conditions in the Line 3 permits?

These seem like basic questions, the kind any state agency would feel compelled to answer.

But the PUC isn’t a state agency, it’s a “quasi-judicial” body, more like a court.

Will Seuffert, the PUC’s executive secretary wrote: “[N]either I nor any staff member can speak for any of the Commissioners, and they speak through their written orders. The agency cannot provide any explanation beyond what is included in the written orders.”

So who holds the PUC accountable?

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