Leech Lake Band Opposes Option to Keep Line 3 Pipeline in the Same Trench

Enbridge’s current Line 3 route (blue) and Enbridge’s preferred route (red).

Part I of a series looking at Ojibwe Band response to Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly’s report and recommendations on the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

Native American nations and their community members are not monolithic in their opinions. That fact becomes apparent when reading the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe’s response to Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly’s recommendations on the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline. According to Leech Lake’s May 9 letter:

The [Leech Lake] Band is different than the White Earth, Red Lake, Mille Lacs, and Fond du Lac Bands. The [Judge’s] Report fundamentally fails to understand this. The Band is again trying to make that clear so that the [Public Utilities] Commission will not miss the point, as well.

Two Kinds of Treaty Rights

The Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline proposal affects two kinds of treaty rights:

First, each of the Ojibwe bands has treaty rights to operate as a sovereign government and control land. (The colonial term is “reservation.”) Second, they have treaty rights with the cumbersome title: “usufructuary rights.” This refers to rights to hunt, fish and gather on “ceded territory,” that is, lands outside of reservation boundaries. (These hunting and gathering rights are complicated.  More on this in a later blog.)

What is important from Leech Lake’s perspective is that Line 3 crosses its sovereign lands. (In fact, Line 3 runs in Enbridge’s Mainline Corridor which has a total of six pipelines. These pipelines also cross the Fond du Lac Reservation. Leech Lake and Fond du Lac are two of the seven sovereign Ojibwe Bands in Minnesota.)

Enbridge, a Canadian energy transportation company, has proposed a 1,000+ mile crude oil pipeline from Alberta to Superior Wisc., crossing northern Minnesota. It wants to reroute Line 3 through part of Minnesota, opening a brand new pipeline corridor to avoid Leech Lake and Fond du Lac lands. That route would still cross lands where various Ojibwe Bands have reserved “usufructuary” rights to hunt, fish and gather.

In-Trench Replacement Proposed

O’Reilly’s recommendations say if a pipeline is to be built, the best option is to remove the current Line 3 and rebuild in the same trench. She argues that plan has the environmental benefits of removing the old, decaying pipeline, and avoiding the environmental damage of opening a new pipeline corridor. The plan also has the economic benefit of creating jobs to remove the old pipeline, a project estimated to cost $1.2 billion.

Writing for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, attorney Grace Elliott called O’Reilly’s plan “a terrible choice.”

Any suggestion of negotiation on in-trench replacement of Line 3 is offensive to the Band, whose sovereign government has legislatively passed an ordinance/resolution stating its official position against in-trench replacement. …

The Band does not accept the Report’s assumption that the Project’s impacts on off-reservation natural resources would have a greater negative socioeconomic impact on the tribal community than in-trench replacement of the pipelines across reservation lands.

Enbridge’s Mainline Corridor easements expire in 2029. Leech Lake’s letter said the Band won’t renew the agreement in 2029 “because it wants the pipelines removed as soon as possible.”

The Leech Lake Band said the impact of a new Line 3 “would be more favorable if the Commission approved a route outside the Reservation.”

The Band’s interests in this Project cannot be understated … With respect, the Band’s Reservation is different than ceded territories, and crossing the Reservation is different than crossing private property within a ceded territory …

‘Best and Most Plentiful Wild Rice Waters’

Leech Lake Band members harvest wild rice on Mud Lake. (Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers through Creative Commons license.)

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is expected to vote on Line 3 in late June. It will rely on O’Reilly’s report for its deliberations.

The Leech Lake Band says that O’Reilly’s analysis is skewed, ignoring Line 3’s impacts on Leech Lake simply because the pipeline corridor already exists. The letter continues:

The Leech Lake Reservation has the best and most plentiful wild rice in the State. As [Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Environmental Director Levi] Brown stated, ten percent of Minnesota’s fresh water lies within the Leech Lake Reservation boundaries, and Leech Lake has the most abundant wild rice resources. The existing Line 3 pipeline runs through the very heart of wild rice country where it crosses through the Leech Lake Reservation. …

The Leech Lake Band argues that rebuilding in the same trench “has the greatest impacts on wild rice of any alternative.”

