Dear Governor Dayton: Stop the Sandpiper!

Dear Governor Dayton,

Oil companies are asking too much of our state. While we remain in a fossil fuel economy at the present, sending one new pipeline, and two dramatically expanded Enbridge Oil pipelines across the beautiful North Country, is wrong and is not a good move for Minnesota. I am asking you to oppose the Sandpiper and to take a leading role to place a moratorium on new pipelines in the north lakes country. (view maps which illustrate the danger of this pipeline here)

There are many reasons for this. I will explain two: the environmental problems of the north and the precarious nature of the Bakken. First, the proposed Sandpiper route cuts through prime Anishinaabeg wild rice territories protected under treaties and statutes, as well as 28 separate crossings of river systems, and through some of the most pristine lake watersheds in Minnesota.

The proposed route for the Sandpiper crosses the most important river headwaters in Minnesota if not the North American continent. Our unique ecosystem IS what supports our two most important industries; tourism and agriculture (farming to forestry). What we all know and agree upon is that ALL living things need fresh water to live and OUR freshwater resources are extremely vulnerable and the most susceptible to groundwater contamination in the state - fine sand, with an interrelated aquifers and chains of lakes. 

This is not a place for a pipeline particularly since the Enbridge company has such a poor track record (800 spills and has specifically refused to protect our state.  A letter released in early October by Minnesota Senators Steve Dribble, John Marty and Representatives Frank Hornstein and Jean Wagenius to the Environmental Quality Board, pointed out  that …

“ Enbridge and the pipeline industry remain 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   …”

Now just to explain the math. In a catastrophic problem on the Sandpiper, the Bakken Crude oil, would spill out approximately at a rate of 20,000 gallons a minute.  In the 60 hours before Enbridge would deliver equipment to protect sensitive environmental areas, up to l.2 million gallons of oil would have gushed out.  Minnesota can and deserves to be protected from Kalamazoo 2.

Second, there is a false representation that there will be fewer “bomb trains” from the Bakken if we have new pipelines.  This is not true. The fact is that the 385,000 trains from the Bakken this year, have eclipsed some of the coal trains from the same region, but the utmost important factor in this equation, since the Bakken oil can only be processed on the east and west coasts, presently, there is no way to transport the oil to these refineries, except on the trains. 

Consequently, there will not be less trains if there is a Sandpiper pipeline, the oil tanker trains will remain until we address the boondoggle of the Bakken. This is to say, that fracked oil is only viable in the dearth of federal regulation. Fracking is exempt from the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Superfund Laws and all manner of federal environmental regulations.

In the cost-benefit balance of all the risks for Minnesota is that the entire amount of oil in the Bakken is only the equivalent to one years’ domestic production. There is, in fact no “energy self-sufficiency” from the Bakken, only long term destruction of the waters and economic futures of the regions crossed for tankers to foreign markets.

Presently, Enbridge is seeking a permit for replacement pipeline for Line 3, parallel to the proposed Sandpiper.  In part, Enbridge expected 600 repairs over the next 2 years for Line 3 to support replacement.  What is the Enbridge plan for the old Line 3 pipeline and protecting our environment from a decaying, abandoned, 60 year old pipeline already crossing through northern Minnesota’s lake regions?

I am asking you to share our vision, goals and efforts to protect Minnesota’s waters and wild rice for EVERYONE’S future. I am asking you to honor the Anishinaabeg who have perpetual rights to a clean environment and ecosystem and have come forward in tribal resolutions, in federal lawsuits and participation in the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) all opposing these pipeline expansions and the Sandpiper proposal.   The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources have already acknowledged the unnecessary environmental risks that can be avoided and the need to recognize that Enbridge will want to expand our risk with more pipelines.

We need our Governor to lead with a strong message now to call for a legislative moratorium on pipelines in the northern lakes country. 

Love water not oil . . . it’s the Minnesota way.


Winona LaDuke and the Staff of Honor the Earth

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