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.
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.
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.
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.
News reports often highlight when water protectors disrupt the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) meetings or Enbridge Line 3 public hearings; they have not covered the bias and disrespect PUC staff has shown to water protectors. Those actions have undermined trust in the institution and its credibility.
As expected, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) today rejected requests to reconsider its approval of the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. As predictable as it was, the decision remains heart breaking.
Red Lake, White Earth, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Honor the Earth, the Sierra Club, the Youth Climate Intervenors, and Friends of the Headwaters had asked the PUC to reconsider approving Line 3. Commissioners summarily and unanimously dismissed their request, 5-0. The PUC continued to ignore the Environmental Impact Statement’s conclusion that Line 3 would generate $287 billion in climate damage. It continued to ignore the Administrative Law Judge’s findings that approving Enbridge’s preferred route failed to meet the cost/benefit test. It continued to ignore Commerce’s conclusion that Enbridge failed to prove Line 3 was needed. It continued to ignore the impacts the pipeline would have on treaty rights.
The PUC took no comments from intervening parties asking for reconsideration. The whole process probably lasted five minutes, enough time for a few commissioners to say they had already considered these issues and there was nothing more to talk about.
The PUC gave Enbridge pretty much everything it wanted. It’s an example of corporate capture, where the government institutions created to protect the public get co-opted by corporate interests. Its the Minnesota version of what is happening with the Environmental Protection Agency.
Proposals to build new crude oil pipelines are an investment in an old and failing energy infrastructure. They reflect a world view that favors short-term profits over the long-term health of local economies and the planet itself. Investors make money off selling refined gas, but shift long-term costs to future generations — costs from destructive oil mining practices, costs from future oil spills, and costs from climate change.
It is no wonder that Native nations and indigenous advocates have lead efforts to stop new crude oil pipelines, as they hold to a world view that considers the impacts of decisions seven generations into the future.
As we head into what is expected to be a frustrating Monday meeting at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) regarding the future of Enbridge Line 3, let’s pause for a moment to reflect on some recent wins. They are a reminder that this work takes years, allies continue the resistance, and we do have victories. Continue reading →
Youth around the world will feel the greatest impacts of climate change. So it makes sense that youth are taking a lead to force the government and business interests to stop thinking about short-term profits and two-year election cycles and start thinking long-term about the planet’s very survival.
Youth are taking the federal government to court to force stronger action against climate change. They are taking the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to court to stop the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline. They are petitioning the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to write stronger regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They are getting ready for the 2019 legislative session.
To bring attention to their work, youth-led groups organized a climate justice rally and march on Sunday called “Our Future, Our Right.” Several hundred people gathered at the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Downtown St. Paul to show their solidarity with the youth leaders, then marched with them to the state Capitol.
Enbridge estimates a worst-case crude oil spill in Minnesota from its proposed Line 3 pipeline would cost about $1 billion to clean up. It’s a staggering number. What’s worse, Enbridge’s analysis is flawed, making self-serving assumptions that allow it to low-ball the costs of a catastrophic rupture.
Enbridge filed its thin, seven-page report Tuesday with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), analyzing the costs of a worst-case spill. Among its most glaring errors, Enbridge failed to recognize any of the unique impacts a major oil spill would have on Anishinaabe people. It also made favorable assumptions about Enbridge’s response time, lowering the cost estimates. Continue reading →