Water protectors highlight Willow Creek frac-out, and the out-of-whackness of state Line 3 regulators and law enforcement

A government-Enbridge alliance is doing all it can to block Minnesota citizens from observing and critiquing the construction of Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

Tania Aubid, Winona LaDuke, Shanai Matteson and other water protectors arrived around 7 a.m. this morning at the site where Enbridge is drilling a tunnel for Line 3 under the Willow River in Aitkin County. The water protectors found what appeared to be a “frac-out,” the release of pipeline drilling mud into the river.

The state’s response focused more on trying to intimidate the water protectors for their activism than addressing the frac-out, Matteson said.

It’s a sign of the state’s upside down values. It raises questions about the state’s ability and interest in protecting the environment for future generations and who state agencies are working for.

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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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Line 3 updates: Efforts to bring Interior Secretary Haaland to MN, connecting with frontline resistance camps, and more

In other news, Mendota Dakota apply for federal recognition

In this blog:

  • Indigenous women leaders invite Interior Secretary Haaland to visit and Learn about Line 3
  • Opportunities to connect with frontline Line 3 resistance camps
  • MN House bill would block state funding for Line 3 court challenges
  • DNR approves nearly ten-fold increase in Enbridge dewatering plans
  • Decoding Line 3 language
  • Mendota Dakota apply for federal recognition
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Half of Line 3’s ‘Independent Environmental Monitors’ have prior work for Enbridge

There are more than two dozen Independent Environmental Monitors spread out along the 337-mile Enbridge Line 3 pipeline corridor in northern Minnesota. They are supposed to be the eyes and ears for state regulators, making sure Enbridge is following all permits and rules and minimizing environmental damage.

Half of the 25 independent monitors hired to work on behalf of Minnesota state regulatory agencies have worked on Enbridge projects at some time in the past, according to monitor resumes obtained through a public information request.

It raises questions about how “independent” these monitors really are.

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As Enbridge pushes Line 3 construction into high gear, legal and moral challenges demand it stop

String of pipeline recently laid out west of the Gully Fen Scientific and Natural Resource Area in Polk County. (Photo: Watch the Line)

Two lawsuits are in the works to force a construction delay in the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline, which is now well underway.

The Red Lake Band and White Earth nations, the Sierra Club and Honor the Earth sued in federal court last week to delay Line 3 construction, arguing it violates treaty rights and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted permits in violation of environmental laws.

Later this week, Honor the Earth says it will join with Red Lake, White Earth and the Sierra Club to go to the Minnesota Court of Appeals to seek a construction delay. The influx of construction out-of-state workers threatens to spread COVID-19 in northern Minnesota, they say. And the Court of Appeals has pending lawsuits against Line 3 that still needed to be heard and decided.

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Line 3 opposition, law enforcement response, ramp up

Et tu, DNR? Conservation officers now part of the state’s protest push back

Seventeen water protectors were arrested today in Aitkin County and were being held in jail overnight.

They were arrested at the site where Enbridge plans to bore under the Mississippi River for its new and larger Line 3 tars sands pipeline. Also, a nearby 10-day tree sit ended today when police brought in a crane.

Tree sitter before the police brought in a crane.
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Regular citizens left in the dark about Line 3’s threats to wild rice

Leech Lake members harvest wild rice on Mud Lake. (Photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Wild rice is sacred food to Anishinaabe people and Minnesota’s state grain, but the state has no uniform definition of “wild rice waters.”

This creates problems when evaluating the threat to “wild rice waters” from projects such as Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline.

The proposed Line 3 route would cross 340 miles of northern Minnesota — right through the heart of wild rice country — crossing more than 200 water bodies and 75 miles of wetlands. In order to get state approvals, Enbridge needs to show it can build the pipeline through all that water and mitigate the damage to wild rice and other sensitive ecosystems.

Understanding Line 3’s threat to wild rice remains an open and troubling question. Enbridge just submitted a new application to the state for Line 3’s water crossing permit (technically called a Section 401 permit). One might think that Enbridge would want to reassure the public that wild rice would be protected under its plan. Instead, Enbridge submitted highly technical reports that make it nearly impossible for the average citizen to understand this critically important issue.

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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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DNR Approves Enbridge Line 3 “Pre-Construction” Work; Trump Expected to Weaken State’s Pipeline Oversight

The controversial Enbridge Line 3 pipeline still faces significant court challenges and needs numerous state and federal permits, but Enbridge already has begun to work on the project.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has given Enbridge permission to conduct “pre-construction” work for its Line 3 crude oil pipeline on DNR-administered state lands, the DNR says. “These activities include civil and environmental survey and geotechnical boring,” the statement said.

The DNR’s statement came in response to questions posed by Healing Minnesota Stories about reports that Enbridge might have begun Line 3 construction prior to receiving necessary permits. Continue reading