[Update: MPR did run on-air stories about the Line 3 human trafficking sting. It didn’t post an on-line story until the day after this blog ran. I had emailed MPR media relations to ask if I had missed any coverage of the sting on MPR. MPR media relations didn’t respond, apparently not checking on-air coverage. I friend emailed the news department to complain about the lack of coverage on this issue and got an email from the Deputy Managing Editor informing her of the on-air stories. A separate updated post will run soon.]
Four workers on the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline have been arrested in two separate human trafficking stings, one in February, one in June. Line 3 workers represent at least 30 percent of all arrests in the two incidents.
MPR didn’t cover either sting. In fact, MPR hasn’t written anything about the concerns and connection between Line 3 and human trafficking, according to a website search. Asked about the lack of coverage, MPR’s media relations department ducked the question.
MPR supporters and listeners need to contact the newsroom and tell it to cover this important issue. Details below.
Here’s the link to the feedback page, which frames the debate as follows:
Enbridge Energy’s plan to replace its aging Line 3 pipeline is forcing state regulators to weigh the potential economic benefits to Minnesota against the environmental risks. But how to decide? Enbridge says the new Line 3 will be stronger and safer than what’s in the ground now. Environmentalists and Ojibwe tribes warn that Minnesota would invite disaster by backing another high-volume oil pipeline. It’s a complex decision that will test the state’s ability to balance the demands of industry and the environment. Minnesotans will live with it for generations. The decision will likely come in June. Now, MPR News wants to know what you’re thinking.
The Insight Network’s short blurb says a lot about how MPR sees the issue. It frames the Line 3 debate very poorly.
The Insight Network omits the question of need, thereby giving the impression that the new Line 3 is necessary. It is not: MPR’s framing makes no mention of whether or not Minnesota needs this pipeline. It doesn’t challenge the need for a so-called “stronger and safer” pipeline. Instead, it poses the debate as a balancing act between the demands of industry and the environment. Why does MPR make the “demands of industry” central to the discussion? This should not not be about what industry needs, the question should be whether the environmental risks are offset by other benefits to residents taking the risk. (More on this later.)
The Insight Network uses the vague term “environmental risks” instead of being explicit: The risks include crude oil spills in or near our cleanest lakes, rivers, and wild rice areas. These spills would never be fully cleaned up because of the nature of tar sands crude: It’s heaving and sinks. Further, the environmental risks include a $287 billion climate change impact. The Insight Network’s set-up fails to mention the term “climate change.”
The Insight Network’s framing fails to mention treaty rights issues: Treaty rights are central to this debate. The Ojibwe have protected treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather on lands the proposed pipeline would cross. Treaty rights are the supreme law of the land. Why did the Insight Network narrative not mention treaty rights?
The governor said he is not taking a position on the issue [Line 3] until the Public Utilities Commission decides whether to give Enbridge its blessing to construct the Line 3 replacement.
Comment: This is a sin of omission. The story fails to acknowledge that Gov. Dayton’s own Department of Commerce issued a statement September 11 stating Minnesota did not need Line 3:
Oil market analysis indicates that Enbridge has not established a need for the proposed project; the pipeline would primarily benefit areas outside Minnesota; and serious environmental and socioeconomic risks and effects outweigh limited benefits.
Further, that same day Commerce released its analysis, Gov. Dayton issued a statement saying:
“The Minnesota Department of Commerce has filed its review of Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 Pipeline project. I commend the Department’s professional staff for its very comprehensive analysis.
MPR’s latest story on the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline buys into the corporate narrative that climate change is just too confusing for people to understand. It starts with the headline: Why no one agrees on Line 3 pipeline’s climate change impact, which undermines the science in the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The EIS estimates Line 3’s “social cost of carbon” pollution at $287 billion over 30 years. The social cost of carbon “is meant to be a comprehensive estimate of climate change damages. It includes changes in net agricultural productivity; human health; property damages from increased flood risk; and changes in energy system costs, such as reduced costs for heating and increased costs for air conditioning.”
I’m not saying that people can’t challenge the analysis, but let’s be clear about what is in the EIS. It’s $287 billion estimate is conservative, a likely underestimate of the costs. The social cost of carbon estimate “does not include all important damages,” because of limitations with the modeling and data. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says such “social costs of carbon” estimates are “a useful measure to assess the benefits of CO2 reductions,” it says.
The MPR story never mentions the $287 billion cost.
Corporate efforts to muddy the facts are nothing new. Recall how tobacco companies tried to undermine the science linking smoking and lung cancer. Pipeline companies don’t need to convince people that tar sands crude oil doesn’t affect climate, they just need to raise doubts, making it so hard to understand that people walk away scratching their heads.
MPR’s story reflects that narrative. Here’s the opening paragraph:
Calculating the carbon footprint of a project like Enbridge Energy’s proposed Line 3 oil pipeline is complicated. Not only are there multiple steps involved in the analysis, but there’s also a need to make an educated guess about what the world would look like with and without the new pipeline.
Comment: So the story’s takeaway is not the $287 billion public pricetag, but that the analysis is “complicated,” there are “multiple steps” that include “educated guesses.” The MPR analysis does more to confuse than illuminate.
Quick background: Enbridge Line 3 is a tar sands pipeline that runs from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, via northern Minnesota. Enbridge wants to abandon its old and deteriorating pipeline in the ground. It wants to install a new and larger pipeline, running 337 miles along a new route through northern Minnesota. It would cut through the Mississippi headwaters, threaten lakes and wild rice beds, and violate treaty rights.
The MPR story is deeply flawed. Starting with the headline, the story raises “threats” and “fears” over the pipeline fight. So the first question to come to mind is: Who is doing the threatening and creating fear?
Here’s how the story sums it up:
Activists are pressing Minnesota officials now to deny the permit and kill the project. State officials and company executives working to head off a confrontation say they’re doing more than ever to listen to the concerns of those in the pipeline’s potential path.
That may not be enough to stop a confrontation.
Comment: In this frame, activists are “pressing” and even trying to “kill” the project. (“Kill” is a violent word.) State officials and company executives, on the other hand, are framed as peacemakers. They are “working” to head off a confrontation. They are doing “more than ever to listen” to concerns. As this frame goes,all that hard work and listening might not be enough to stop the confrontation, the threats, the fears.
You get the picture. This makes the activists seem unreasonable and the state and the company seem reasonable. The people — not the pipeline and the damage it would cause — are the threat.
At best, the story makes a technical point. At worst, the headline casts DAPL opponents in an unfair light, claiming they are “misstating” the facts — that is, misrepresenting them or even lying. The story certainly misses the larger political picture. Continue reading →