No one is protecting East Phillips from air pollution, notably those who promised to do so

It’s part of a larger pattern of regulatory failures

(Correction: An earlier version misstated the pollution contribution from individual industries to East Phillips’ overall pollution problems. It has been corrected. This post also was updated with information from the MPCA.)

The City of Minneapolis has declared racism a public health emergency, pledging to “allocate funding, staff, and additional resources to actively engage in racial equity in order to name, reverse, and repair the harm done to BIPOC in this City.”

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has committed to environmental justice, saying it will focus “on developing strategies to reduce pollution and health disparities in communities most at-risk.”

Unfortunately, neither of those promises are protecting the residents of East Phillips, one of Minneapolis’ poorest and most racially diverse neighborhoods, and home to Little Earth, a 212-unit housing development that gives preference to Native American applicants.

The neighborhood has several pollution sources: Smith Foundry, an iron works; Bituminous Roadways, an asphalt plant; the city’s Hiawatha Public Works yard, and Hiawatha Avenue, a major thoroughfare.

City leaders should know that East Phillips is part of the “pubic health emergency.” The city’s 2021 Racial Equity Impact Analysis said residents living in the area “experience much higher levels of cumulative pollution than residents from majority white city neighborhoods … leading to [higher] levels of asthma and hospitalization for children and adults.”

(East Phillips asthma levels were more than double the state average in 2019, MinnPost reported.)

Unless things change soon, East Phillips will soon get even more pollution and related health problems, further exacerbating health disparities.

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Enbridge needed more than 20,000 cubic feet of grout (concrete) to plug Line 3 aquifer breach near Fond du Lac

A photo essay

In 2021, Enbridge Line 3 construction workers breached an aquifer in St. Louis County, just 400 feet west of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa reservation.

Enbridge hadn’t done — nor did the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) require — any analysis of the area’s hydrology.

This was one of at least three such aquifer breaches created by Line 3 construction, a violation of Enbridge’s permit and state law.

The St. Louis County breach:

  • Took nearly seven months to repair. (The breach occurred Sept. 10, 2021 and the repair was reported complete on April 7.)
  • Released more than 263 million gallons of groundwater.
  • Required 24/7 grouting activities (think cement) to repair, starting March 8 and finishing April 5 (with two pauses to check for effectiveness).
  • Required more than 20,000 cubic feet of grout to fix, according to Enbridge’s final report on the repair. (That’s enough grout to build a wall two-feet thick, 20-feet tall, and 500-feet long.)
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Volunteers spotlight more groundwater problems apparently created during Line 3 pipeline construction

State environmental watchdogs are investigating, but not releasing any details

Video screen grab showing construction matting at Walker Brook.

This a corrected version of an earlier blog. The original version incorrectly said the DNR and MPCA made a joint statement about the Walker Brook situation. This post includes their separate statements. The previous post has been taken down. I regret the error.

More environmental damage is coming to light from construction of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline, and its due to citizen volunteers.

The group Waadookawaad Amikwag (Anishinaabe for “Those Who Help Beaver”) has been monitoring the construction corridor for unreported environmental damage out of concern that state regulators weren’t paying attention to it.

Waadookawaad Amikwag released a video this week of what they say is a fourth cold underground water breach, this one where Line 3 crosses Walker Brook South in Clearwater County.

The DNR denies that there is an aquifer breach, suggesting it is “an upwelling of shallow groundwater resources that has complicated site restoration.”

(The DNR’s statement is silent on the connection between Line 3 construction and the upwelling of shallow groundwater or how much groundwater has upwelled.)

This comes on top of three Line 3 aquifer breaches we already know about: Clearbrook, LaSalle Creek, and Fond du Lac.

All this environmental damage falls disproportionately on the Anishinaabe (Chippewa and Ojibwe) nations in northern Minnesota. In approving Line 3’s Certificate of Need, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission “expressed serious concern with the Project’s impacts to indigenous populations, acknowledging that the Project would traverse ceded territories where Minnesota’s Ojibwe and Chippewa tribes hold … hunting, fishing, and gathering rights.”

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News: Fond du Lac dedicates new cemetery following 2017 grave desecration, our photo-op Governor, and more

In this post:

  • Fond du Lac band dedicates new cemetery for historic grave desecrated during road project
  • Our photo-op Governor
  • Canadian museum repatriates sacred item taken by missionary 150 years ago
  • Sacheen Littlefeather walks on; she declined Oscar on behalf of Brando
  • Cherokee Nation ongoing lawsuit against the federal government to account for how it’s managed Tribal assets
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The Minnesota Gold Rush that wasn’t and its lasting impact on Anishinaabe people

Today’s history lesson is on the Minnesota Gold Rush of 1866.

Never heard of it? That’s because 1) It fizzled, and 2) It’s a history we don’t tell because it reflects so poorly on our colonial past. While now but a historical footnote, the Minnesota Gold Rush did incredible harm to the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) people living in northeastern Minnesota.

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Weekend Reads: Land Back, a court win, and the latest Enbridge criticism

In this post:

  • Native Nations in Wisconsin get big property tax win
  • Wisconsin Point returned to Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
  • The hyperbole keeps coming from Enbridge and its backers
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Native Nations take EPA to court over new and complicated water quality standards

The Grand Portage and Fond du Lac bands of Lake Superior Chippewa are suing the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) in the Minnesota Court of Appeals, trying to overturn EPA’s approval of Minnesota’s new water quality standards.

The Bands say the new system “is likely to result in increased pollution in downstream waters that flow around and through the Bands’ reservations, and waters that are important to the Bands’ treaty-reserved rights to hunt, fish, and gather throughout their ceded territories,” the complaint said.

The Bands are particularly concerned about water pollution from mining.

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Court challenge could weaken Clean Water Act; Native Nations weigh in to keep it strong

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and 16 other Native Nations have filed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that could weaken the federal Clean Water Act.

The case being contested is small in the grand scheme of things, but the precedent it could set is huge. An adverse ruling would mean “thousands of miles of streams and wetlands—many critical to the Tribes—would lose longstanding Clean Water Act protections,” the Tribes said.

In January, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, Sackett v. EPA, in its upcoming session.

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EPA puts PolyMet permit in serious doubt based on mine’s projected harms to Fond du Lac Band waters, and more

In this post:

  • EPA comes out against PolyMet mine based on threats to Fond du Lac Reservation waters
  • Indigenous women push Biden,Army Corps to stop Enbridge Line 5
  • Online presentation: Networks among colonial elites who profited as treaty signers
  • Indian Country in particular threatened should Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade
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Federal government requires MPCA to enforce wild rice protections, overriding state laws

The environmental group WaterLegacy and the Fond du Lac and Grand Portage Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa scored a major victory to enforce state water quality rules that protect wild rice.

It’s a huge ruling. It should affect the MPCA’s oversight of existing projects, such as the MinnTac Mine (which has never complied with wild rice water quality standards). It should affect the MPCA’s review of projects in the queue, such as the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine.

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