The MPCA failed at meaningful consultation with Native Nations on Line 3: Here’s what it did

Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order in 2019 committing the state and its various departments to “meaningful and timely consultation” with Native Nations on issues of mutual concern. So what did the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA’s) “meaningful consultation” look like around Enbridge Line 3? Second in a two-part series.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) failed to engage Native Nations in “meaningful consultation” around the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline’s Water Quality Permit, according to documents obtained through the state’s Data Practices Act.

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Reading the fine print on the MPCA’s commitment to ‘meaningful consultation’ with Native Nations

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.

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An Executive Order that wasn’t, Capitol Rally to oppose Line 3 dewatering, Shell River Rally, and more

In this blog:

  • The Executive Order that wasn’t
  • White Earth pushes against Line 3 dewatering increases, Capitol rally Wednesday at 3 p.m.
  • Women for the Rivers Rally at Shell River Thursday, noon-3 p.m., with V and Marisa Tomei
  • Last push for Line 3 monitors; we need eyes on the Horizontal Directional Drilling sites
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Gov. Walz administration fails again at ‘meaningful consultation’ with tribal nations

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?
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Enbridge Line 3’s COVID Preparedness Plan has no teeth

On Dec. 2, the day after Enbridge started construction of its Line 3 pipeline, the company updated its COVID Preparedness Plan with state regulators.

The plan was part of a compliance filing for Line 3’s Route Permit, approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

The plan seemed deficient, lacking transparency and enforcement. Healing Minnesota Stories wrote the PUC to ask why it didn’t require a stronger plan.

PUC Executive Secretary Will Seuffert wrote back: “the Commission did not require Enbridge to file any plans related to COVID-19, and did not approve the COVID-19 prevention plan.”

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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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In another sign of ‘corporate capture,’ MPCA posts video promoting Enbridge Line 3

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has posted a video on its website which can only be called a PR win for the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline, reassuring the public that everything’s going to be OK.

The MPCA’s mission statement is supposed to be “to protect and improve the environment and human health.” The MPCA has lost its way. Somehow it has come to believe that Enbridge, a Canadian corporation, is its main customer. Enbridge is not its main customer. It’s customers are the citizens of Minnesota and the environment that MPCA is charged with protecting.

The MPCA’s video is an example of “corporate capture,” a term used to describe how economic elites undermine human rights and the environment “by exerting undue influence over domestic and international decision-makers and public institutions.” 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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