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 a long 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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The difficulty of getting a clear answer on the protective coating on Enbridge Line 3’s pipes

One of Enbridge’s pipe storage yards. Photo taken summer, 2017

Last week’s blog raised questions about the safety of the pipes Enbridge plans to use to build a crude oil pipeline across 355 miles of  northern Minnesota. The pipes for Line 3 have sat outside in storage yards for years, exposed to the elements. The pipes have anti-corrosion coating that is supposed to protect them underground, but it’s not good for them to sit outside as the sun can degrade the coating.

It seemed like a reasonable question to ask: “What role do regulators play in assuring the pipe’s protective coating still has its integrity if and when Line 3 is built?

It’s been challenging to get a direct answer. The bottom line seems to be that regulators don’t play a role. They have deferred that responsibility to Enbridge. They just seem reluctant to admit it. Continue reading