Pushing Back on the PUC, Part I: Ojibwe Bands Criticize Enbridge’s Rushed Pipeline Promises

This is the first in a series that will review responses to Enbridge’s last-minute promises on its Line 3 pipeline project. The PUC adopted these with no pubic scrutiny. This blog looks at the responses from Native Nations. The next blogs will look at responses from state agencies and an environmental group.

In late June, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) was entering its final deliberations on the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline. The debate spanned years, including public hearings, an environmental impact statement, and recommendations from an administrative law judge. With a final vote imminent, the PUC changed the rules. It allowed Enbridge to change its proposal after the official record had closed. The PUC accepted Enbridge’s deal sweeteners and voted to approve them without giving regulators or the public a chance to review and critique them.

While Enbridge’s promises might look good on paper that’s no guarantee they will deliver.

Now, predictably, many parties — tribal nations, state agencies and an environmental group — have filed responses to the PUC seeking significant changes. These responses show just how little thought the Commissioners gave to Enbridge’s proposals before giving them the green light. In particular, Enbridge gave no consideration to indigenous rights. While perhaps it’s not surprising that Enbridge tried to game the system, it is disappointing that the PUC went along with it, one more example of its flawed process.

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Enbridge Tries to Bamboozle the PUC, Minnesota’s Dept. of Commerce Pushes Back

Is the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) being a) hoodwinked, b) hornswaggled, or c) bamboozled by Enbridge, or all of the above?

At the center of the bamboozle is Enbridge’s pledge to provide a “Decommissioning Trust Fund.” It would be a financial reserve to pay for the removal and/or clean up of the newly approved Line 3 once it has outlived its useful purpose.

It’s a little understood proposal — because it’s only been around for a week. After years of debate over Line 3, Enbridge made a last-minute pitch of deal sweeteners to try to woo PUC approval. (Along with the Decommissioning Trust Fund, Enbridge promised to include a Parental Guaranty for Environmental Damages; Landowner Choice Program (for removing old pipeline); Neutral Footprint Program; and General Liability and Environmental Impairment Liability Insurance.)

The problem is, these proposals came in after the contested case hearing was done and the record closed. Line 3 opponents had no chance to review or comment on these proposals. At the time of the PUC vote, Enbridge’s Trust Fund proposal was thin. The PUC told Enbridge to submit more details and on July 16, Enbridge filed its Decommissioning Trust Fund Proposal. The Minnesota Department of Commerce responded days later, seeking significant changes in what appears to be a complicated and inadequate plan.

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