On June 28th, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission made an illegal decision to grant the certificate of need to Enbridge for their proposed Line 3 project. Every other state agency that has reviewed the project has expressed serious concerns about the project. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has serious concerns related to the applicant’s proposed route and the susceptibility of the aquifers to pollution. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also has expressed concern about the proposed route and the completeness of the Department of Commerce's environmental impact statement. The Department of Commerce's assessment of the project found no need for the project and recommended not permitting the project. Judge Ann O’Reily, after one of the most contentious public hearing process in recent memory, found that the applicant’s proposed route should not be permitted, and expressed serious concern about Enbridge’s proposed abandonment plan. After five years of interacting with these agencies and their staff, we know, on a personal level none of these agencies think this project is a good idea that should move forward.
Despite all this, while also including the tens of thousands of public comments against this project, the five commissioners of the Public Utilities Commission decided this project was needed. On that day, in the packed hearing room, we were there. As we have been at every step of this process. We were there all the weeks leading up to that day, and we saw the busload of “supporters” Enbridge paid to be there every day. We faced the intimidation and discrimination of the Public Utilities staff who tried to ban our allies, block our elders, and stifle our media. We were there as each commissioner cried, in turn, and stated how they felt they had a gun to their head. And we were there when in the largest act of cowardice, Commissioner Lipshultz turned to the Youth Climate Intervenors and told them how quickly energy systems can change and how we need a change in the transportation system and how at some point we need to take a stand and then did not make that stand. Instead, he told the YCI it is on them to make that change. The Youth, who have already been dealing with the impacts of climate chaos their whole lives, who intervened within the process of Line 3, now have the responsibility to fix the system they did not create. The global community has known about the threat of climate change since the early 1980’s. The worsening wildfires, storms, floods, and droughts we are experiencing are the first signs of the climate catastrophe we have been heading towards for decades. We can not put all the responsibility for fixing this mess on future generations. We must make significant strides towards climate correction now. This can only happen with people in positions of power making brave and wise choices. Permitting Enbridge to expand their mainline in Minnesota, which will induce expansion of their system east of Minnesota and expansion of the tar sands is not wise, not brave, and not legal.
What the tar sands are, is the largest bad idea humanity has had in a while. The tar sands are one of the most inefficient fuel sources for one of the most inefficiently designed transportation system one could imagine. The combined energy it takes to extract, upgrade, transport, and refine the tar sands crude is barely recovered in the energy utilized by running an internal combustion engine. This is an engine that is 16% efficient, for a transportation system that prioritizes individual vehicles over mass transportation. The tar sands are also one of the most carbon-intensive fuels on the planet. On top of this the destruction of the boreal forests, which are a keystone ecosystem critical for global level climate control, have released and will continue to release massive amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Methane has been becoming more of a concern to scientists due to its climate-changing properties. The mining and upgrading of the tar sands have wreaked untold environmental damage to the Dene, Cree and Metis people, poisoning their water, air, and land. The tar sands settling ponds, designed to hold wastewater from the mining process are so toxic that migrating birds have died after landing in them. The landscape is so destroyed less than one square mile of tar sands mine land has been restored, and even then, not to its former ecological function.
Our Seven Generations and Seventh Fire prophecies tell us we are in the time when we have a choice between two paths. One path is well worn, scorched and leads to our destruction. The other path is new, green and leads to mino-bimaadiziwin (the good life). We must choose to walk the new path.
We walk this new path by saying “no” to fossil fuel investments and “yes” to renewable energy investments.
Honor the Earth and our coalition partners will be planning and organizing several calls to action on the remaining permits. Please join our mailing list or follow us on social media to stay up to date.
To explore the proposed corridor, click here.
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What is Line 3?
Line 3 is part and parcel of Enbridge’s plans to expand across the Great Lakes Region. In both Wisconsin and Michigan, there are projects planned; contingent on the success of Line 3. In Wisconsin, Enbridge has plans to expand their southern route to the Gulf of Mexico. In Michigan, their existing Line 5 project has been the center of a growing controversy. Enbridge is now planning to replace the existing line that runs across the Mackinaw Straights, on the bottom of the lake floor with a new, undoubtedly larger, pipe in a tunnel under the lake.
Enbridge is already in a lot of trouble in Michigan, both for the Kalamazoo Spill and the incredibly risky continued operation of Line 5. Calls for the immediate halting of operations of Line 5 are being made by called for by local governments and Tribes across Michigan are looking to cancel or revoke existing easements.
Enbridge is not a good neighbor and consistently uses underhanded methods to achieve their project goals and plays fast and loose with safety and spill response plans. They are North America’s largest pipeline company and were born out of Imperial Oil- Canada’s second largest petroleum company. Canada’s economic hopes and dreams have been invested in the Tar Sands operations and Enbridge represents the path to that economic future.
