Last, week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized the Cuban government for suppressing peaceful protests by its citizens seeking a better life. Cuba’s actions lay bare “the regime’s fear of its own people and unwillingness to meet their basic needs and aspirations,” Blinken said.
Note to Blinken: Come visit northern Minnesota where 600 people have been arrested for resisting the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline. Indigenous communities are trying to protect their way of life, their wild rice, and their treaties. Others have joined to support them to protect the planet and a livable climate.
The Line 3-related arrests and police actions show that our “regime” fears its own people, too.
The current Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline is more that 50 year’s old. It’s badly corroded and only runs at only 50 percent capacity to reduce spill risks.
Monitoring tools inside the pipeline identify potential problems. When found, workers dig down to the pipeline, inspect it, and make repairs. This is called an “integrity dig.” Enbridge estimated the current Line 3 would need 4,000 integrity digs over 15 years for its safe operation. That’s a lot of digging.
There’s a lot more integrity problems than just one old pipeline. Our entire regulatory system has integrity problems, including its failure to stop the dangerous and unnecessary Line 3 pipeline.
Collectively, we need to dig into this corroded system, understand how it got so compromised, and fix it.
[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.
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?
Big month ahead, including major Line 3 court ruling
Correction: A citation on the criticism of Enbridge’s oil demand forecast (point 11 below) was incorrect. It has been corrected.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Indigenous women rally at the Governor’s mansion, tell Walz to shut down the pipeline
On Feb. 22, a few people were seen throwing a package into an Enbridge work area in Carlton County. (Later, it was described as electronic-style devices making audible noises.) It was deemed a bomb threat, but turned out to be a false alarm. Fingers were immediately pointed at water protectors. Law enforcement’s response created a backlash against the water protectors at Camp Migizi.
The response: Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake, along with other local officials, decided to evacuate the 40 homes within a half-mile radius of the device. This was a larger evacuation zone than needed for a truck packed with a half-ton of TNT. Lake also called in the FBI. “Emergency alert” texts were sent out about an “explosive hazard” reaching people as far away as Hibbing and Duluth..
On Feb. 24, two days later, news broke that a human trafficking sting led to the arrests of seven men, including two Line 3 workers. According to one of the men arrested, he learned about the website where he could meet young girls from rumors at work. (That website turned out to be the sting.) In a media release announcing the arrests, Itasca County Attorney Matti Adam said: “What this operation tells us is that there is demand to sexually exploit young people in Northern Minnesota.”
The response: So far, not one public official has pointed a finger at Enbridge and demanded a response. This much we know: There is a “demand to sexually exploit young people in Northern Minnesota.” Where’s the text alerts — or their equivalent — warning northern Minnesota families of this threat?
Which is more dangerous, a buzzing electronic-type device or a sexual predator?
MMIW rally today (Saturday) to put heat on Gov. Walz
A Thief River Falls non-profit providing emergency services to victims of domestic and sexual violence says its seen an increase in demand for help since construction began on the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline.
A document submitted to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) from the Violence Intervention Project (VIP) says local women and girls are getting verbally harassed by Line 3 workers, too.
This news comes on top of the recent report of a human trafficking sting in Northern Minnesota which resulted in the arrest of two Line 3 workers. One of those men was charged with soliciting sex with a minor.
Indigenous people warned state regulators that Line 3 would bring increased sex and drug trafficking to the area — and add to the existing epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives. State regulators and labor unions didn’t seem to take their concern very seriously at the time the permits were issued.
Indigenous people and allies are gathering Saturday, noon – 2 p.m. at the Governor’s residence, 1006 Summit Ave, St. Paul, to demand that Gov. Tim Walz revoke the Line 3 permits to protect Indigenous communities. Facebook Event Page here.