Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order in 2019 committing the state and its various departments and agencies to “meaningful and timely consultation” with Native Nations on issues of mutual concern. So why didn’t the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) meaningfully consult with Tribes on Line 3? First in a two-part series.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) approved several key permits for Enbridge to build its Line 3 tar sands pipeline through northern Minnesota’s streams, wetlands, and wild rice areas, including one certificate that’s supposed to protect water quality.
Under Walz’s executive order 19-24, the MPCA was supposed to engage in meaningful consultation with Native Nations. By all appearances, the agency failed to do so on Line 3.
Examining the MPCA’s tribal relations policies tells why.
I spoke to candidate Tim Walz twice when he was running for Governor in 2017, once at a house party, once at a DFL unity event at a St. Paul brewery.
Both times I asked him one question: Where do you stand on the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline?
Both times he assured me he opposed the project. “Peggy would never let me do that,” he said, a reference to his running mate, Peggy Flanagan, an enrolled member of the White Earth Nation and then an outspoken Line 3 critic.
Walz spoke briefly about Line 3 Friday on MPR. I wasn’t surprised at his comments, but still angry.
Enbridge Line 3 construction might be nearly done, but efforts to stop it from operating are far from over. Lawsuits are still pending.
Yet as we continue the important work of Line 3 resistance, we also need to have a keen focus on the broken regulatory system that approved Line 3, and is backing harmful projects such as the PolyMet Mine.
Line 3 provides an important window into that broken regulatory system. The term now in vogue is “regulatory capture.”
Regulatory capture is an economic theory that says regulatory agencies may come to be dominated by the industries or interests they are charged with regulating. The result is that an agency, charged with acting in the public interest, instead acts in ways that benefit … the industry it is supposed to be regulating.
State officials have dodged tough questions and accountability for their flawed decisions and complicity in the harm Line 3 will bring. Local media has let us down with its thin coverage.
What follows is a set of 14 questions that our state leaders and regulators still need to answer. In broad terms, they are: How do you understand the “public interest?” How does citizen participation affect decisions or is it just for show? How are you holding polluters accountable?
Last, week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized the Cuban government for suppressing peaceful protests by its citizens seeking a better life. Cuba’s actions lay bare “the regime’s fear of its own people and unwillingness to meet their basic needs and aspirations,” Blinken said.
Note to Blinken: Come visit northern Minnesota where 600 people have been arrested for resisting the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline. Indigenous communities are trying to protect their way of life, their wild rice, and their treaties. Others have joined to support them to protect the planet and a livable climate.
The Line 3-related arrests and police actions show that our “regime” fears its own people, too.
The current Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline is more that 50 year’s old. It’s badly corroded and only runs at only 50 percent capacity to reduce spill risks.
Monitoring tools inside the pipeline identify potential problems. When found, workers dig down to the pipeline, inspect it, and make repairs. This is called an “integrity dig.” Enbridge estimated the current Line 3 would need 4,000 integrity digs over 15 years for its safe operation. That’s a lot of digging.
There’s a lot more integrity problems than just one old pipeline. Our entire regulatory system has integrity problems, including its failure to stop the dangerous and unnecessary Line 3 pipeline.
Collectively, we need to dig into this corroded system, understand how it got so compromised, and fix it.
Native Nations and environmental groups opposed to the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline announced Wednesday they would appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court to overturn the pipeline’s Certificate of Need and Route Permit.
One notable advocate that had sued to stop Line 3 dropped out this time: The Minnesota Department of Commerce. Commerce represented the public interest before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC). It has consistently argued that Enbridge failed to prove that future oil demand justified building the new and larger Line 3.
Those continuing litigation to overturn the PUC’s Line 3 permits are: The White Earth Band of Ojibwe, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, the Sierra Club, Honor the Earth, Friends of the Headwaters, and Youth Climate Interveners.
Gov. Tim Walz appears to have caved to political pressure. His administration’s decision to drop the appeal emphasizes what’s been clear for a while: In spite of promises, Walz is not taking climate damage or treaty rights seriously.
In related news, top elected leaders from the White Earth Nation came to the Capitol today to press the Walz administration for nation-to-nation consultation around Line 3.
Enbridge new Line 3’s dewatering plan raises hard questions
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has approved a permit allowing Enbridge to increase its Line 3 trench dewatering by nearly ten fold, up to 5 billion gallons.
The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe has written Gov. Tim Walz requesting he tell the DNR to rescind the permit, “until such time as the Department consults with the White Earth Reservation and all other impacted tribes” as promised in Walz’s 2019 executive order.
“Time of of the essence,” wrote Catherine J. Chavers, President of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.
Line 3’s new dewatering permit raises many questions:
Why didn’t it trigger Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order requiring meaningful consultation with Native Nations?
Why is Enbridge requesting such a big increase in dewatering so late in construction?
Why wasn’t there more public engagement in the process?
What are the potential environmental harms from increased dewatering?
Treaties are a two-way street with rights and responsibilities for both parties. On Line 3, Minnesota is failing its duty.
The Treaty People Gathering, June 5-8, garnered extensive media coverage, notably the June 7 actions taken to stop construction of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline through northern Minnesota.
The media covered the political pressure placed on President Joe Biden to live up to his campaign promises to address climate change and respect Tribal sovereignty. It covered water protectors chaining themselves to Enbridge equipment and the subsequent arrests of approximately 200 people. It covered speeches by important movement leaders and celebrities such as Winona LaDuke, Tara Houska and Jane Fonda.
Most stories made a passing reference to treaty rights, but failed to give the topice much ink. It’s not something that fits easily into a two-paragraph summary or a 30-second video clip.
The problem is that many non-Indigenous people erroneously view treaty rights as a gift from the United State government to Indigenous Nations. Treaty rights are a binding contract between two parties, each with their own rights and responsibilities.