U.S. Bank Pulls Enbridge Line of Credit, Line 3 Opponents Say

U.S. Bank has pulled its portion of a $1.3 billion line of credit from Enbridge, according to a news release from Honor the Earth and MN350. It is a victory in efforts to get banks to divest from tar sands pipelines.

Here is the release in full:

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL — November 2, 2017 — U.S. Bank has ended its credit relationship with Enbridge Inc., the Canadian company seeking to expand tar sands oil transportation through Northern Minnesota with the controversial proposed Line 3 pipeline. U.S. Bank’s move comes amidst a growing local and global movement calling on the banking industry to cut ties to fossil fuel extraction.

A report released today by the Rainforest Action Network, “Funding Tar Sands: Private Banks vs. The Paris Climate Agreement,” cites Bloomberg investor data and criticizes 36 other banks for financing the Canadian pipeline company Enbridge. The report shows that U.S. Bank no longer holds a credit relationship with Enbridge.

As recently as August 2016, U.S. Bank had been a part of extending a multi-bank $1.3 billion line of credit to Enbridge that was not set to expire until late 2019. Last spring, U.S. Bank updated its Environmental Policy to end project-level pipeline construction financing. Continue reading

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Disappointment: Conservative Judge Rules Enbridge Line 3 EIS “Adequate”

There has been a lot of news in the past few days about Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline, as debate moves forward on a two-track process. On one track is the question of whether the environmental impact statement (EIS) prepared by the Minnesota Department of Commerce is adequate or needs to be rewritten. On the other track is the question of whether the state should issue a “Certificate of Need” and “Route Permit” for Line 3.

This post will focus on the EIS.

Eric Lipman, the administrative law judge tasked with reviewing the Line 3 EIS, has determined it is adequate. That is a big disappointment, as many native and environmental groups and ordinary citizens had found it deeply flawed. Lipmans’ recommendation goes to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which will make the final determination.

Here are stories in the StarTribune and MPR on Lipman’s decision. The StarTribune story  notes:

Among criticisms of the EIS, the environmental group Friends of the Headwaters maintained that the EIS did not assess a possible large oil spill into the headwaters of the Mississippi River or other “high consequence areas” in Itasca and Hubbard counties. Specifically, the group wanted an analysis of a potential leak on par with Enbridge’s massive 2010 pipeline spill in Michigan, which cost the company over $1 billion to clean up.

Lipman disagreed, writing that such specific spill modeling wasn’t necessary.

Lipman’s decision on the Line 3 EIS wasn’t a surprise. He had been assigned to the Sandpiper project earlier. (Sandpiper would have carried fracked oil from North Dakota east into Minnesota, joining up with the proposed new Line 3. Click here for map of the two projects.) In the Sandpiper case, Lipman ruled in favor of the company, recommending approval of Sandpiper’s Certificate of Need and Route Permit.

Ultimately, Enbrdige dropped the Sandpiper proposal. According to a Sept. 2, 2016 article in the Star Tribune, Enbridge made the decision after deciding to buy into the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The White Earth Nation attempted unsuccessfully to get Lipman recused as the judge for reviewing the Line 3 EIS, saying he was prejudiced. (Its motion was in support of a request by Friends of the Headwaters.)

White Earth attorney Joseph Plummer’s court filing noted that in the Sandpiper case, Lipman had concluded that “lifecycle issues related to crude oil,  greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change are outside the scope of what the PUC may consider.” Lipman would not come into the Line 3 debate with an open mind. As Plummer wrote, he was unlikely to reverse himself on previous decisions.

Another strong argument against Line 3 was that it violated the Treaty of 1855 which guaranteed the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) the right to hunt, fish, and gather along the pipeline’s route. Lipman also had ruled on that issue in the Sandpiper case, saying did not think the treaty forbid the issuance of a pipeline permit.

So Lipman’s Sandpiper ruling suggested that serious criticism of the Line 3 project’s impact on climate change and treaty rights would be off the table before the debate even started.

Plummer also noted that Lipman was the most political of the administrative law judges the PUC could have chosen. (Plummer came to that conclusion after reading all the judge biographies  on the Office of Administrative Hearings website.) “In addition to being a state Republican legislator,  he [Lipman] also was General Acting Counsel to Governor Pawlenty, a Deputy Secretary of State under Republican Mary Kiffmeyer, and the Political Director for Rod Grams for U.S. Senate,” he said. None of the other administrative law judges had that kind of political resume.

You can read Plummer’s full affidavit, here.

Lipman’s recommendation on the EIS will carry weight with the Public Utilities Commission. Line 3 opponents could chose to challenge his decision in court. And there still is the separate opportunity to press the PUC to reject the Certificate of Need and Route Plan.

Enbridge: Corporate Social Responsibility or Greenwashing?