For more information on Enbridge see:
Enbridge’s Corporate Rap Sheet:
Enbridge’s Violation Tracker:
The National Wildlife Federation’s blog on Enbridge:
National Observer Article on Federal Audit:
Polaris Institute Corporate Profile of Enbridge:
Enbridge Over Troubled Water Report:
Honor the Earth has been at the forefront of an international campaign targeting the financiers and insurers of the fossil fuel industry. In December of 2016, the ground fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline was at a standoff -- law enforcement had blockaded the bridge leading to construction, and a series of blizzards sent thousands of people home. Supporters around the world asked constantly how they could help, and the decades-long divestment from fossil fuels campaign was a natural target. Within months, “Defund DAPL” chapters popped up around the country, while delegations of indigenous women targeted European banks, focusing closely on those countries with stringent human rights laws.
Our National Campaigns Director, Tara Houska, has played a role in targeting U.S. Bank, which announced it would pull $1.3B from Enbridge credit facilities, AXA Insurance, which announced it was divesting $3.5B from the tar sands industry, BNP Paribas, which pulled $1.24 in Enbridge funding as part of its announcement to end funding tar sands, arctic drilling, and fracking, and DNB Bank, which announced it would be ending its relationship with Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Over the last year, we have met with representatives of JP Morgan Chase, Deutsche Bank (Germany), BNP Paribas (France), Credit Agricole (France), HSBC (England), Barclays (England), Citibank, Wells Fargo, BayernLB (Germany), DNB (Norway), Credit Suisse (Switzerland), Allianz Insurance (Switzerland), Zurich Insurance (Switzerland), and the Norwegian Oil Fund, the third largest funder of fossil fuels in the world.
The Norwegian Oil Fund manages a $1trillion dollar portfolio. After two meetings with the Oil Fund set six months apart, first announced it would be reevaluating its relationship with Energy Transfer Partners. A few weeks later, the Oil Fund announced it was reevaluating its investment into the fossil fuel industry as a whole. When that announcement was made, the European oil market dropped for a day. While targeting financiers, drafting investment reports, and bringing the stories of directly impacted communities to decision makers has been highly successful, we have not let the companies behind these projects off the hook.
Last spring, we attended the Enbridge Shareholders meeting in Calgary and worked with a group that presented a shareholder petition to address Enbridge’s transparency with regards to Aboriginal and First Nations rights. The resolution received 30 percent of the vote, which is a significant percentage for a first-time proposal. We attended Enbridge’s shareholder meeting again in 2018 and made a point of referencing the success of the divestment movement, particularly in light of Enbridge’s declining stock values. We continue to push for divestment from the fossil fuel industry at the same time we push for investment in renewable energy systems.
For more information:
RAN Fossil Fuel Card Finance Report Card:
Cultural Survival Quartley article on the movement:
Women's Earth & Climate Action Network, International Information on Divest, Invest, Protect:
Oil Spill Response
On April 26th, 2018 the Twin Ports area saw a fire at the Husky Refinery. If the winds had been different that day, the fire could have engulfed the nearby hydrogen fluoride tanks, resulting in an inferno that could have decimated Superior and Duluth. The tanks that caught fire undoubtedly held products created from the tar sands crude that flows through the Enbridge mainline system. Since this event, many people have started to question the plans that are in place to deal with future catastrophes. Of critical interest is the new expanded Line 3 Enbridge is proposing for the northern lakes area. Through the regulatory process, the public has never had access to Enbridge’s response plans. Instead, we have been given vague guarantees that Enbridge will follow “all applicable regulations” and that they have a new, state of the art emergency response plan. What do those regulations actually say?
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) regulations, 49 CFR § 194.115, requires only that a pipeline company identify the first wave of equipment that it claims can arrive at the scene of a spill within six hours. Here’s more on that regulation and implications:
194.115 Response resources.
(a) Each operator shall identify and ensure the resources necessary to remove a worst case discharge and to mitigate or prevent a substantial threat of a worst case discharge.
(b) An operator shall identify in the response plan the resources which are available to respond within the time specified, after the discovery of a worst case discharge, or to mitigate the substantial threat of such a discharge, as follows:
High volume area
All other areas
This regulation clearly states that a pipeline operator need only identify available resources that can “respond” within the specified timeframe, one that only begins when the spill is “officially” discovered. This can be hours or even days after it actually happens. According to the Wall Street Journal, an estimated 80% of spills are actually detected by civilians, despite pipeline companies’ faith in their leak detection systems.
This regulation does not specify the number of resources needed to respond to a worst case discharge. The PHMSA regulation leaves this decision entirely up to the pipeline companies. There are no other regulations that cover this topic, although the Oil Pollution Act does allow states to institute additional and more stringent response plan requirements.
The Pipeline Safety Act (PSA) and its regulations are drafted so as to exclude all public involvement in the regulation of pipelines. The law and its regulations were drafted to avoid triggering the hearing requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and the environmental review and public participation requirements in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). For oil pipelines, the routing and construction permitting process rely on a mishmash of state and federal laws, which also fractures the review process and complicates public understanding.
