An Open Letter to Gov. Walz on Line 3, its public purpose, its costs and benefits, and needed action

Dear Gov. Walz:

Your voice and leadership matter in the debate over the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

You have given Minnesotans the impression that you have no authority to intervene. While you can’t snap your fingers and stop the project, you have more power than you’re letting on. You oversee agencies charged with making sure Enbridge meets all state environmental requirements in the pipeline’s construction and operation. You have the bully pulpit to let citizens know your candid views.

Last year, you told Minnesotans that Line 3 needed not just a building permit, but a “social permit.” We need to hear from you the specific conditions Line 3 must meet to secure such a “social permit.” At a minimum, it should include transparency. So far, the Line 3’s public record is both voluminous and technical, often leading to more confusion than clarity. The state needs to make a clear statement, in lay terms that people can understand, about the project’s public purpose and its costs and benefits. We have yet to get such a statement. Citizens deserve it.

I offer the following summary of Line 3’s public purpose, its costs and benefits, and critiques of the process. I also include specific actions you could take that would move this state in a good direction.

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Dear Canadian Consulate: Your hypocrisy on Line 3 is unbecoming and dishonours the Crown

An Open Letter to Ariel Delouya, Consul General, the Canadian Consulate in Minnesota

Dear Mr. Delouya,

I recently read the letter you submitted on behalf of the Canadian Consulate in Minnesota to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in support of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline, specifically your support for Line 3’s revised environmental impact statement.

Given Canada’s commitment to respect the rights of First Nations peoples, it’s galling that you and your government are supporting violation of indigenous rights here in Minnesota. Your letter couches your support for Line 3 in the language of high principles, stating: “Canada is committed to renewing the relationship with lndigenous Peoples, based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership.”

The position you are taking on Enbridge Line 3 fails to live up to those ideals.

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MPCA Commissioner Bishop underwhelms responding to Line 3 question

MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop drew a large crowd at the Growth and Justice breakfast event.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Commissioner Laura Bishop is saying all the right things when it comes to the urgent need to address climate damage and to engage the public and tribal nations in these conversations.

Yet when she was asked to comment on the proposed Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline — and its harm to climate, water and treaty rights — she gave a cautious response, calling for more public input. At one point, she said: “It’s a tough one.”

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Enbridge is becoming a toxic brand

Enbridge’s brand is losing its luster.

The Cloquet City Council rejected a $1,000 donation from Enbridge. Presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar recently announced she would return donations she received from an Enbridge employee. Enbridge faces other legal and safety challenges.

[Update: The Cloquet City Council reconsidered the vote. It accepted Enbridge’s donation.]

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A Vicious Cycle: Crude Oil Pipelines Increase Climate Change, Increase Pipeline Spills

Federal regulators have issued a warning to pipeline operators on the danger severe weather events such as increased heavy rains and flooding pose to pipelines.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA, “sent a warning to natural gas and hazardous liquids pipeline operators earlier this month,” according to a May 21 State Impact: Pennsylvania story.

PHMSA lists seven incidents that have occurred in the past several years, including the release of more than 1,238 barrels of gasoline into the Loyalsock Creek from a Sunoco/Energy Transfer pipeline in Lycoming County in October, 2016.

Flash floods and landslides led to the rupture of the line, which was built in 1937.

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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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