Corporate Clout Used Against Environmental Defenders

News wrap: Three stories on extractive industries that deserve attention.

  • Enbridge spends liberally to influence the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC)
  • Polymet coopts a beloved state institution, stifling dissent.
  • Federal judge puts the brakes on oil and gas drilling in the western United States

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Climate Change Report Makes it Urgent the PUC Reverses Vote to Approve the Line 3 Oil Pipeline; Judge Tosses Valve Turner Case

United Nations scientists say the world has only a decade to get climate change under control or face devastating consequences. That makes it urgent for the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to reverse its vote approving the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota — a project that would contribute to gas and oil combustion creating $287 billion in climate change costs over three decades.

In related news, a Clearwater County judge tossed out 2016 felony charges against the “Valve Turners,” people who temporarily shut off Enbrdige crude oil pipelines in Minnesota to protest their contribution to climate change. While Valve Turners in other states have been convicted and received prison time, here in Minnesota the judge ruled “the circumstances did not rise to the level of the charges filed against them,” according to a story in the Bemidji Pioneer.

While the defendants are undoubtedly relieved, they probably feel some disappointment, too. They had prepared to use the “Necessity Defense,” arguing the harm caused by their actions was insignificant compared to the climate change damage they were trying to prevent. Arguing “Necessity” could have set an important precedent for other activists working to stop climate change. A few days before the trial, the judge barred expert testimony on the climate crisis, according to a story in Common Dreams.

The judge’s ruling avoided the Necessity Defense, leaving the argument for future cases.

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The PUC Fog Machine: Commission Selectively Uses Line 3’s Environmental Analysis, Favoring Enbridge

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) selectively used environmental information to approve the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. The Commission’s analysis undermines its credibility, making it nearly impossible to view it as an impartial and fair decision maker.

Line 3’s final environmental impact statement (FEIS) estimates the pipeline would create $287 billion in climate change costs over the next 30 years, or nearly $10 billion annually. That number alone should have put the brakes on the project. The PUC’s Sept 5 order swept aside these huge costs with the thinnest of justifications. The PUC cherry-picked information from the environmental impact statement to undermine the report’s climate science, referred to as the “social cost of carbon.”

What the PUC failed to tell the public is that the federal government finds the “social cost of carbon” analysis “a useful measure.” Further, the $287 billion figure likely underestimates the true climate change costs from Line 3, according to information in the environmental impact statement.

To put things bluntly, the PUC selectively used facts to approve a project that would allow Enbridge to make short-term profits by shifting the pipeline’s long-term climate change costs onto the rest of the world, costs such as lost agricultural production and flood damage.

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Legal Challenges Take Shape Against Line 3 and the PUC’s Anti-Indian, Anti-Environment Vote

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC’s) deeply flawed decision approving the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota likely will get challenged in court. Some of the legal arguments against the PUC are now coming into focus.

Seven organizations and tribal governments filed motions asking the PUC to reconsider its vote approving Line 3’s Certificate of Need. The Minnesota Department of Commerce’s motion says the PUC’s decision: “contains legal errors and ambiguities.” The Youth Climate Intervenors’ motion said that: “The Commission’s explicit denial of climate science and wholesale dismissal of treaty rights as ‘unnecessary’ are appalling.” A joint motion by Honor the Earth, the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, said the PUC’s order: “fails to interpret state law to favor the public interest and protect the environment as against private interests.”

It’s doubtful the PUC will budge and reverse its vote, but this is a necessary procedural step to allow Line 3 opponents to sue in court. The legal arguments contained in these motions could form the basis for future lawsuits. If this issue does go to court, the PUC will have a lot of explaining to do about why it consistently favored Enbridge and ignored public testimony and the administrative law judge’s independent recommendations.

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News and Events: Standing Rock Film Screening, Youth March for Fossil Free Future, and More

News and events in this post:

  • Oct. 8: Augsburg Native American Film Series: The Eagle and The Condor–From Standing Rock with Love.
  • Oct. 28 Our Right, Our Future: March with Minnesota Youth for a Fossil Free Future
  • Construction on Keystone XL Begins Near Rosebud as Three Native Nations Sue to Stop It
  • Minneapolis City Council Accepts the Red Lake Nation’s Help to Relocate Homeless Camp

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Climate Change Threatens Wild Rice and Other News and Events

Forwarding a couple of recent stories and upcoming events:

  • Climate change threatens wild rice
  • Man shot by St. Paul police identified as White Earth member, vigil held
  • Decade of Water Summit Wednesday-Thursday
  • Third Annual National Native American Ten Minute Play Festival, Wednesday to Sunday

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Eighteen Criticisms of the PUC’s Approval of the Enbridge Line 3 Tar Sands Pipeline

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) failed Minnesota citizens and Native nations by approving the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. The PUC seemed to bend over backwards to favor international corporate interests over Minnesota’s interests. At the same time, it seem to cave into Enbridge’s thinly veiled threat to keep running the old and dangerous Line 3 if the new Line 3 wasn’t approved.

Here are 18 flaws in the PUC’s decision and its process.

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