Does Minnesota Need a New Tar Sands Pipeline? Commerce Ducks Critical Question in EIS

Honor the Earth map on Enbridge Line 3.

Second in a series of critiques of the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s final environmental impact statement on Enbridge Line 3, a proposal to expand and reroute a tar sands crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. This project threatens the Mississippi River and wild rice areas, violates treaty rights, and is unnecessary for the state’s energy security. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is taking public comments on the adequacy of the EIS until 4:30 p.m. Oct. 2. To learn how to submit comments, click here.

The Line 3 environmental impact statement (EIS) is inadequate because Commerce fails to look at whether or not this project is needed, given the environmental risks it will create.

Commerce released its draft EIS in May, triggering an avalanche of public comments. Some critics questioned the need for the project, offering testimony that Minnesota’s petroleum sales are down 19 percent since their 2004 peak.

In the final EIS, Commerce argues that the questi0n is outside the scope of the EIS. Here is how it responded to citizen criticism (Appendix T, page T-3).

… this EIS does not assess the overall project need. Instead, the EIS evaluates the environmental impacts associated with the range of reasonable alternatives to aid the Commission’s evaluation of the need criteria set forth in Minnesota Administrative Rules.

This is a head smacker. First, Chapter 5 dedicates 646 pages to: “Existing Conditions, Impacts, and Mitigation – Certificate of Need.” I am confused about how Commerce can dedicate that much analysis to a Certificate of Need without finding it necessary to “assess the overall project need.” Most ordinary people would expect a conversation on the Certificate of Need to discuss “Need.”

Second, the EIS saw fit to include informati0n on petroleum supply but it ignored demand (that is, the need for the project). Nothing prevented Commerce from including this information. The PUC needs the information. It is relevant to the debate. Citizens have raised the issue and provided the data.

Lastly, the Introduction, page 1-5, says the EIS would help the PUC decide whether denying the Certificate of Need: “would adversely affect the future adequacy, reliability, or efficiency of energy supply to the Applicant, to the Applicant’s customers, or to the people of Minnesota and neighboring states.” Further, the PUC needs to address whether the social impacts of granting the Certificate of Need “are more favorable than the consequences of denying the certificate.”

The EIS does not include that analysis. The EIS does not consider a “No-Build”option, so the PUC has no way of comparing the difference between approving and denying the Certificate of Need.

The EIS does, however, include an analysis of Line 3’s job creation and potential property tax benefits. If Commerce wants to take an expansive definition of environmental impacts to include jobs and tax implications, surely it could include an analysis of project need.

Being selective in the facts it chooses to present is a form of bias.

Continue reading

Commerce Takes Enbridge Assumption as Fact, Low Balls Impact of New Tar Sands Pipeline

First in a series of critiques of the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s final environmental impact statement (EIS) on Enbridge Line 3, a proposal to expand and reroute a tar sands crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. This project threatens the Mississippi River, wild rice areas, and Anishinaabe treaty rights. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is taking public comments on the adequacy of the EIS until 4:30 p.m. Oct. 2. To learn how to submit comments, click here.

Today, let’s critique the debate over the useful lifespan of a new crude oil pipeline. The EIS assumed the new Line 3 would only last 30 years. Anyway, Enbridge told the Department of Commerce it would operate for 30 years and Commerce did not challenge the assumption, even though current pipelines have lasted much longer.

Commerce had the lead role in writing the EIS on Enbridge Line 3 and its goal was to be a neutral arbiter of the facts. As it states in Appendix T (page T-i): “an EIS does not advocate, recommend, or state a preference for a specific alternative. Instead, it analyzes and compares alternatives so that citizens, agencies, and governments can work from a common set of facts.”

This is one example where Commerce — by accepting Enbridge’s assumption and ignoring public criticism — is showing bias favoring the pipeline. This is one reason the final EIS is inadequate and needs to be redone. Continue reading

Deeply Flawed Environmental Analysis of Tar Sands Pipeline Needs to Go Back to Square One

The state has released a deeply flawed final environmental impact statement (EIS) for a proposed tar sands crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota, a project known as Enbridge Line 3.

The 5,000 page document ducks the issue of treaty rights. It spends a scant 28 pages on issues of environmental justice, and much of that is unintelligible bureaucratic language. It leaves important questions unanswered.

