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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Two Line 3 workers arrested for soliciting sex as part of human trafficking sting

The Duluth News Tribune reported Tuesday that two of the seven people arrested in a northern Minnesota human trafficking sting were Enbridge Line 3 workers, “fueling concern that construction of the oil pipeline is bringing a higher risk of sex crimes to the area.”

Arrested were:

  • Michael Kelly West, 53, of Rolla, Missouri, who was charged with one count of carrying a pistol without a permit and one count of solicitation to engage in prostitution.
  • Matthew Ty Hall, 33, of Mount Pleasant, Texas, who was charged with one count of solicitation of a person believed to be a minor.

The sting involved web ads that engaged potential customers in sex-for-money conversations, the story said. Perhaps of most concern, West told arresting officers he heard about the ads “from rumors at work.”

That means this isn’t an isolated incident; other workers are talking about it.

[Update: StarTribune story here.]

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A photo essay: Gichi-gami Gathering to Stop Line 3

After a march along Gichi-gami’s shores, we stopped for a group photo.

The Gichi-gami Gathering to Stop Line 3 in Duluth today was a tremendous success. We had beautiful weather. The turnout of 700 to 1,000 people exceeded expectations. We had great speakers, a wonderful march, art, food, t-shirt printing, kids activities and more.

Skip Sandman offered prayers; Babette Sandman offered amazing harmonica riffs. Sheila Lamb did an amazing job as emcee.

Together, we were able to be together to lift each other’s spirits. On the news front, we could celebrate the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s decision Friday to deny Enbridge’s Line 3 water crossing permit until problems with Line 3’s environmental impact statement can be fixed.

For those of you who couldn’t make it, here are a few pictures. Enjoy. Continue reading

Public Utilities Commission, Enbridge need to go back to square one on Line 3’s Human Trafficking Prevention Plan

When the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved the Route Permit for the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline, it required the company to develop a Human Trafficking Prevention Plan for the project’s construction phase.

Enbridge Line 3 is a proposed multi-billion dollar crude oil pipeline project that would run 340 miles through northern Minnesota. Public testimony and the state’s Line 3’s environmental impact statement raised concerns about the connection between the large influx of out-of-state construction workers for the project and increases in drug and sex trafficking along the construction route.

The Human Trafficking Prevention Plan is done, but Enbridge won’t release it. It appears Enbridge failed to engage a key participant — the Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force — as the Public Utilities Commission required. Enbridge doesn’t even seem to think the Human Trafficking Prevention Plan is needed as it relates to Line 3.

It’s time to reset this conversation and start over.

A Minnesota Court of Appeals decision has put the Line 3 issue back before the Public Utilities Commission. The Commission now has chance to fix the problems.

Here are six reasons to worry that, without changes, Enbridge’s plan will be inadequate. Continue reading

Enbridge is becoming a toxic brand

Enbridge’s brand is losing its luster.

The Cloquet City Council rejected a $1,000 donation from Enbridge. Presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar recently announced she would return donations she received from an Enbridge employee. Enbridge faces other legal and safety challenges.

[Update: The Cloquet City Council reconsidered the vote. It accepted Enbridge’s donation.]

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