Political Matters: July 2018

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By Mordecai Specktor

The next Standing Rock

Following the June 28 decision by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to approve the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline project, Gov. Mark Dayton emailed a statement to the press. “Many people hold passionate views on this project,” said Dayton. “I urge everyone to express themselves peacefully. The PUC’s decision is not the final approval of this pipeline. Rather, it only allows Enbridge to begin to apply for at least 29 required federal, state, and local permits.”

Dayton added that subsequent regulatory reviews – by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, etc. – of the proposed pipeline “will take several months. Approvals are by no means assured, and they would require any such project to meet Minnesota’s highest standards, protecting all our state’s earth, air, water, natural resources, and cultural heritage.”

The PUC voted 5-0 to grant a certificate of need to Calgary-based Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline, which the company has branded as a “replacement” for the existing, aging Line 3 pipeline. The PUC also approved Enbridge’s preferred new route for the pipeline, with a slight modification, diverting the pipeline route around Sandy Lake.

In September 2017, the Minnesota Department of Commerce released a study that concluded “that Enbridge has not established a need for the proposed project in Minnesota as required under state rules.” The PUC commissioners apparently disregarded the Commerce study findings.

Ojibwe bands in Minnesota, along with climate change activists, oppose the Enbridge project, which would open a new pipeline corridor through central Minnesota lake country, wild rice beds and treaty-ceded territory, where tribal members have retained rights to hunt, fish and gather. Also, the proposed Line 3 pipeline would be double the capacity of the old Line 3 tube, which runs through the Leech Lake and Fond du Lac reservations.
Winona LaDuke, of Honor the Earth, condemned the PUC decision, calling it “egregious” for both the Ojibwe and the people of Minnesota: “For five years we have tried to make the system work; but Minnesota and Enbridge have asked us if this is gonna be like Standing Rock. And they have gotten their Standing Rock.”

Speaking at rally following the PUC decision, LaDuke added, “The fact is that all of us will fight through every regulatory process that is available to us. We will do everything that is needed to stop this pipeline and then we will stand…. We have asked people to come to Minnesota.”

Noting that the State of Minnesota has put up signs up north welcoming fisherman and hunters, LaDuke said that “it is time to welcome water protectors,” in reference to the activists that came to Standing Rock to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, in 2016-2017.
LaDuke invited activists to come to Minnesota “to learn about our beautiful water, our Anishinabe people, our wild rice, and to stand with us.” The Anishinabe are “not backing down,” she declared. “We’re the home team and we’re not going anywhere.”

On June 29, the day after the PUC decision, LaDuke and other activists staged a protest on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, next to an Enbridge pipeline drilling pad.

The Star Tribune reported June 30: “Enbridge had been beefing up its pipeline security long before it got the green light this week for its new Line 3. And the Calgary-based company has already been talking with the state law enforcement agencies about possible unrest over the new pipeline that will cross northern Minnesota.”

Obviously concerned about the potential for disruptive protests against its $2.9 billion American portion of the pipeline, Enbridge has engaged with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, county sheriffs and tribal police, according to the Star Tribune .

Guy Jarvis, executive vice president of liquid pipelines and major projects for Enbridge, told the newspaper: “If a protest emerges, we are de-escalating. We are going to stop work and remove our people and our contractors from the site.”

Jarvis added that Enbridge doesn’t “expect to have private security firms to supplement or take place of law enforcement in places where we are doing business.”

As for this latter statement, Jarvis and his associates likely are aware that Energy Transfer Partners, owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline, employed a private security firm called TigerSwan to repress the protests. Water protectors at Standing Rock in North Dakota also faced militarized police forces from Morton County and around the country, including Hennepin County sheriff’s deputies.

I was not able to make it out to Standing Rock; but when the next Standing Rock goes down in Minnesota, I’ll be there. Please keep me in the loop.