Enbridge wants to install a three-foot wide tar sands pipeline through 337 miles of northern Minnesota, crossing the Mississippi twice and threatening wild rice areas. It will connect Alberta’s tar sands fields with a terminal in Superior, Wisconsin.

The public responded loudly when the draft EIS was released in May. Many individuals and organizations flooded public hearings with comments and criticisms. Many believe the process is being rushed.

Media analysis is coming in. The Star Tribune headline read: Report: Enbridge Line 3 options all would have negative effect on American Indians. MPR went with the neutral headline: Line 3 oil pipeline environmental review released.

Missing from media analysis and from the EIS is an analysis of whether we need this pipeline.

The answer is no. This pipeline has nothing to do with U.S. energy independence; it has everything to do with corporate profits from gas exports to developing countries. Two important facts. First, Minnesota’s refined petroleum sales (gas, diesel, jet fuel, etc.) is down 19 percent from our 2004 peak. Second, the United States is now a net exporter of refined petroleum products and our exports are growing annually. We don’t need more tar sands crude.

The pipeline threatens our environment and treaty rights and gives the state and nation no long-term benefits.

I am just starting to go through the EIS, but here are some early takes. Continue reading

Red Lake Nation Asks Governor Dayton to Delay Release of EIS on Enbridge Line 3

The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians (Anishinaabe) has written Governor Dayton to ask him to delay releasing the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) on Enbridge Line 3. It is scheduled to be released today.

Line 3 is a proposed tar sands crude oil pipeline from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, via Minnesotas. It would travel 337 miles across northern part of our state, crossing the Mississippi River twice and threatening wild rice areas. It would violate treaty rights that allow the Anishinaabe to hunt, fish and gather wild rice on off-reservation lands.

In an Aug. 15 letter to Dayton, the Red Lake Tribal Council said the state’s draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) of Line 3’s impacts to tribal resources “is clearly inadequate.” It also raises concerns about the departure of Danielle Molliver, the state’s tribal liaison for the project, who recently quit over concerns that the state was not showing a good faith effort to work with tribes.

The letter continues:

In fact, the discussion of tribal impacts in the DEIS and the mitigation that is proposed appears to have been written by Enbridge itself. …

We are also very concerned about the tight time schedule that the Public Utilities Commission and Enbridge are focused on for getting the FEIS released to the Public. The Red Lake Tribal Council believes that it is more important that the drafters of the environmental impact statement meaningfully consider the myriad of issues raised through the public comment, rather than being singularly focused on a tight self-imposed time schedule.

We are also concerned about the abrupt departure of Ms. Danielle Molliver, the Tribal Liaison with the Minnesota Department of Commerce for Tribal Nations throughout the environmental impact statement process. Ms. Molliver opened doors for the Department of Commerce, and convinced tribal people to share their true feeling about the impacts of Enbridge’s proposed project.  Her abrupt departure casts a further cloud over the environmental impact statement process.

For more background on why Molliver quit, see our earlier blog.

The letter is reproduced below. Continue reading

Only 10 Days Left to Comment on Tar Sands Pipeline EIS; What We Learned from the Bemidji Hearing

Hundreds packed the Sanford Center in Bemidji.

The latest round of public meetings to speak out against a proposed tar sands crude oil pipline through northern Minnesota are over, but you can still make your voice heard until July 10!

The project is called Enbridge Line 3, and it runs from Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wisconsin, crossing the length of northern Minnesota and passing near some of our cleanest lakes and rivers.The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission isn’t expected to vote on the project until early 2018, but this is a critical step. The Minnesota Department of Commerce issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) which will shape the debate. The DEIS is deeply flawed. Commerce needs to hear from citizens like you just how bad it is.

Here are four quick points that show how bad a proposal it is. Any one of these should be a deal killer.

  1. Tar sands mining is doing incredible damage in Canada and adding to climate change. Tar sands mining generates as much air pollution as the city of Toronto. It has created 300 billion gallons of toxic tailing ponds with mercury, arsenic and benzene (and growing). Canada’s First Nations people are bearing a disproportionate pain from this pollution.
  2. The new Minnesota route crosses the Mississippi Headwater region. What more needs to be said?
  3. The proposed pipeline crosses lands where the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) have treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather. The draft EIS all but admits the proposal violates these treaty rights.
  4. Minnesota does not benefit from this project. Our state’s petroleum use is on the decline. The U.S. already imports more crude oil than it needs. These new pipelines support foreign exports.

