Events: This Land is not Empty; Rethinking Thanksgiving; and PolyMet hearing before MN Supreme Court

In this post:

  • This Land is not Empty, Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery, Nov. 16
  • Rethinking Thanksgiving: From Land Acknowledgement to LANDBACK, Nov. 20
  • MN Supreme Court hears oral arguments on PolyMet mining permit, Nov. 30
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Judge dismisses charges against five of the ‘Shell River Seven’ who opposed Line 3

Honor the Earth envisions Line 3 exhibit in Park Rapids

Shell River Seven standoff

A District Court judge in Wadena County Monday dismissed gross misdemeanor charges against five of the “Shell River Seven” who peacefully tried to protect the Shell River and Anishinaabe treaty rights against the construction of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

“Criminalizing and over-charging protestors is a common tactic used by the State to scare activists and suppress movements,” Claire Glenn, an attorney for two of the defendants, said in a media release. “The criminalization of the Shell River defendants was no exception, and this dismissal is a powerful victory for water protectors.”

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Volunteers spotlight more groundwater problems apparently created during Line 3 pipeline construction

State environmental watchdogs are investigating, but not releasing any details

Video screen grab showing construction matting at Walker Brook.

This a corrected version of an earlier blog. The original version incorrectly said the DNR and MPCA made a joint statement about the Walker Brook situation. This post includes their separate statements. The previous post has been taken down. I regret the error.

More environmental damage is coming to light from construction of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline, and its due to citizen volunteers.

The group Waadookawaad Amikwag (Anishinaabe for “Those Who Help Beaver”) has been monitoring the construction corridor for unreported environmental damage out of concern that state regulators weren’t paying attention to it.

Waadookawaad Amikwag released a video this week of what they say is a fourth cold underground water breach, this one where Line 3 crosses Walker Brook South in Clearwater County.

The DNR denies that there is an aquifer breach, suggesting it is “an upwelling of shallow groundwater resources that has complicated site restoration.”

(The DNR’s statement is silent on the connection between Line 3 construction and the upwelling of shallow groundwater or how much groundwater has upwelled.)

This comes on top of three Line 3 aquifer breaches we already know about: Clearbrook, LaSalle Creek, and Fond du Lac.

All this environmental damage falls disproportionately on the Anishinaabe (Chippewa and Ojibwe) nations in northern Minnesota. In approving Line 3’s Certificate of Need, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission “expressed serious concern with the Project’s impacts to indigenous populations, acknowledging that the Project would traverse ceded territories where Minnesota’s Ojibwe and Chippewa tribes hold … hunting, fishing, and gathering rights.”

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How a Pennsylvania pipeline highlights Minnesota’s regulatory failings

Minnesota prides itself as being a state that cares about protecting the environment. Lax state permitting and oversight of the construction of Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline shattered that self image.

Minnesota citizens are missing key information about Line 3 construction damage, the kind of information used by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office to get convictions against Energy Transfer for environmental crimes while building its Mariner East 2 and Revolution natural gas pipelines.

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State says it held Enbridge accountable for Line 3 damage, despite evidence to the contrary

Say a bank robber gets a jaywalking ticket while making his hasty escape, but still gets to keep the loot. That’s not justice.

Say a multinational company gets a small-fine misdemeanor for willfully damaging Minnesota’s environment and gets to keep its profits. That’s not justice, either.

Yet that’s what’s happened with Enbridge, which ruptured at least three aquifers while building its Line 3 crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.

On Monday, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, and separately the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), issued media releases announcing penalties they’ve imposed.

The penalties are meager, the accountability paper thin.

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Native Nations take EPA to court over new and complicated water quality standards

The Grand Portage and Fond du Lac bands of Lake Superior Chippewa are suing the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) in the Minnesota Court of Appeals, trying to overturn EPA’s approval of Minnesota’s new water quality standards.

The Bands say the new system “is likely to result in increased pollution in downstream waters that flow around and through the Bands’ reservations, and waters that are important to the Bands’ treaty-reserved rights to hunt, fish, and gather throughout their ceded territories,” the complaint said.

The Bands are particularly concerned about water pollution from mining.

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A hard look at the State of MN’s commitment to ‘meaningful consultation’ with Native Nations

Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan failed miserably to live up to the spirit of their pledge of “meaningful consultation” with Native Nations. Examples include the state’s approval of Enbridge Line 3, MinnTac mine’s ongoing wild-rice-damaging pollution, the proposed Huber Lumber mill, and other environmental issues.

All state agencies are required to have tribal consultation policies on file with the Governor’s Office. Healing Minnesota Stories obtained copies through a Data Practices Act request.

The “meaningful consultation’ agencies provide don’t include any accountability or enforcement measures. Agencies aren’t transparent on how Tribal consultation affects their decisions.

A state law passed last year could strengthen the practice of “meaningful consultation.” Only time will tell.

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Federal government requires MPCA to enforce wild rice protections, overriding state laws

The environmental group WaterLegacy and the Fond du Lac and Grand Portage Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa scored a major victory to enforce state water quality rules that protect wild rice.

It’s a huge ruling. It should affect the MPCA’s oversight of existing projects, such as the MinnTac Mine (which has never complied with wild rice water quality standards). It should affect the MPCA’s review of projects in the queue, such as the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine.

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What does Tribal Consultation look like?

The Minnesota Legislature strengthened the state’s commitment to consulting with Native Nations, but agencies still need to follow through

On April 5, 2019, Governor Walz issued Executive Order 19-24: “Affirming the Government to Government Relationship between the State of Minnesota and Minnesota Tribal Nations: Providing for Consultation, Coordination, and Cooperation.” It commits the state to “meaningful and timely” consultation.

That’s profound. It means sharing power with Native Nations on issues of mutual concern to make decisions beneficial for both sides.

The executive order states agencies “must consider the input gathered from tribal consultation into their decision-making processes, with the goal of achieving mutually beneficial solutions.”

The Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline provided an early test for the Walz administration’s promise. The administration failed.

A bill passed during special session this year makes another effort to strengthen the state’s commitment to meaningful consultation with Native Nations.

Key to this conversation is being precise about exactly what “meaningful consultation” means and looks like.

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