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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Walz says he prioritizes safety of most vulnerable communities during pandemic, but would he intervene to stop Line 3?

Gov. Tim Walz

Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan issued a “Coronavirus Response and Preparation” update Friday that said: “As COVID-19 has exacerbated racial, economic, and educational inequities, the Walz-Flanagan Administration has prioritized the safety of our most vulnerable workers, families, and communities.”

Al Monaco, president and CEO of Enbridge, has said he believes construction on Line 3 could start this summer. Yet the pandemic isn’t going to be over by the summer. An influx of workers risks bringing more coronavirus cases to northern Minnesota. Line 3 runs near the White Earth and Red Lake reservations and through the Fond du Lac Reservation. Those communities have more than their share of health problems and their members would be more vulnerable to the virus.

In the worst-case scenario where Enbridge gets all the state permits it needs, the Walz administration needs to intervene to stop construction. With the current oil glut, there’s no public urgency for Line 3 construction to move forward.

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PUC reissues orders approving Line 3, Commissioner Schuerger dissents, lawsuits now back in play

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) released orders today reapproving Enbridge Line 3’s Route Permit and Certificate of Need. This now opens the door for legal challenges to the tar sands crude oil pipeline, including suits from Native Nations who say the project threatens their treaty rights, their sacred wild rice, and their clean waters.

The PUC’s actions today again put pressure on Gov. Tim Walz to decide where he stands on the Line 3 project, and whether he will reaffirm a lawsuit against the project by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Continue reading

White Earth to Walz: Live up to your pledge of ‘meaningful consultation’

Michael Fairbanks, chairman of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, has written Gov. Tim Walz reminding him of his promise of “meaningful consultation” with Native Nations, and urging him to intervene on a key Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline permit. In the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, he’s asking Walz to direct the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to deny Line 3’s water quality permit, allowing Enbridge to refile after the health crisis passes. This would allow time for meaningful engagement.

It’s the latest example of efforts to stop environmentally damaging projects that are moving forward while much of the country is being required to stay at home. Continue reading

An Open Letter to Gov. Walz on Line 3, its public purpose, its costs and benefits, and needed action

Dear Gov. Walz:

Your voice and leadership matter in the debate over the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

You have given Minnesotans the impression that you have no authority to intervene. While you can’t snap your fingers and stop the project, you have more power than you’re letting on. You oversee agencies charged with making sure Enbridge meets all state environmental requirements in the pipeline’s construction and operation. You have the bully pulpit to let citizens know your candid views.

Last year, you told Minnesotans that Line 3 needed not just a building permit, but a “social permit.” We need to hear from you the specific conditions Line 3 must meet to secure such a “social permit.” At a minimum, it should include transparency. So far, the Line 3’s public record is both voluminous and technical, often leading to more confusion than clarity. The state needs to make a clear statement, in lay terms that people can understand, about the project’s public purpose and its costs and benefits. We have yet to get such a statement. Citizens deserve it.

I offer the following summary of Line 3’s public purpose, its costs and benefits, and critiques of the process. I also include specific actions you could take that would move this state in a good direction.

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Minnesota needs state leaders to get off the fence and show courage and leadership to stop Line 3

Minnesota’s top political leaders — Gov. Tim Walz, Attorney General Keith Ellison, and U.S. senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith — have failed to take a stand and show leadership opposing the proposed Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline, a dangerous and unnecessary project.

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Enbridge admits Line 3 construction can’t meet all state environmental standards for protecting water

So why is the project still under consideration?

The proposed Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline will run 340 miles through northern Minnesota, crossing more than 200 water bodies and 75 miles of wetlands. It also threatens wild rice areas important to the Anishinaabe.

Stunningly, Enbridge already has admitted to state regulators that pipeline construction won’t meet state environmental standards for protecting water. Adding to the problem, Enbridge hasn’t provided details about which environmental standards it plans to disregard or where. Instead, Enbridge has provided generalities which essentially boil down to: “Trust us.”

Sadly, the “Trust Us” argument appears to have traction among state regulators, another example of the power imbalance favoring industry in the state’s regulatory system. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) seemed to have ample trust in Enbridge, approving the project last year over many objections. For instance, it ignored Anishinaabe bands’ claims to treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather on lands and waters threatened by Line 3.

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Gov. Walz Executive Order Affirms Government-to-Government Relationship with Native Nations

Gov Tim Walz

Enbridge Line 3 could provide order’s first significant test

Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan met with leaders of Minnesota’s Native nations Monday in Morton, Minn. and held a ceremonial signing of an Executive Order that recognizes and supports “the unique status of the Minnesota Tribal Nations and their right to existence, self-govern, and possess self-determination.”

The order officially went into effect on April 5. According to a media release from the Governor’s office issued at that time, “the order applies to all state agencies and was made in consultation with both agencies and tribal governments as it was written.”

“This order ensures the State of Minnesota and the eleven tribes engage in true government-to-government relationships built on respect, understanding, and sovereignty,” said Governor Walz. “We are committed to meaningful consultation with the tribal communities in our state.” (Emphasis in original.)

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Walz Administration to Continue Legal Challenge Against Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline

Gov. Tim Walz announced today that his administration will continue a lawsuit in the Minnesota Court of Appeals to stop Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline, according to an MPR report this morning:

“When it comes to any project that impacts our environment and our economy, we must follow the process, the law, and the science,” the governor said in a news release.

When Walz took office, he said he wanted to reevaluate a decision made under the Dayton administration to appeal Line 3’s approval. He has now confirmed that decision.

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At Critical Juncture, Faith Leaders Call on Gov. Walz to Stop Enbridge Line 3

Healing Minnesota Stories Founder Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs joined other faith leaders today in calling on Gov. Walz to halt Enbridge Line 3.

Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs, founder of Healing Minnesota Stories, joined roughly 75 other faith and indigenous leaders who gathered in the Governor’s Conference Room today to pray, sing, hold an Anihsinaabe water ceremony, and make a clear demand that Gov. Tim Walz stop the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline — an unnecessary and dangerous project that violates treaty rights.

“Today, my message to Gov. Walz is that you cannot claim to be an ally to indigenous people when you knowingly introduce toxins into the food and water systems. And that is exactly what Enbridge Line 3 will do,” said Jacobs, who is a member of the Mohican Nation. “… I stand with all of you in hope that Gov. Walz will take heroic action and sign an executive order halting Line 3 where it stands,”

At a minimum, Jacobs said Walz needs to support a Minnesota Department of Commerce lawsuit to stop Line 3, an action begun by former Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration. The suit argues Enbridge failed to prove the new and expanded Line 3 was needed. The Walz administration is now reevaluating the lawsuit and the Governor is expected to announce early next week which side he will take.

Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light organized the event. (Note: There’s still time to call the Governor this weekend — 651-201-3400to oppose Line 3.) Continue reading