Environmental groups are embracing racial justice as central to their work

The environmental movement has been evolving for a century; in its latest advancement, some environmental groups are taking on racial justice as essential to their mission.

The environmental movement encompasses a broad sweep of organizations and strategies, but even a mainstream group such as the Sierra Club is centering racial justice. A recent article by Hop Hopkins, the Sierra Club’s national director of strategic partnership, put it this way:

I really believe in my heart of hearts—after a lifetime of thinking and talking about these issues—that we will never survive the climate crisis without ending white supremacy.

Here’s why: You can’t have climate change without sacrifice zones, and you can’t have sacrifice zones without disposable people, and you can’t have disposable people without racism.

We’re in this global environmental mess because we have declared parts of our planet to be disposable. The watersheds where we frack the earth to extract gas are considered disposable. The neighborhoods near where I live in Los Angeles, surrounded by urban oilfields, are considered disposable. The very atmosphere is considered disposable. When we pollute the hell out of a place, that’s a way of saying that the place—and the people and all the other life that calls that place home—are of no value.

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MPCA offers PR spin about what ‘meaningful’ tribal consultation means in Line 3 review

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA’s) commitment to environmental and racial justice is being tested and it’s not doing that great. It gets an incomplete at best.

At issue is the MPCA’s environmental review of Enbridge’s plans to build a tar sands crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota. To proceed, Enbridge needs the MPCA to approve a water crossing (Section 401) certificate. The proposed Line 3 crosses a lot of water — more than 200 streams and other water bodies and 79 miles of wetlands.

Native Nations have offered strong opposition to Line 3 for violating treaty rights and its threats to clean water and wild rice. Both the pipeline’s construction and future spills would endanger northern Minnesota’s environment.

So what were the MPCA’s goals for engaging Tribal communities in this important decision, and how well did it meet them?

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DNR Comments on Line 3 Report Raise Additional Environmental Concerns

Enbridge’s current deteriorating Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline on the Fond du Lac Reservation, exposed above ground. Enbridge wants to abandon the pipeline. Photo: John Ratzloff

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) both weighed in on the Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly’s report and recommendations on Line 3, clarifying, amplifying, and critiquing them.

Both agencies generally compliment Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly’s report for being, as the DNR put it, “comprehensive” and “neutral.” Neither agency takes a position on how the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) should vote on the Line 3 permits.

Still, the agency comments provide further illumination on why the PUC should reject Line 3. The DNR comments show that Enbridge’s current plans fails to provide adequate protections to northern Minnesota’s waters and environment. The MPCA comments reinforce O’Reilly’s critiques of the project’s risks.

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Strib Op/Ed: Enbridge pipeline’s ripple effect: Abuse of women and girls

Wanted to make sure you saw today’s Op/Ed in the Star Tribune: Enbridge pipeline’s ripple effect: Abuse of women and girls: We know that transient workers bring sex trafficking trouble. Women have spoken up, but their voices have been minimized or ignored.

The piece is written by Ann Manning of Minneapolis, director of Women’s Congress for Future Generations and associate director of the Science & Environmental Health Network. In critiquing the Line 3 tar sands pipeline project, her Op/Ed says:

Minnesotans should be fully aware not only of the environmental risks this so-called “good for the economy” project entails, but also the human risks. Large numbers of transient workers, often from out of state, will descend on small Minnesota towns along the pipeline construction route. They are housed in what’s become known as “man camps.”

The workers have no connection to the community, get paid large sums of money and have little to do in their free time. Some will bring trouble, attracting the drug trade, sex trafficking or both. They will pollute the land by day, and women and children by night.

Click on the link above for the full story.

The Line 3 environmental impact statement (EIS) discusses the impact of sex trafficking. The EIS says the impact would fall disproportionately on Native women and girls. See Chapter 11: Environmental Justice section:

Concerns have been raised regarding the link between an influx of temporary workers and the potential for an associated increase in sex trafficking, which is well documented, particularly among Native populations. (National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center 2016). American Indian and minority populations are often at higher risk if they are low-income, homeless, have a lack of resources, addiction, and other factors often found in tribal communities (MDH 2014).

I appreciate that the Star Tribune ran this piece, though I disagree with the headline “Enbridge pipeline’s ripple effect,” as it seems to minimize the impact of sex trafficking as only a “ripple.” This is an incredibly important issue. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission needs to reject Line 3.