PHMSA is not even required to have documentation related to operators’ violations. PHMSA’s enforcement efforts are limited to going to a pipeline company’s office and reviewing paper files on site that show compliance with the law. Sometimes after a leak or spill, PHMSA will collect information from companies, though PHMSA is very generous with exempting information if a company wants it exempted. It is nearly impossible to acquire any information about the adequacy of company compliance with the Pipeline Safety Act standards before something bad happens.
Confidentiality and transparency
PHMSA’s oil spill planning duties arise under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), which is a part of the Clean Water Act. In theory, all of the normal citizen participation requirements of the APA and NEPA apply to regulation of oil spill planning and cleanup. The foundation of all oil spill planning under the OPA is the worst case discharge calculation, because it determines how much equipment and personnel a company must have available to respond to a spill. PHMSA has determined that worst case discharge amounts are confidential, even though they are not difficult to calculate based on the publicly available information.
PHMSA also determined that the location and amount of an operator's spill response equipment are also confidential. This means that publicly available, operator spill plans only include boilerplate language – generic “how to respond to an oil spill” information that can be found in any training course on oil spill response. It also means that citizens now have no meaningful access to the guts of facility response plans, which makes a practical review and civic oversight of these plans nearly impossible. The company simply wants to spend as little as possible on buying spill response equipment and hiring spill response personnel.
The real way the system works is that smaller vendors own small amounts of spill response equipment mostly to respond to small spills. If there is a big spill from a pipeline, the pipeline company calls a general contractor who hires a bunch of these small companies to come from all over the county to work mopping up the mess. The pipeline company itself usually itself owns relatively small amounts of spill response equipment. This scheme keeps the cost down for pipeline companies and generally means that the industry is poorly equipped to arrive at the site of a big spill quickly with the right equipment. In remote rural areas, the spill response plans have little to do with containing a spill and consist almost entirely of cleaning up as cheaply as possible.
A federal audit of Enbridge’s 2010 spill in Marshall, MI, showed that Enbridge does not know the best way to control anomalies in their lines. The audit showed that Enbridge could not prove that it knew how to monitor and repair pipeline cracks forming from corrosion - the key factor that had led to two major Enbridge oil spill disasters in 2007 and 2010. As it were, Enbridge lobbied hard to demand the NEB remove the most incriminating parts of that report, and covered up two secret environmental documents.
Enbridge has lobbied aggressively against responsible spill response regulations in Minnesota. In an October 2014 letter to the Environmental Quality Board, a number of Minnesota legislators pointed out Enbridge’s determination to thwart any safety regulations by the state of Minnesota. The letter, from Minnesota Senators Scot Dibble and John Marty, and Representatives Frank Hornstein and Jean Wagenius, stated:
“Enbridge and the pipeline industry were unwilling to agree to:
- Provide a qualified company employee to advise public sector incident commander by telephone within one hour of a major pipeline oil discharge;
- Provide monitoring equipment within three hours of a discharge, or to develop an annual plan to deliver monitoring equipment to a discharge site to comply with the provision;
- Provide qualified personnel to advise incident commanders at the discharge site within three hours of a major spill;
- Provide containment booms from land across sewer outfalls, creeks, ditches and other places where oil and other hazardous substances may drain in order to contain leaked material before it reaches those resources;
- To have capability to deliver containment booms, boats, oil recovery equipment and trained staff within eight hours of a confirmed discharge to recover 10% of a worst case discharge, including protection of listed sensitive areas and potable water intakes within one mile of a discharge site
- Deliver equipment to protect sensitive environmental areas and drinking water intakes, within 60 hours of a major spill
- Provide updated disaster prevention and response plans to the Pollution Control Agency every three years…”
In 2014, Public Safety Commissioner Mona Doman told House Transportation Finance Committee members that firefighters and others first responders are not equipped to deal with oil disasters. They do not have the equipment or training need to fight explosive dilbit fires. President Chris Parsons of the Minnesota Professional Firefighters stated that “If an oil disaster occurs in Minnesota, it is likely to result in loss of life and property loss on a massive scale.”
An oil disaster is “low frequency, high risk,” said Savage Fire Chief Joel McColl. Preparing for oil disasters is especially hard for smaller volunteer fire departments. Fire officials have said that in such cases all they can do is evacuate anyone who might be in danger and wait for help from nearby communities and the state. Brooklyn Park Fire Chief Ken Prillaman said the state has given money to form and equip regional hazardous materials teams but provides no money to maintain the equipment. He warned legislators not to hand fire departments “additional unfunded mandates.”
Why should the burden of responding to oil disasters fall to local first responders?
Local, state, and federal agencies are already spread thin with budget cuts and staff limitations. There are very few people on the ground who are trained to inspect and monitor crude oil pipelines, including their construction, operations, and impacts.