Fifth in a series of critiques of the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s final environmental impact statement (EIS) on Enbridge Line 3, a proposal to expand and reroute a tar sands crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. Commerce is taking public comments on the adequacy of the EIS until 4:30 p.m. Oct. 2. To learn how to submit comments, click here.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce got swamped with comments to its draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Appendix T of the Final EIS chronicles the hundreds of pages of comments received and the hundreds of pages of the Department’s responses.
The final EIS is inadequate because some of the department’s responses do not adequately address the questions and criticisms raised by the public and government officials. Let’s look at a few examples.
The state’s point person working to elevate Native voices around a proposed crude oil pipeline in northern Minnesota has quit her job, citing a lack of transparency and good faith effort by the state, according to a story in The Intercept.
Danielle Oxendine Molliver, a member of the Lumbee tribe from North Carolina, worked as the tribal liaison for the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the lead agency in shepherding the Enbridge Line 3 project through the regulatory process. Line 3 would carry tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin, traveling 337 miles through northern Minnesota.
Oxendine Molliver explained her decision to resign in a July 24 letter, quoted in The Intercept article.
“There are a multitude of reasons why I have come to this decision. The single most important one is the failure of the state of Minnesota to fulfill its obligations of good faith and fair dealing with the tribes in connection with the Line 3 project.”
She added, “I feel as though my resignation is the only option to maintain my integrity, commitment, and standing with the tribal communities as both a liaison and indigenous woman.”
It is the latest controversy over Enbridge Line 3. In related news, the first non-violent direct action against Enbridge Line 3 is set for Cloquet this Monday. Here is a link to the event page.
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.
A spirit camp has opened on the White Earth Reservation to carry on the water protectors’ traditions started at Standing Rock. The camp is working to stop the Enbridge Line 3 proposal as well as promote unity among camps across the country doing the important work of protecting Mother Earth, according to William Paulson, Executive Director of the Oshkaabewisag Community Cooperative.
The camp is called MikinaakMinis-Turtle Island, and it has a Facebook page. Asked if the camp needed any support, Paulson asked only that people like and share the Facebook page and “be involved in the moment. Contact your elected officials and talk to them about this.”
Enbridge has an old and failing Line 3 (the black line on the map). Enbridge proposes to abandon that line in the ground and install a new, larger pipeline along a new route (the red line on the map.) That new route runs 337 miles across Minnesota, crosses the Mississippi headwaters and endangers clean lakes, rivers and wild rice beds, and all for nothing. Minnesota’s fossil fuel demand is actually declining.
Paulson said Enbridge Line 3 also crosses what is known as the “1855 Treaty area” (light green shaded area on the map). The Anishinaabe retain rights to hunt, fish and gather wild rice in this area. Enbridge and the state “are not discussing it on a government-to-government basis,” he said. [Enbridge is] trying to buy people off and go through.” The threat to the Mississippi’s headwaters is “unacceptable,” Paulson said.
According to the Facebook page, the camp is: “A support haven on beautiful land for community, culture, and traveling ambassadors for Mother Earth. Water is Life.” Paulson provided additional information about the camp in an email: Continue reading →
The Minnesota Department of Commerce just released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on a proposed crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. The project, Enbridge Line 3, would run 337 miles from the North Dakota border to Duluth/Superior, including stretches through the Mississippi headwaters region and prime wild rice waters.
The 1894-page document includes a short section on Environmental Justice. To its credit, it acknowledges the pipeline would infringe on Anishiaabe (Ojibwe) treaty rights and exacerbate historical trauma. But it lacks Native voices and is silent on some important questions.
The Environmental Justice section concludes:
Disproportionate and adverse impacts would occur to American Indian populations in the vicinity of the proposed [Line 3] Project.
Then a few lines later:
A finding of “disproportionate and adverse impacts” does not preclude selection of any given alternative. This finding does, however, require detailed efforts to avoid, mitigate, minimize, rectify, reduce, or eliminate the impact associated with the construction of the Project or any alternatives.
That’s an indirect way of saying Anishinaabe voices and treaty right don’t really matter — the project can proceed based on what non-Native people consider to be fair mitigation.
Let’s take a hard look at the Environmental Justice chapter in the EIS. Continue reading →
Indigenous peoples are pushing to gain a permanent seat at the U..N. General Assembly, according to an article in the website Devex. It is a main focus driving this year’s U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The annual meeting started April 24 and ends May 5. According to the story:
Indigenous peoples make up just 5 percent of the world’s population — about 400 million people — yet also account for nearly 15 percent of the world’s extreme poor, and occupy some 22 percent of the Earth’s land surface. Their participation in the global development agenda is key, senior United Nations officials said this week, but indigenous communities and institutions still collectively lack the right to easily enter and participate in United Nations meetings…
Larry Leventhal, a local attorney who devoted his life to defending Native American activists, including those in the American Indian Movement (AIM), has died, according to a story in the Star Tribune.
Leventhal represented AIM in some of its most famous struggles. [AIM co-founder Clyde] Bellecourt said that Leventhal was the first lawyer he called after AIM activists occupied Wounded Knee, S.D., site of an 1890 massacre, in 1973.
Meanwhile, MPR is reporting that the the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is hosting a series of public meetings “on proposed changes to a longstanding rule limiting the amount of sulfate that can be discharged into wild rice waters.”
The state has had a rule on the books since 1973 limiting the amount of sulfate that can be discharged to a specific level. But it’s rarely been enforced.
For the past several years the MPCA has worked on a new rule that proposes to replace a one-size-fits-all approach with a flexible standard that will set a separate sulfate limit for each water body where wild rice grows.