Corrections backs Aitkin County Jail following mass arrest, coronavirus complaints

We reported earlier this month on the arrest of 22 water protectors who were held overnight in the Aitkin County jail. They claimed COVID-19 protection were inadequate: Some jailers were not wearing masks or wearing them below their noses; women were held in overcrowded conditions.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) is the state licensing body for county jails. Healing Minnesota Stories emailed the DOC, sharing the post with the water protectors’ stories. We asked if Aitkin County followed proper procedures.

The Department of Corrections — which does not have a great track record on COVID-19 prevention — responded today, saying not only that the “jail followed COVID-19 precautions” but also that the department “doesn’t have any violations against any jails due to COVID-19” since the pandemic began.

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COVID-19 experts decline to comment on Enbridge Line 3 construction’s pandemic risks

Healing Minnesota Stories and others are still trying to get clear answers about the coronavirus health risks posed by Line 3 construction. Half of the expected 4,200 construction workers are expected to come from outside the northern Minnesota area. The influx workers is well underway.

How many more northern Minnesotans will get sick — and die — because of this project?

Some of the state’s leading COVID-19 experts don’t want to touch the question with a ten-foot pole. (That’s a six-foot pole for social distancing, and another four feet for good measure.)

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Health Commissioner Malcolm: State to ‘closely monitor’ Line 3 path for COVID-19 outbreaks, and ‘adjust, as appropriate’

Give credit to Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm for responding to a question regarding the state’s decision to approve construction of Line 3 at the same time the state expects a coronavirus surge.

Healing Minnesota Stories has sent inquiries to a number of health and public health officials asking about the wisdom of allowing Line 3 work to proceed considering the health risks. Malcolm is the first to respond. We will post other responses if and when we get them.

On its face, the decision to allow Line 3 construction now seems illogical. The state just put the brakes on various forms of social engagement to slow the pandemic, yet it seems to have a different standard for Line 3.

The argument seems to be that since the state is allowing other construction projects to proceed during the pandemic that it needs to allow Enbridge Line 3 to proceed, too. That fails to consider some of Line 3’s unique features. The project’s scale is well beyond anything else in the state. It will attract several thousands workers to northern Minnesota. (A video posted on Facebook of a Bemidji Super 8 parking lot reports cars from Texas, Louisiana, California, and Oklahoma.)

Further, the Minnesota Department of Commerce is currently in the Minnesota Court of Appeals arguing to revoke Line 3’s key permits. According to Commerce, Enbridge failed to prove Line 3 is needed. So what’s the rush to build an unnecessary pipeline?

Here is Commissioner Malcolm’s response to Healing Minnesota Stories question, in full.

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PUC ignores Line 3’s COVID concerns, buys into Enbridge’s flawed pandemic plan

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) today rejected requests from the Red Lake and White Earth nations to delay construction of the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline.

Further, the tribes said the arrival of out-of-town construction workers would increase the spread of COVID.

Further, the tribes and other intervenors have cases pending in the Minnesota Court of Appeals trying to reverse Line 3 approvals. The issues range from Line 3’s climate damage and treaty rights to the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s argument that Enbridge failed to prove this pipeline is needed.

The tribes argued that if the PUC didn’t delay Line 3 construction, the environmental damage would be done before the court reaches a decision, which would be unfair.

In a 4-1 vote, the PUC rejected the request for a “stay” in construction. Commissioner Matt Schuerger was the lone vote in favor of the stay. He called the tribe’s arguments “persuasive and critically important.”

Red Lake and White Earth are expected to appeal the PUC’s decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

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During pandemic spike, state needs to bar Enbridge Line 3 construction and its influx of out-of-state workers

PUC to hear Red Lake, White Earth requests for pipeline delay on Friday

Native Nations, environmental groups, file suit today to block MPCA’s Line 3 permit

Native Americans are bearing a disproportionate burden of the coronavirus pandemic and getting inadequate government support.

It’s true nationally and in Minnesota. Here, Gov. Tim Walz’ administration has put Indigenous lives at risk by failing to delay Enbridge Line 3 construction and the pandemic risks it entails.

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Stop Line 3 webinar Tuesday features LaDuke, Houska, Goodwin and others offering ways to get involved

In other news, the Washington Football Team’s philanthropic fumble

Check out the Prepare to Care: Stop Line 3 webinar slated for this Tuesday, 6:30-9 p.m. It’s part of the multi-day Harvest the Power Justice Convergence and Teach-In sponsored by several Unitarian groups.

It’s free but you have to register. Here’s the link.

Climate justice leaders working in frontline communities across Northern Minnesota will provide updates on the Line 3 struggle, offering people ways to engage in the resistance movement. This workshop also will include information about nonviolent direct action and other creative and caring conflict intervention opportunities.

Bonus: The event will close by having participants learn a water song together.

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News: MN Supreme Court upholds Bde Maka Ska name change, Alberta tar sands workers spread COVID-19, and more

In this blog:

  • Minnesota Supreme Court upholds Bde Maka Ska name change
  • Tar sands workers in Alberta spread COVID-19
  • Pandemic closes casinos, causing economic harm in Indian Country
  • Pine Ridge locks down after first two confirmed COVID-19 cases found

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Walz says he prioritizes safety of most vulnerable communities during pandemic, but would he intervene to stop Line 3?

Gov. Tim Walz

Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan issued a “Coronavirus Response and Preparation” update Friday that said: “As COVID-19 has exacerbated racial, economic, and educational inequities, the Walz-Flanagan Administration has prioritized the safety of our most vulnerable workers, families, and communities.”

Al Monaco, president and CEO of Enbridge, has said he believes construction on Line 3 could start this summer. Yet the pandemic isn’t going to be over by the summer. An influx of workers risks bringing more coronavirus cases to northern Minnesota. Line 3 runs near the White Earth and Red Lake reservations and through the Fond du Lac Reservation. Those communities have more than their share of health problems and their members would be more vulnerable to the virus.

In the worst-case scenario where Enbridge gets all the state permits it needs, the Walz administration needs to intervene to stop construction. With the current oil glut, there’s no public urgency for Line 3 construction to move forward.

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COVID-19 highlights the U.S. government’s failure to meet health care obligations to Indian Country

The current coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the many failings and disparities in the U.S. heathcare system.

Dr. Mary Owen, President-Elect of the Association of American Indian Physicians, recently wrote a column for Indian Country Today where she highlights the fact that Native Americans are the only population with a “legal right to health care,” and how the system is failing them.

“Despite the guaranteed provision of health care that is in part, payment for millions of acres of land, the Indian Health Service is chronically underfunded,” said Dr. Owen, an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School-Duluth and the Director of the Center of American Indian and Minority Health. Continue reading

White Earth to Walz: Live up to your pledge of ‘meaningful consultation’

Michael Fairbanks, chairman of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, has written Gov. Tim Walz reminding him of his promise of “meaningful consultation” with Native Nations, and urging him to intervene on a key Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline permit. In the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, he’s asking Walz to direct the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to deny Line 3’s water quality permit, allowing Enbridge to refile after the health crisis passes. This would allow time for meaningful engagement.

It’s the latest example of efforts to stop environmentally damaging projects that are moving forward while much of the country is being required to stay at home. Continue reading