Impacts on the Chippewa National Forest

O’Reilly’s report also fails to acknowledge the impact on the Chippewa National Forest of removing the old pipeline and installing a new one, the Band says. Leech Lake co-manages the Chippewa National Forest with the U.S. Forest Service. The current Line 3 affects 157 acres of that forest.

Elliot writes:

The Band has a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Forest Service that was signed “to recognize treaty rights of tribes to hunt, fish, and gather wild plants on national forest lands.” Thus, to the extent [O’Reilly] was concerned about impacts on treaty rights, the record is clear that [the in-trench replacement plan] would have real and concrete impacts. The [PUC] should not ignore these facts.

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DNR Comments on Line 3 Report Raise Additional Environmental Concerns

Enbridge’s current deteriorating Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline on the Fond du Lac Reservation, exposed above ground. Enbridge wants to abandon the pipeline. Photo: John Ratzloff

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) both weighed in on the Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly’s report and recommendations on Line 3, clarifying, amplifying, and critiquing them.

Both agencies generally compliment Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly’s report for being, as the DNR put it, “comprehensive” and “neutral.” Neither agency takes a position on how the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) should vote on the Line 3 permits.

Still, the agency comments provide further illumination on why the PUC should reject Line 3. The DNR comments show that Enbridge’s current plans fails to provide adequate protections to northern Minnesota’s waters and environment. The MPCA comments reinforce O’Reilly’s critiques of the project’s risks.

Continue reading

Bill Gutting Wild Rice Water Quality Standards on Dayton’s Desk: Veto Needed

Quoting from the Organic Consumers Federation email I just received:

Wild rice is just about as Minnesotan as hotdish. The state grain is also a critical food resource for Native American tribes and an important indicator of water quality.

Now, this important Minnesota food resource is under attack at the state capitol.

Gov. Dayton has just three days to stop a dangerous bill that would eliminate the existing sulfate standard that protects wild rice waters.

URGENT! Call (651-201-3400 ) and email Gov. Dayton today! Tell him to veto HF 3280 and protect Minnesota’s clean water and wild rice!

Quoting from the Grand Forks Herald March 22 article: Leech Lake band objects to sulfate standard elimination. The article quotes the Leech Lake Band’s Executive Director Robert Budreau Jr.:

To repeal legislation that ensures and maintains a level of sulfate entering our waters is illegal as well as negligent,” Budreau wrote. “Before the State considers throwing out water quality regulations in order to satisfy industry or commerce, we urge the State to honor the human rights of the Ojibwe Nations and people and treat us with respect.” …

“To repeal legislation that ensures and maintains a level of sulfate entering our waters is illegal as well as negligent,” Budreau wrote. “Before the State considers throwing out water quality regulations in order to satisfy industry or commerce, we urge the State to honor the human rights of the Ojibwe Nations and people and treat us with respect.”

Commerce Offers Rushed and Incomplete Responses to Draft EIS Criticisms

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.

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Tribal Liaison For Enbridge Line 3 Quits State Job, Cites Minnesota’s Lack of “Good Faith” Effort

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.

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MPR Tar Sands Pipeline Story Flawed, Slanted

DAPL protest sign.

Let’s start watching how the media covers the proposed expansion of a tar sands pipeline through northern Minnesota, a project that threatens our environment and provides no significant benefit to Minnesota. Today’s example is MPR’s story: Minn. oil pipeline fight stokes threats, fears of Standing Rock.

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.

That’s bunk. Continue reading

Enbridge Line 3: White Earth Spirit Camp Forms; Upcoming Events

New Honor the Earth map on Enbridge Line 3.

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