Tar sands mining in Alberta, 2008 (Wikimedia Commons)

Energy transportation giant Enbridge is pursuing a 1,097 mile crude oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada, through northern Minnesota, ending in Superior, Wisc., raising concerns among Native American and those concerned with the environment. The proposal is currently before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for review.

At the same time, Enbridge has a Corporate Social Responsibility statement outlining its commitments to “sustainability.” In the introduction, it defines Corporate Social Responsibility as “conducting business in a socially responsible and ethical manner; protecting the environment and the safety of people; supporting human rights; and engaging, learning from, respecting and supporting the communities and cultures with which we work.”

Enbridge Line 3 carries tar sands crude, a particularly dirty form of fossil fuel. The tar sands mining, processing  and pipelines have negatively affected the First Nations Peoples of Canada. Enbridge’s plan calls for replacing an old and failing pipeline with a larger one along a new route. This includes a 337-mile stretch across Minnesota, passing through the Mississippi headwaters region and prime wild rice waters, affecting Anishinaabe people. A major spill here would be devastating.

Some could applaud Enbridge for having a sustainability plan. Others might refer to it as greenwashing, which, Wikipedia explains, is “a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly.”

Let’s take a look at Enbridge’s sustainability statements and how they apply to the Line 3 proposal. Continue reading

Say a Prayer for the Water Protectors: President-Elect Trump a Likely DAPL Supporter

Efforts to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) have taken a sharp turn for the worse and the potential for more violent conflict has increased.

Say a prayer for the Water Protectors. Continue reading

Panel Recommends Restoring “Bde Maka Ska” Name, Dropping “Lake Calhoun” In Other News: Climate Change Forces Tribal Relocation; Omaha Tribe Wins in U.S. Supreme Court

The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) for the Lake Calhoun restoration plan overwhelmingly supported restoring the Dakota name “Bde Maka Ska” to Lake Calhoun. The vote was 15-4 with one abstaining Thursday night. The recommendation will be included in a larger report that will be presented to the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board.

Restoring the name will be a long process, including stops at Hennepin County and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. But Thursday’s action is an important first step.

CAC members Carly Bad Heart Bull and Tracy Nordstrom led the effort supporting the name restoration. In a media release, they said: Continue reading

Supreme Court Case Could Limit Tribal Court Authority; Report on Duluth Native History Coming; Healing Hearts at Wounded Knee Worldwide Ceremony; Holiday Sales of Native-made Food and Gifts; Native Rights Cut from Climate Compact; Bush Foundation Announces Native Nation ReBuilders

A U.S. Supreme Court case is reviewing the power and reach of Indian Tribal Courts and it is drawing national attention.

On December 7, The Atlantic ran a piece Who Can Tribal Courts Try?: The U.S. Supreme Court weighs which disputes America’s Indian tribal courts can adjudicate. The same day, The Nation wrote a piece titled: Dollar General Takes Its Case Against Indigenous Sovereignty to the Supreme Court.

As The Nation article frames it:

The case is rooted in accusations of child sexual abuse brought over a decade ago. In the summer of 2003, a 13-year-old Choctaw student, whose name has been withheld, claimed a white store manager named Dale Townsend repeatedly molested him at a Dollar General store. The teenager was enrolled in his tribe’s job-training program and was placed in the store on the reservation. …

The 1978 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Oliphant prevents tribes from bringing criminal charges against non-Indians for crimes committed on tribal land. That decision is up to U.S. prosecutors. The story continues:

When federal prosecutors refused to bring charges, the victim’s family sued Townsend and Dollar General for [civil] damages in Choctaw Tribal Court, alleging the company had failed to properly vet and supervise the manager and was responsible for his violent conduct.

Dollar General Store is arguing that the Tribal Court should not have civil jurisdiction in this case, even though it is willingly operating on tribal land. It is expected to argue that tribal courts are unfair to non-Natives.

According to The Atlantic article, the National Congress of American Indians has filed an amicus brief, warning that if Dollar General’s argument prevails:

… tribal governments couldn’t regulate off-reservation businesses that dump waste on tribal land; … Tribal courts could not hear cases against abusive non-Indian spouses who live on the reservation; tribal courts couldn’t evict non-tribal members squatting in tribal housing.

Report on Duluth’s Native History: An Effort Towards Improved Relationships

The city of Duluth’s Indigenous Commission is working on a report to document the history of Native Americans in the city, according to a recent report by MN Native News. “Many hope it will have a positive impact on the city’s landscape and relations between Natives and non-Natives in the region,” the news account said.

“We wanted to have our stories from our ancestors be known,” said Babette Sandman, who is Ojibwe and sits on the Duluth Indigenous Commission. “If you come to Duluth, you don’t see anything that says we ever existed.

