State to Audit PUC’s Flawed Public Engagement Process

The Minnesota Legislative Audit Commission voted this morning to review the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC’s) public engagement process, a process that came under heavy criticism during its recent handling of the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline case.

(For details, see: PUC Staff Oversteps Authority, Shows Bias Against Pipeline Resisters.)

Legislative Audit Commission Chair Rep. Rick Hansen said there was bipartisan support for the PUC review. “It is somewhat unique, because it’s both public participation but it’s also commerce, energy, environment all kind of wrapped together,” he said after the meeting. “It’s a good and timely topic.” Continue reading

PUC Could Get Needed Scrutiny from the Legislative Audit Commission

Your voice is needed now to get more accountability at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for its poor public engagement process. It’s particularly important given the flawed process and disrespect shown towards opponents of the proposed Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota.

Each year, the Minnesota Legislative Audit Commission chooses a small number of research topics to make sure state agencies and programs are well run, are accountable and have appropriate legislative oversight. The Commission has a list of 10 possible research topics for the coming year and a review of the PUC public engagement process is one of the possible topics. This Friday, the Commission will choose the five to get done.

The window of influence is closing quickly, but here is how you can get engaged and make the PUC review a priority. Continue reading

This Day in History (March 24, 1999): Mille Lacs Band Wins Landmark Treaty Rights Case at the U.S. Supreme Court

On this day in history, March 24, 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa had the treaty-protected rights to hunt, fish, and gather on the lands the Band ceded to the U.S. government by the 1837 treaty.

This treaty has particular relevance today. Anihsinaabe bands (called either Ojibwe or Chippewa by early settlers and treaty documents) are resisting the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota based on similar claims to hunting, fishing and gathering rights along the pipeline’s proposed route.

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Corporate Clout Used Against Environmental Defenders

News wrap: Three stories on extractive industries that deserve attention.

  • Enbridge spends liberally to influence the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC)
  • Polymet coopts a beloved state institution, stifling dissent.
  • Federal judge puts the brakes on oil and gas drilling in the western United States

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For Enbridge Line 3, It’s the Calm Before the Storm

It’s quiet now, but there’s a looming confrontation over Enbridge Line 3.

After many contentious hearings last year, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved the Line 3 crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. It was a flawed decision, ignoring climate change, treaty rights, spill risks, and the fact that Minnesota doesn’t need this pipeline to meet its oil needs.

On one hand, Line 3 still faces legal challenges and regulatory hurdles and can still be stopped. On the other, the federal government could intervene and try approve the pipeline even if the state objects.

Civil disobedience and direct action could occur should Enbridge start construction. So far things have been relatively calm. Should construction start, it’s going to get ugly. (See earlier blog: Minnesota Law Enforcement Already Coordinating with Enbridge to Respond to Line 3 Protests, Report Says.)

In the meantime, here’s what’s going on behind the scenes.

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Enbridge is Pulling a Bait-and-Switch — Will the PUC Finally Take a Stand?

Enbridge — the Canadian company that wants to run a tar sands crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota’s pristine waters and wild rice areas — is getting away with the old bait-and-switch move.

Late last spring, Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline proposal looked like it was in trouble. The company made a last-minute pr move, promising to contribute $100 million to a “Tribal Economic Opportunity and Labor Education Plan” if the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved the project.

And with no details, the PUC bought it hook, line, and sinker.

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Questions and Criticisms Abound in Enbridge Line 3’s ‘Tribal Economic Opportunity’ Plan

Enbridge’s promised $100 million in “tribal economic opportunity” as a part of its Line 3 crude oil pipeline project is still under review, well after the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has approved the project.

Enbridge’s jobs proposal had some PR appeal. The reasoning goes that since the Anishinaabe of northern Minnesota are bearing a disproportionate share of the project’s risks — oil spills, threats to wild rice, and the risk of increased assaults on women during pipeline construction — surely they should get something back.

But there is no guaranteed benefit for the Anishinaabe. Further, the PUC’s order has no enforcement mechanism or prescribed penalty if Enbridge fails to live up to its word.

Enbridge offered a vague and flawed jobs proposal. If history is prelude, the PUC will rubber stamp it.

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