Court to hear challenge to biased policing of water protectors during Line 3 construction

Corrections: An earlier version of this post misidentified Winona LaDuke’s attorney. She is being represented by Frank Bibeau and Claire Glenn. It also failed to list all of the open cases against LaDuke, which have been added.

One of the hallmarks of this country’s democratic experiment is our aspiration for an impartial justice system, so it’s inexplicable how Minnesota leaders deployed law enforcement against water protectors who opposed the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline in the manner that they did.

The problem started with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), but other leaders remained silent.

The PUC approved a scheme allowing Enbridge — a multi-billion dollar, multi-national Canadian company — to fund state and local law enforcement agencies to monitor and police water protectors who opposed the pipeline.

The PUC created a Public Safety Escrow Account. Enbridge funded it. Law enforcement agencies submitted bills for their Line 3-related expenses.

It created bias in the justice system, giving law enforcement financial incentives to focus on, and go after, water protectors.

The scheme finally is getting challenged in court.

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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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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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Aitkin County Sheriff to bill Enbridge 4,800 staff hours for Line 3 training and responses

And pushing back on Sheriff Guida’s claims his office didn’t take sides in the controversy

[The correct date for this blog is Nov. 11, 2021]

Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office will submit bills to the Enbridge Line 3 Public Safety Escrow Account for reimbursements for 4,800 hours of staff time dedicated to Line 3 work, Sheriff Dan Guida said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Specifically, the county will bill 4,373 hours for public safety responses and 450 hours for staff training on pipeline construction. Guida didn’t include a dollar figure for those costs. A back-of-the-envelop calculation estimates salary costs around $140,000. The final bill could go higher if it includes benefits, travel, equipment and other costs beyond salaries.

In his statement, Guida said his office stayed neutral on the conflict. That claim needs to be challenged.

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