Enbridge disagrees with itself on state’s pipeline safety role

For more than six decades, Enbridge’s dual Line 5 pipelines have run four miles along the bottom of the Great Lakes, exposed to the elements. The pipelines carry tars sands crude and natural gas liquids across the Straits of Mackinac, the narrow waterway connecting Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

The pipelines are moving oil “near delicate wetlands and through fish spawning habitats where swift currents pull water between the Great Lakes,” The Narwhal says. Michigan scientists, conservationists and tribes have been “warning that Enbridge’s Line 5 was a disaster waiting to happen,” the article said.

For more than five decades, the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline has operated along a 282-mile corridor across northern Minnesota. It passes through sensitive wetlands and wild rice waters, crossing rivers and streams with some of the state’s cleanest waters.

Line 3 is in such bad shape, it can only operate at half capacity. State regulators worry it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

When it comes to addressing Minnesota’s aging Line 3 and Michigan’s aging Line 5, Enbridge offers different interpretations about the state’s role in pipeline safety.

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Ten ways structural racism permeated Enbridge Line 3 decisions, and continues to influence them

Structural racism has played a significant role in Enbridge Line 3’s approval and law enforcement’s responses to water protectors.

Structural racism, as defined by The Aspen Institute Round Table on Societal Change, is:

A system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness” and disadvantages associated with “color” to endure and adapt over time. Structural racism is not something that a few people or institutions choose to practice. Instead it has been a feature of the social, economic and political systems in which we all exist.

Aspen Institute on Societal Change

Here’s a top ten list of structural racism in Line 3 decisions. Got more to add? A critique? Submit them in the comments section, below.

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PUC doesn’t have to answer for Line 3-related human trafficking problems

Nor is it going to hold Enbridge accountable for them

It took me along time to get this through my head, but there’s no mechanism in place to hold the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) accountable for its poor decisions, or even explain them.

I wanted the PUC’s comment about recent reports of sexual harassment and violence towards women by Line 3 workers. The PUC was warned about these risks when it permitted Line 3. Was the PUC concerned about this news? Had the PUC been in contact with Enbridge or law enforcement about these issues? Does the PUC regret putting such lax conditions in the Line 3 permits?

These seem like basic questions, the kind any state agency would feel compelled to answer.

But the PUC isn’t a state agency, it’s a “quasi-judicial” body, more like a court.

Will Seuffert, the PUC’s executive secretary wrote: “[N]either I nor any staff member can speak for any of the Commissioners, and they speak through their written orders. The agency cannot provide any explanation beyond what is included in the written orders.”

So who holds the PUC accountable?

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MPCA won’t fine Enbridge for wetland damage from sunken equipment

Agency said ‘No outstanding impacts’ occurred

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) said it wouldn’t fine Enbridge for a Feb. 6 incident where a piece of heavy construction equipment got almost completely submerged into a sensitive wetland area near LaSalle Creek in Hubbard County. The operator was preparing the site for the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline trench.

Because this was in a permitted work space there was already an expectation of equipment/ground disturbance/temporary impacts (and restoration). The MPCA concluded that there was no violation and will not issue a fine or citation.”

MPCA email

As this blog wrote earlier, this problem seemed avoidable. Friends of the Headwaters had alerted both the MPCA and Enbridge about the unique groundwater upwelling near LaSalle Creek that kept water from freezing in the winter.

It seems odd for an agency whose job it is to protect the environment to dismiss the damage, treating it no differently than the expected damage from normal pipeline construction.

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Line 3: Don’t be distracted from the true danger

Screen grab of Unicorn Riot’s feed showing part of Friday’s protest.

Friday’s bomb scare in Carlton County will be used by some to make water protectors seem dangerous, shifting attention away from real dangers posed by the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

Water protectors were demonstrating against Line 3 in Carlton County Friday. As the event was happening, the county received a 9-1-1 call reporting a “suspicious device,” the Sheriff’s Office said. A news story called it “a suspicious package thrown into a pipeline construction area.”

The county’s response was quick and perhaps excessive. It called in the bomb squad. Law enforcement evacuated 40 nearby residences within a half-mile radius of the device. Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake called in regional and federal law enforcement. She’s calling for maximum charges and penalties.

There was no bomb. Still, placing a “replica device” that causes fear and panic is a crime.

The incident occurred near Camp Migizi, an Indigenous-led frontline resistance camp, but the protests that day were several miles away from where the incident occurred.

There’s been no information released that ties the incident to Camp Migizi or the protest. There have been no arrests. Yet without evidence, Enbridge and others are blaming water protectors.

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MN Court of Appeals rejects stay in Line 3 construction

The Minnesota Court of Appeals Tuesday rejected an appeal by the Red Lake and White Earth nations to stop construction of Enbridge Line 3 until all the legal challenges could be heard.

While a big disappointment, Line 3 opponents still have a separate request for an injunction on construction pending in federal court.

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PUC ignores Native nation’s concerns about Line 3’s COVID risks

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) today rejected requests from the Red Lake and White Earth nations to delay construction of the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline.

Further, the tribes said the arrival of out-of-town construction workers would increase the spread of COVID.

Further, the tribes and other intervenors have cases pending in the Minnesota Court of Appeals trying to reverse Line 3 approvals. The issues range from Line 3’s climate damage and treaty rights to the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s argument that Enbridge failed to prove this pipeline is needed.

The tribes argued that if the PUC didn’t delay Line 3 construction, the environmental damage would be done before the court reaches a decision, which would be unfair.

In a 4-1 vote, the PUC rejected the request for a “stay” in construction. Commissioner Matt Schuerger was the lone vote in favor of the stay. He called the tribe’s arguments “persuasive and critically important.”

Red Lake and White Earth are expected to appeal the PUC’s decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

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During pandemic spike, state needs to bar Enbridge Line 3 construction and its influx of out-of-state workers

PUC to hear Red Lake, White Earth requests for pipeline delay on Friday

Native Nations, environmental groups, file suit today to block MPCA’s Line 3 permit

Native Americans are bearing a disproportionate burden of the coronavirus pandemic and getting inadequate government support.

It’s true nationally and in Minnesota. Here, Gov. Tim Walz’ administration has put Indigenous lives at risk by failing to delay Enbridge Line 3 construction and the pandemic risks it entails.

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