Here are ways you can still make a difference. Please share with your friends.

  • Check out Stop Line 3 for action items.
  • Sierra Club’s North Star Chapter has a sign-on letter.
  • Sierra Club youth leaders have organized a letter writing event at the Birchwood on Saturday, July 8th from 3-5 p.m. Facebook announcement here.
  • You also can comment directly by emailing Pipeline.Comments@state.mn.us.  (Include the docket numbers, CN-14-916 and PPL-15-137, in your comments when emailing them in directly.)

This proposal has drawn strong public reaction. The last of 22 public meetings was held June 22 in Bemidji. It was another jam-packed hearing room, another strong showing by those opposed to the proposed Line 3 expansion, and another time the Department of Commerce had to extend the hearing to give more people a chance to speak.

Each hearing generates new insights. Here is what we learned from Bemidji. Continue reading

Honor the Earth, Other Groups, Add New Education Resources to Stop Line 3

New Honor the Earth map on Enbridge Line 3.

If you are a reader of this blog, mostly likely you are strongly opposed to the proposed expansion and reroute of a tar sands crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota (see map at right).

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 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.

If you are like a lot of people, you want to have your voice heard but don’t have to time to wade through the hundreds of pages in the recently released draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). Even the most ardent opponents struggle to get through it.

But the good news is, they did. As a result, there are lots of easy-to-read fact sheets coming out to help you understand the core issues. Here are a few helpful resources:

We have created a separate Enbridge Line 3 tab on our blog to organize this kind of information about Line 3 and make it easy to find. If you think we are missing content, please send us a comment.

Keep reading to get a taste of some of the fact sheets’ analysis. Continue reading

Your Help Needed to Stop Enbridge Line 3, Public Comment Period Now Open

Honor the Earth’s map showing Enbridge Line 3’s current and proposed routes through northern Minnesota. The green area represents where the Ojibwe have treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather wild rice.

The public comment period is now open for a proposed crude oil pipeline running 337 miles through northern Minnesota, threatening our lakes and rivers and Ojibwe livelihood and lifeways. The pipeline would carry tar sands crude, a particularly dirty form of fossil fuel, for Alberta, Canada to Superior Wisconsin.

This is Minnesota’s version of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Honor the Earth, the Sierra Club’s North Star Chapter, MN350 and other groups are organizing to stop the project, known as Enbridge Line 3. Enbridge has a current Line 3 which is old and failing. It wants to abandon that pipeline in the ground and install a new and larger pipeline along a new route, which will pass through the Mississippi headwaters region and prime wild rice areas. (See map at right.)

The Minnesota Department of Commerce released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS) on May 15, and the public comment period runs through July 10.

Here is how you can get involved: Continue reading

The Legal Arguments for Stopping DAPL, and More Updates

Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) news summary:

  • MPR reviews the legal arguments that could be used to force the government to continue the environmental review of DAPL, a process the story said could delay the project for up to two more years. However, the headline questions whether this is the “beginning of the end.”
  • Indian Country Today is asking whether U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) was mislead or intentionally misleading when he announced Wednesday that approval of the DAPL easement was just days away.
  • Three U.S. Senators write President Trump to ask him to engage in meaningful consultation with the Standing Rock Nation.
  • The city of Seattle will vote on ending its business relationship with Wells Fargo over DAPL.

For details, keep reading.

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Breaking News: DAPL Easement Under Missouri River Expected in Days

File photo.The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is expected to get the final federal permit it needs — an easement to tunnel under the Missouri River — within days, according to the office of U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-ND, and news reports coming out of the state.

Expect this move to trigger lawsuits and more protests around the country. The federal government already is bringing in more law enforcement to the state in anticipation of renewed protests at the construction site. Continue reading

ND Lawmakers Seek State Control Over Reservations; Time to Write Statement about DAPL’s Impact

Two North Dakota law makers want Congress to give states more power over tribes, according to an article in Native News Online.Net. It’s a move that looks suspicious after recent clashes over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). This state power grab has been tried before, and it remains both a really bad idea and a violation of the Constitution. Continue reading