DAPL Court Ruling a Mixed Bag: Reveals Deeply Flawed Environmental Justice Review, but Weak on Treaty Rights

A recent court ruling on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is stunning for what is reveals about how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted its so called “environmental analysis” of the project.

The June 14 decision by U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg will require the Corps to go back and do the analysis correctly. He left open the possibility that the court could shut down the pipeline until these issues are resolved. That decision will come at a later hearing.

The court ruling says the Corps analysis “did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice.” Read more deeply into the decision, and it raises questions about whether the Corps is simply oblivious to the concept of environment justice or whether its staff willfully slanted the review to get the outcome it wanted.

(In a related matter, the Trump administration has proposed eliminating the Environmental Justice Program altogether and making deep cuts to other civil rights services. See this CNN story.)

According to the court decision on DAPL: “The purpose of an environmental justice analysis is to determine whether a project will have a disproportionately adverse effect on minority and low income populations.”

The problem with the Corps’ environmental justice analysis boils down to this: It drew such a tiny circle defining the project’s impact area that it excluded the Standing Rock Nation from consideration.

That’s right. The Corps’ environmental justice analysis only looked at the impact on a predominantly white community mostly upstream from where DAPL crossed under Lake Oahe. It did not consider the impact on the Lakota people of the Standing Rock Nation just downstream from the crossing — the community that would be impacted by any spill. Continue reading

“Environmental Justice” Analysis of Proposed Crude Oil Pipeline is Flawed, Lacks Native Voices

The Minnesota Department of Commerce just released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on a proposed crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. The project, Enbridge Line 3, would run 337 miles from the North Dakota border to Duluth/Superior, including stretches through the Mississippi headwaters region and prime wild rice waters.

The 1894-page document includes a short section on Environmental Justice. To its credit, it acknowledges the pipeline would infringe on Anishiaabe (Ojibwe) treaty rights and exacerbate historical trauma. But it lacks Native voices and is silent on some important questions.

The Environmental Justice section concludes:

Disproportionate and adverse impacts would occur to American Indian populations in the vicinity of the proposed [Line 3] Project.
Then a few lines later:
A finding of “disproportionate and adverse impacts” does not preclude selection of any given alternative. This finding does, however, require detailed efforts to avoid, mitigate, minimize, rectify, reduce, or eliminate the impact associated with the construction of the Project or any alternatives.

That’s an indirect way of saying Anishinaabe voices and treaty right don’t really matter — the project can proceed based on what non-Native people consider to be fair mitigation.

Let’s take a hard look at the Environmental Justice chapter in the EIS. Continue reading

Movement of Movements: Indigenous Rights, Immigration Reform, Environmental Justice Come Together

Indigenous peoples are standing with Muslims in opposing President Trump’s immigration restrictions.

Environmentalists are standing with indigenous peoples, supporting their efforts to recognize and remember missing and murdered indigenous women.

What might seem like unlikely allies on different issues actually is a sign of a greater understanding of how different issues are connected. The term coming into common usage is Movement of Movements. The article Awakening the Movement of Movements in Truthout gives the following description:

The “Movement of Movements” is a phrase used to describe the current profusion of social justice movements sweeping the national and global social-political landscape. Neither an umbrella nor a grand unification organization, it is rather a way of perceiving the threads of connection that link these social justice movements together.

Here are two quick examples of how the work of different movements intersect and support each other.

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New Map Shows DAPL Missouri River Crossing Puts Disproportionate Risk on Native American Communities; Check Out the Trahant Reports

New maps show how the Missouri River crossing for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) puts the greatest risks on those communities where Native Americans live. Jennifer Veilleux and fellow geographer Candice Landry developed maps looking at issues of environmental justice around DAPL.

Their research found that out of 485 counties in the Missouri River Basin, 48 host population that identify as Native American — “and just more than 50% of these counties are either in the path of, or downstream of, the Dakota Access Pipeline.”

The article is titled: Income Maps of the Native Americans Living in the Missouri River Basin, and here is one of the maps. Notice that once the pipeline crosses the Missouri just above the northern tip of the Standing Rock Reservation, the river flows through a series of counties which have a disproportionate number of Native American residents.

Click here for the full article. Continue reading