Healing Hearts at Wounded Knee: An Effort Towards Peace

Healing Hearts at Wounded Knee is holding its 25th annual horse ride and promoting a world-wide sacred ceremony of healing. According to its website:

The Healing Hearts at Wounded Knee [HHAWK] Committee extend invitation to Indigenous communities, religious institutions, … and people in all walks of life in order to end massacre, racism, war and to further global healing of the essential “multi-generational wounding” caused by these acts. Since religion is one of the historical modes of oppression, focusing on healing the wounds between Indigenous people and world religions — in particular Christianity — we believe could create a significant shift in consciousness and healing from 2015 – 2018.

The recent apology to Indigenous people by Pope Francis is a significant step in this process and demonstrates the need for work in these areas. The work by the Canadian Truth & Reconciliation Commission with their First Nations people is another example of “breaking ground,” and should not be an end point, but the beginning of historic healing work.

The organization is encouraging people to participate in world-wide prayer on December 29 (the 125th anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre) at noon in your time zone.

Click on the links for more information, including this background on the memorial horse ride.

Holiday Sales of Native-Made Food and Gifts

  • The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Building at 1308 East Franklin Avenue, will host a holiday sale of gifts made by urban Indians. The dates are Friday-Saturday, December 11-12 and Friday-Saturday, December 18-19, each day from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Dream of Wild Health will hold a separate holiday sale Saturday, December 12, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday, December 13,  1-4 p.m. at the All Nations Church, 1515 East 23rd Street in Minneapolis. Youth Leaders will have tribal-produced foods for sale: jellies and jams from Red Lake, Lakota popcorn, wild rice, maple syrup, Native American teas, and more! Many other vendors will be there as well with arts and crafts, herbal products, and jewelry.

Native Rights Written Out of Climate Pact

Negotiations in Paris to develop global solutions to address climate change have deleted text that would protect Native rights. A December 7 story in The Guardian newspaper read: Indigenous activists take to Seine river to protest axing of rights from Paris climate pact. It starts:

Indigenous groups from across the world staged a paddle down the Seine river in Paris on Sunday, calling on governments to ensure Indigenous rights are included in the United Nations climate pact currently being negotiated in France.

The United States, the EU, Australia and other states have pushed for Indigenous rights to be dropped from the binding parts of the agreement out of fear that it could create legal liabilities.

Bush Foundation Announces Native Nation ReBuilders

The Bush Foundation created the Native Nation ReBuilders Program in 2010 after elected tribal leaders from the 23 Native nations called for community leaders to help with nation-building work, according to a foundation announcement. The latest group of “ReBuilders” has 22 tribal citizens. Over the next two years they will share strategies and insights to make a brighter future for Native people across the region. Here are their names:

This Day in History: The Old Crossings Treaty; Climate Change Event Set for Indigenous Peoples Day

On this day in history, Oct. 2, 1863, former Minnesota Gov. Alexander Ramsey engineered the “Old Crossings Treaty” in which the Ojibwe — at gunpoint — ceded land in the northwest corner of Minnesota and the northeast corner of North Dakota.

According to the Treaties Matter website:

Ramsey, who had resigned the Minnesota governorship to become a commissioner of Indian Affairs earlier in the year, arrived at the treaty site with nearly 300 troops and a Gatling gun. He presented the treaty as an agreement to allow businesses – notably Norman Kittson’s transportation companies – to pass through Ojibwe territory. But the treaty as written ceded 11,000,000 acres in present-day Minnesota and North Dakota to the U.S. The Ojibwe were to receive $20,000 per year for 20 years, and “Indian traders” – notably Norman Kittson — would receive up to $100,000.

(Minnesota’s most northwestern county is called Kittson County.)

Wikipedia provides a more background to the treaty. All this was taking place just a year after the Dakota-U.S. War, it said, and tensions, fear and rumors were running high.

Rumors of alliances between the Sioux and the Ojibwe were rampant, and fear of a sympathetic “insurrection” by the “whole body of the Chippewa” were widespread. …

It was against this backdrop of fear and intentional intimidation of the Ojibwe as part of the reaction to the Sioux Uprising, that Commissioner Ramsey resumed the quest to gain for United States development interests the territory of the Ojibwe bands in Northwestern Minnesota.

Click on the links above to get more details.

Climate Change and Social Justice: Actions at the Intersections

You are invited to attend an event on Monday, October 12, Indigenous Peoples Day, that will look at how various religious traditions think about stewardship and the idea of caring for creation. The event “Climate Change and Social Justice: Actions at the Intersections: will run 7-9:15 p.m. at Pilgrim Lutheran Church, 1935 St. Clair Ave., St. Paul.

Panelists include Healing Minnesota Stories’ Bob Klanderud, who is Dakota/Lakota. The event is free and open to the public. It is co-sponsored by the Saint Paul Interfaith Network, Interfaith Power and Light, and Pilgrim Lutheran Church.

For more, see: http://mnipl.org/calendar-new/mnipl-spin-series.html