Did the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission build in adequate financial protections should a new Line 3 crude oil pipeline burst? Minnesotans should worry.
Enbridge Inc., a giant Canadian crude oil pipeline company, has a history of trying to use a corporate shell game to avoid responsibility for the clean-up costs from a major crude oil spill.
Liability coverage is a significant point of contention around the proposed Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. The proposed 340-mile pipeline route would cross more than 200 waterbodies and pass through more than 75 miles of wetlands, according to project documents. It would pass through and near wild rice beds. It would pass near drinking water sources. The question is: should this pipeline get built, could Enbridge cover clean-up costs from a major spill?
Let’s be clear. A Line 3 spill would be disastrous and impossible to clean up fully. Tar sands crude oil is heavy and sinks, making it difficult to clean up. The tar sands crude is viscous and difficult to pump through pipelines. Producers add toxic chemicals to help the tar sands crude oil flow. A spill would release those toxic additives into the environment. A spill in a fragile ecosystem such as a wild rice bed would do long-term damage.
Money would not solve the spill. Still, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) sought to ensure Enbridge would be on the hook for clean up costs.
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.]
Tar sands crude oil pipeline company Enbridge repeatedly has shown itself to be an untrustworthy partner. Here are the two latest examples.
Enbridge withheld information from the state of Michigan about problems with Line 5, the portion which passes underwater in the Straits of Mackinack (between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan). According to an Oct. 27 AP report published by WOOD TV, Enbridge says it knew about pipeline damage 3 years ago:
The company that operates twin oil pipelines in a Great Lakes waterway says it knew three years ago that protective coating had been damaged but didn’t inform regulatory agencies.
That led to strong criticism by the Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, released that same day:
“Trust and transparency are critical in any relationship. This latest revelation by Enbridge means that the faith and trust Michigan has placed in Enbridge has reached an even lower level. Enbridge needs to do more than apologize, Enbridge owes the citizens of Michigan a full and complete explanation of why they failed to truthfully report the status of the pipeline.”
In related news, Honor the Earth has criticized the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) for its inaction after it found out that Enbridge had made false statements its applications for Minnesota pipeline staging areas. For several years now, Enbridge has been stacking up pipeline around northern Minnesota in anticipation of getting state approvals for Line 3. It had to get storm water construction permits in 2014 and 2015 to create these staging areas. Enbridge indicated on its online form that the project had all necessary environmental reviews — which it did not.
MPCA did not catch the mistake until this March. And it is taking no action against Enbridge. According to Honor the Earth’s post:
These violations have irreparably undermined the state’s ability to conduct an objective process for reviewing the projects and determining if they are in the state’s best interest….
This has also introduced enormous bias into the court of public opinion, as rural communities across Northern Minnesota have now spent years living with pipe for the proposed project transported on their roads and piled in their backyards.
A spirit camp has opened on the White Earth Reservation to carry on the water protectors’ traditions started at Standing Rock. The camp is working to stop the Enbridge Line 3 proposal as well as promote unity among camps across the country doing the important work of protecting Mother Earth, according to William Paulson, Executive Director of the Oshkaabewisag Community Cooperative.
The camp is called MikinaakMinis-Turtle Island, and it has a Facebook page. Asked if the camp needed any support, Paulson asked only that people like and share the Facebook page and “be involved in the moment. Contact your elected officials and talk to them about this.”
Enbridge has an old and failing Line 3 (the black line on the map). Enbridge proposes to abandon that line in the ground and install a new, larger pipeline along a new route (the red line on the map.) That new route runs 337 miles across Minnesota, crosses the Mississippi headwaters and endangers clean lakes, rivers and wild rice beds, and all for nothing. Minnesota’s fossil fuel demand is actually declining.
Paulson said Enbridge Line 3 also crosses what is known as the “1855 Treaty area” (light green shaded area on the map). The Anishinaabe retain rights to hunt, fish and gather wild rice in this area. Enbridge and the state “are not discussing it on a government-to-government basis,” he said. [Enbridge is] trying to buy people off and go through.” The threat to the Mississippi’s headwaters is “unacceptable,” Paulson said.
According to the Facebook page, the camp is: “A support haven on beautiful land for community, culture, and traveling ambassadors for Mother Earth. Water is Life.” Paulson provided additional information about the camp in an email: Continue reading →