Minnesota’s environmental watchdog approves environmentally damaging project

No bark. No bite. MPCA rolls over, approves Enbridge Line 3 permit.

Agency uses PR spin to justify its flawed decision.

As expected, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) today approved a water crossing permit for the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline through northern Minnesota.

Enbridge is expected to begin construction sometime this month.

Gov. Tim Walz and MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop talk a good game about addressing climate change and environmental justice. This Line 3 decision makes clear they don’t live up to their promises.

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A regulatory system gone belly-up: Deconstructing Line 3’s ‘Independent Monitors’

Part of an occasional series which explores how government regulatory agencies are biased towards corporate interests, creating an institutional culture favoring polluters over the public interest.

Line 3 current route (orange) and proposed route (green).

Consider the following thought experiment.

Imagine that a company wanted to build a crude oil pipeline 355 miles through northern Minnesota, crossing some of the state’s cleanest waters. That pipeline would carry tar sands crude oil, a particularly dirty form of fossil fuel and difficult to clean up when it spills.

Imagine that government regulators approved the project, but required the company to pay to hire 10 Independent Environmental Monitors to oversee construction on behalf of the state. These monitors would be the on-the-ground representatives for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and other departments.

Imagine — as the pipeline crosses 79 miles of wetlands and more than 200 water bodies — these Independent Monitors would have the authority to stop construction if they saw serious violations that threaten our clean waters.

Now imagine, in an unprecedented move, that government regulators put Tribal Nations and environmental groups in charge of selecting the Independent Monitors and training them. This, the regulators said, would bring more credibility to the process, as it would assure construction would meet the highest possible environmental standards.

What do you think would happen next? Continue reading