To those Wisconsin and Michigan residents worried about construction of the Enbridge Line 5 tar sands pipeline: Beware the aquifer breaches and monitor any dewatering permit. Let your state regulators know about the company’s track record and that you expect a stronger state response than what happened in Minnesota.
Here, Enbridge violated state permits where Line 3 construction crews broke through aquifers in three places. In all, these breaches released at least 285 million gallons of groundwater.
We’re only now learning the extent of the damage that occurred last fall. Until this week, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has withheld even basic information on two of the three breaches, such as their locations and extent of groundwater loss.
It’s only the latest example of how Minnesota’s regulatory system is set up to help large corporations like Enbridge rather than serve the public interest.
In terrific news for those opposing the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline, the Minnesota Department of Commerce late today announced it would refile its appeal to stop the project. (Thanks to MPR’s Dan Kraker for the tweet.) The case now heads to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
The Walz administration faced a Wednesday deadline to file its appeal. The Governor hadn’t indicated which way he was leaning. The pressure was on.
Earlier today, Indigenous Nations and environmental groups filed a joint appeal to reject Line 3’s permits. Group representatives called on Walz to renew the state’s appeal at a press conference outside the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
“Yet again, the PUC has refused to acknowledge the reality that Line 3 would pose untenable costs to Minnesota, all to deliver tar sands oil we don’t need,” Sierra Club North Star Chapter Director Margaret Levin said in a media release. “Their bad decision — ignoring state’s agencies’ recommendations, and based on a faulty process — would be devastating for Minnesota’s clean water and communities. The Court must reject the PUC’s decision once and for all.”
Winona LaDuke: ‘PUC has a systemic blind spot in dealing with Native tribes’
Sierra Club: ‘A bad process leads to bad outcomes’
PUC: ‘Improved public engagement is a priority’
The Minnesota Office of Legislative Auditor released a report today critical of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and its public engagement process. The PUC has done a “poor job” in helping the public engage in its complex review process, it said. Specifically, the PUC was “not adequately prepared” for engaging the public during the controversial Enbridge Line 3 pipeline hearings.
The report makes a number of recommendations, such as directing PUC leadership “to provide more oversight of the agency’s public participation processes” and to “better prepare for cases with significant public interest.” (Summary here.)
The 98-page report disappoints in one aspect: It fails to clearly call out that, at least in the case of the Line 3 hearings, the PUC’s public engagement failures focused on Line 3 opponents. The report doesn’t explicitly name staff bias as a problem that needs addressing, and it does.
The Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization, announced today that it was in the process of truth telling about the organization’s racist past, making plans to take down or reinterpret monuments to early Club leaders, and making institutional changes that reflect its commitment to racial justice.Continue reading →
The environmental movement has been evolving for a century; in its latest advancement, some environmental groups are taking on racial justice as essential to their mission.
The environmental movement encompasses a broad sweep of organizations and strategies, but even a mainstream group such as the Sierra Club is centering racial justice. A recent article by Hop Hopkins, the Sierra Club’s national director of strategic partnership, put it this way:
I really believe in my heart of hearts—after a lifetime of thinking and talking about these issues—that we will never survive the climate crisis without ending white supremacy.
Here’s why: You can’t have climate change without sacrifice zones, and you can’t have sacrifice zones without disposable people, and you can’t have disposable people without racism.
We’re in this global environmental mess because we have declared parts of our planet to be disposable. The watersheds where we frack the earth to extract gas are considered disposable. The neighborhoods near where I live in Los Angeles, surrounded by urban oilfields, are considered disposable. The very atmosphere is considered disposable. When we pollute the hell out of a place, that’s a way of saying that the place—and the people and all the other life that calls that place home—are of no value.
The proposed Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline will run 340 miles through northern Minnesota, crossing more than 200 water bodies and 75 miles of wetlands. It also threatens wild rice areas important to the Anishinaabe.
Stunningly, Enbridge already has admitted to state regulators that pipeline construction won’t meet state environmental standards for protecting water. Adding to the problem, Enbridge hasn’t provided details about which environmental standards it plans to disregard or where. Instead, Enbridge has provided generalities which essentially boil down to: “Trust us.”
Sadly, the “Trust Us” argument appears to have traction among state regulators, another example of the power imbalance favoring industry in the state’s regulatory system. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) seemed to have ample trust in Enbridge, approving the project last year over many objections. For instance, it ignored Anishinaabe bands’ claims to treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather on lands and waters threatened by Line 3.
Governor Mark Dayton came out today against the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota, backing a legal challenge by the Minnesota Department of Commerce to overturn the decision of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
In a decision that didn’t seem to line up with the facts, the PUC voted this summer to grant Line 3 a Certificate of Need and a Route permit. Line 3 will add significantly to climate damage and violate treaty rights. Oil spills from Line 3 could damage the Mississippi River and our clean lakes and streams. The evidence shows Minnesota doesn’t need this pipeline; it will only serve to help Canada’s foreign export efforts.
Indigenous and environmental groups have been pushing Dayton to take a stand against Line 3 for more than a year. Now in his final weeks in office, Dayton took a very positive step to stop this unnecessary project. According to his news release, he said:
“I strongly support my Commerce Department’s appeal of the Public Utilities Commission’s Order.
“Enbridge failed to provide a future demand forecast for its product, which is required by state law. Instead, the company presented its analysis of the future oil supply from Canadian tar sands extractions. It failed to demonstrate that Minnesota needs this pipeline to meet our future oil demand. In fact, most of the product would flow through our state to supply other states and countries.
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.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC’s) deeply flawed decision approving the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota likely will get challenged in court. Some of the legal arguments against the PUC are now coming into focus.
Seven organizations and tribal governments filed motions asking the PUC to reconsider its vote approving Line 3’s Certificate of Need. The Minnesota Department of Commerce’s motion says the PUC’s decision: “contains legal errors and ambiguities.” The Youth Climate Intervenors’ motion said that: “The Commission’s explicit denial of climate science and wholesale dismissal of treaty rights as ‘unnecessary’ are appalling.” A joint motion by Honor the Earth, the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, said the PUC’s order: “fails to interpret state law to favor the public interest and protect the environment as against private interests.”
It’s doubtful the PUC will budge and reverse its vote, but this is a necessary procedural step to allow Line 3 opponents to sue in court. The legal arguments contained in these motions could form the basis for future lawsuits. If this issue does go to court, the PUC will have a lot of explaining to do about why it consistently favored Enbridge and ignored public testimony and the administrative law judge’s independent recommendations.
Water Protectors opposing the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline blocked a bridge near Bemidji Tuesday, erecting a tepee and holding a water ceremony, according to an MPR story.
No arrests were made, but it’s the latest in a series of actions against the pipeline. On Sept. 11, water protectors disrupted and delayed a Minnesota Public Utilities Commission vote on Line 3 permit conditions. On Aug. 29, water protectors blocked a Bemidji intersection for four hours. Other volunteers took their laptops and tablets to Gov. Mark Daytons’ reception room and live streamed the event, an effort to pressure him to get off the fence and take a stand against Line 3. In Bemidji, 26 people received disorderly conduct citations and face mandatory court appearances.
Sadly, Dayton remains silent on whether he thinks Minnesotans should have this crude oil pipeline shoved down their proverbial throats.
Work to stop this project is ongoing. Here’s a few action steps:
Sign a petition telling Gov. Dayton that Line 3 is a danger to our community.