The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) found the Line 3 EIS adequate and approved its construction; the Minnesota Department of Commerce (DOC) along with Honor the Earth and a cohort of environmental organizations filed for reconsideration; and the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe strikes a deal with Enbridge.
On June 28, the system failed the people of Minnesota and the Anishinaabe. After three years of testimony, 72,000 people commenting (68,000 comments in opposition), and every agency recommending against issuing a permit for Enbrdge’s Line 3, the PUC issued a Certificate of Need (CON) for the pipeline project. The route will create a new corridor through the 1855 Treaty Territory and then loop up to the Fond du Lac reservation. Here’s an update on recent Line 3 milestones:
- In August, the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe announced their new agreement with Enbridge. The statement (http://bit.ly/FDLstatement) will provide a substantial set of payments to the Fond du Lac band, which already hosts six pipelines.
- In September, the DOC Honor the Earth, the White Earth, Red Lake, Fond du Lac, and Mille Lacs Nations, Youth Climate Intervenors and others filed multiple petitions for Reconsideration of the ruling, in which they requested the PUC reverse its ruling and deny Enbridge the permits for Line 3. The DOC stated the PUC’s ruling to grant the Line 3 Pipeline CON is “affected by legal error and is unsupported by the evidence.” We agree... So do most Minnesotans.
- Also in September, the Fond du Lac Nation struck a deal with Enbridge and entered into a right-of-way agreement for the new pipeline corridor to cross the reservation as well as easements for the existing six pipelines on the reservation until 2039.
- In October, the PUC approved a route permit for Line 3.
- The PUC must still approve a number of conditions that it seeks to impose on Line 3.
Looking ahead, there are a number of opportunities for Honor the Earth and citizens to stop Line 3, including legal action and further citizen participation in additional permit decisions. Honor the Earth:
- Has challenged the adequacy of the EIS in an appeal to the Minnesota Court of Appeals;
- Has filed a petition for reconsideration of approval of the certificate of need, and if this petition is denied will likely challenge certificate of need in court;
- Will file a petition for reconsideration of the route permit decision;
- Will work to ensure that any conditions imposed by the Commission are as strong as possible;
- May challenge additional PUC decisions in court; and
- Will engage in the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s water quality certification process, as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wetlands protection process and the federal government’s environmental review.
We believe that these permits should not be issued and the CON and Route permit should be reversed. We think the fact that there is no worst case spill scenario plan for the St Louis River or Superior is a problem. And, we think that the route is a big problem.
We intend to join with other citizens to oppose the permits needed, and appeal through all regulatory and legal means. Indeed, as the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes, "Commerce’s procedural filing adds strength to the Native American and advocacy groups working to stop Line 3. It would be more impactful if in the coming months Commerce also joins the legal challenges against the pipeline," since if the PUC denies the request "then Commerce and other parties can sue in court to stop the pipeline." We would like the system to protect the people of Minnesota and the Anishinaabe, not the interests of a Canadian corporation.
Even though no permits have yet been issued for Line 3, law enforcement agencies in Minnesota have already been tracking water protectors’ activities and making preparations for heightened Line 3 resistance. Enbridge has agreed to pay for any costs they incur responding to social unrest during construction, and FDL tribal police have already begun policing water protectors as Enbridge begins integrity digs for the new line.
On October 22, the Duluth City Council approved a proposal for nearly $84,000 worth of riot gear for the city’s police, despite strong community opposition. At the previous council meeting, they agreed with the City’s Citizen Review Board (CRB) to have a transparent community engagement process, but then failed to allow for time to consider the testimony and information received from the three community forums hosted outside of the parameters requested by the CRB.
Honor the Earth remains opposed to the route, the pipeline, and to the militarization of the local police. Enbridge’s Line 3 is the carbon equivalent of 50 new coal fired power plants. And, as the UN has just released t’s report on the climate crisis, we will continue to oppose this pipeline.
The UN warns there is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Let’s put it this way: killer heat waves will toast many urban areas, storms will lay to waste cities and fires will lay to waste our world. Our traditional maple syruping, wild rice, let alone our fisheries, will take a huge hit. And then there’s that flooding problem. New Orleans, Miami, large parts of Boston and New York City and Silicon Valley, not to mention Shanghai, Jakarta, Ho Chi Min, Lagos, Mumbai will all be gone. These cities will be where we scuba dive. That’s because the polar ice shelves are melting. As Jeff Goodell reports in the latest Rolling Stone, “There are not enough economists in the world to calculate the trillions of dollars worth of real estate that would be lost in a scenario like this. Nor are there enough social scientists to count the hundreds of millions of people who would be displaced. You think the world is a chaotic place now? Just wait.”
Enbridge wants to pay landowners to let them abandon old Line 3, while landowners continue to push for a removal plan more similar to what Canadian landowners have available. Minnesotans for Pipeline Cleanup has expressed agreement with the criticisms of Enbridge’s Landowner Choice Program made by DOC, DNR, Honor, and FDL.
Valve Turners Case Dismissed:
Two women, Annette Klapstein and Emily Johnson, faced a northern Minnesota trial for shutting the valves down at Enbridge’s Clearbrook Facility. They pled what is called the Necessity Defense. In short, defendants Annette Klapstein and Emily Johnson argued that they should not be held liable for their actions as a crime because their conduct was necessary to prevent some greater harm and when that conduct is not excused under some other more specific provision of law such as self defense.
Their actions, combined with similar actions in North Dakota, Washington and Montana turned the manual safety valves on four pipelines, temporarily halting the flow of nearly 70 percent of the tar sands oil imported to the United States from Canada. Their charges were dismissed.
In explaining the necessity of their actions, Annette Klapstein told reporters:
”We decided to do this because tar sands are the dirtiest and most climate-polluting oil that there is. … ( the pipelines) have to be shut down if we are to have a chance of having our children and future generations have a habitable planet.” Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, an expert who authored the American Pipeline Institute pipeline safety guidelines, was prepared to testify before the dismissal. “I was to testify concerning two essential elements of the case. The first was whether Emily and Annette damaged the pipelines. They did not, as the judge ruled, damage the pipelines. The flipside of that is the question: Do pipelines and the petrochemical products they deliver damage, increase risk or harm anybody? The answer to those questions is an emphatic yes.”
We stand with the Valve turners. We stand with the Landowners. We stand with the Water Protectors. This is a time when moral strength and courage are necessary.