Chairman of White Earth Reservation Asks Gov. Walz for Immediate Action

Chairman of White Earth Reservation Asks Gov. Walz for Immediate Action

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Contact: Martin Keller, Media Savant Communications

612-729-8585, mkeller@mediasavantcom.com

CITING THE COVID-19 HEALTH RISKS TO NATIVE PEOPLE AND OTHERS – DURING THE COLLAPSE OF THE TAR SANDS OIL MARKET THAT FEEDS LINE 3 -- WHITE EARTH RESERVATION CALLS FOR SUSPENSION OF MINNESOTA POLLUTION CONTROL AGENCY LINE 3 PERMITTING PROCESS “UNTIL PANDEMIC IS RESOLVED”

In a strongly worded letter to Governor Walz March 26, 2020, White Earth Reservation Chairman, Mike Fairbanks, has asked the Governor Walz “to deny the present Enbridge Line 3 Clean Water Act section 401 application, without prejudice, to provide for refiling after the Covid-19 pandemic is resolved." 

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency -- despite the Covid-19 pandemic – is moving forward with its regulatory process to approve or disapprove the 401 Water Quality permits for Line 3 with a series of telephone Town Halls beginning this week April 2, April 7 and April 9, 2020.

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Chairman Fairbanks challenged Gov. Walz to live up to the commitment he made to improve relationships with Native Nations. In his letter to Walz, he wrote:

The Pollution Control Agency scheduling telephone town hall meetings and a one-week extension on the comment period is not really providing for Consultation, Coordination, and Cooperation under Executive Order 19-24. Too often tribal members do not have the time, resources and ability to electronically participate in a meaningful way and prefer public hearings to speak to share their concerns.

Fairbanks was referring to the Executive Order Walz issued last summer, which reads in part:

“This order ensures the State of Minnesota and the eleven tribes engage in true government-to-government relationships built on respect, understanding, and sovereignty,” said Governor Walz. “We are committed to meaningful consultation with the tribal communities in our state.” (Emphasis in original.)

In addition to extending the recent written comment period to March 29, 2020, the MPCA will conduct three 90-minute statewide telephone town hall meetings --  beginning this week on Thursday -- where the public can call into the telephone town hall, share a two-minute comment and/or listen to other public comments. The comments will be included in the official public record.

The MPCA telephone town halls meetings are scheduled on the following dates and times:

The Chairman’s request comes at a time when the tar sands oil market is collapsing due to the pandemic and the glut of oil resulting from a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia that is flooding the markets with excess oil at a time when worldwide consumption is dramatically down because of the pandemic:

Tar sands oil originating in Alberta, Canada, will be pumped through Line 3. However it is currently trading at its lowest price ever, which is already resulting in the collapse of this market and other tar sands-related operations (SEE ALSO -- https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/bitumen-wcs-wti-oil-1.5511386 )

  • In late February, the massive TECK mine project was abandoned, citing economics
  • Last week, Suncor in Alberta announced that it will shut part of its production down in a two-year old mine, Fort Hills. They are also delaying new mining projects. 
  • The Husky Refinery, which exploded on 2018, is stopping repairs.As the Star Tribune reports, “Given the current safety and public health risks, Husky has begun a systematic and orderly suspension of major construction activities related to the Superior rebuild project,” spokeswoman Kim Guttormson said. Besides, that Husky is cutting $1 billion in expenses, allegedly to keep the big tar sands producer afloat. 

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Dear Governor Walz:

These are especially difficult times for Minnesota. I appreciate your leadership in dealing with the pandemic and your consistent priorities to protect human health and vulnerable communities and to follow scientific advice in service of the public good. 

We make two requests of your Administration in keeping with your priorities and the leadership you have shown in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic:

1)    Suspend any environmental permitting or environmental review for new or expanded projects to ensure that government action is not taken without appropriate information and a thorough and meaningful public process.

2)    Provide further safeguards for any MPCA “flexibility” in enforcement of environmental compliance to prevent adverse acute and chronic human health and environmental effects and to ensure public transparency and accountability. 

In particular, the MPCA is holding electronic town hall meetings to take public testimony on the proposed 40l permits for Enbridge Line 3.  The people most impacted by this project, are also some of the most vulnerable people in the state, and this process through the PUC has been challenging for us, and the new offer of electronic town halls, is not only a limit to public participation, as we are not all able to participate electronically, and also, we are under extreme duress now, hoping to find masks and food for our families. 

The times are changing, economically and in terms of public health. The price of oil has bottomed out, and tar sands producers are closing mining operations. Now is not the time to move ahead allowing up to 4300 pipeline workers to come to northern Minnesota, nor to engage in major public policy decisions.  Now is the time to care for your people, and our health.

We are asking that you deny Enbridge’s request for a 40l Water Quality Permit at this time, without prejudice.  That provision is well within your scope of decision making and would protect our people and your process for now.

Miigwech

Winona LaDuke


TAKE ACTION - HERE IS WHAT YOU CAN DO

Contact Minnesota Pollution Control AgencyLaura Bishop, Commissioner: 651-757-2014 | Laura.Bishop@state.mn.us

Post these images or your own wearing a masking via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook using these hashtags tagging the following: 

  • Governor Tim Walz. Official Twitter @GovTimWalz
  • Instagram Governor Tim Walz @mngovernor
  •  Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan @LtGovFlanagan
  • Instagram Peggy Flanagan @peggyflanagan
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency @MnPCA
  • #DenyEnbridgePermit #StopLine3
Samples: 

Governor Walz, Now is not the time for MPCA Electronic Town Hall Hearings on Enbridge Line 3 Water Permits (401). The process is not inclusive, and we are in a pandemic. Our communities are high risk.

Deny the Enbridge Water Permit 401 for Line 3, and let's have a real discussion after we are COVID free. #DenyEnbridgePermit #StopLine3

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Electronic hearings with a minute and a half to present are discriminatory to low income rural people, those most impacted. And, as the tar sands mines close down, there's no need for this pipeline. There never was. Enbridge Line 3 poses imminent threats to Anishinaabe cultural environment including the catastrophic risks to wet lands, wild rice watersheds, lakes, rivers and forest lands which the tribal bands depend on. We must take action, and request that the State of MN including @GovTimWalz @mngovernor, and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan @LtGovFlanagan #DenyEnbridgePermit #StopLine3


Good Source >> White Earth to Walz: Live up to your pledge of ‘meaningful consultation’
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