|Written by Winona LaDuke,
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Enbridge is seeking tens of millions of dollars in tax rebates from
Minnesota counties, in a court case against some of the thirteen
counties which presently have Enbridge lines. At the same time,
nationally and internationally, Enbridge moves ahead with so called
“green washing” and “red washing”. It may be time to quit taking candy
from the corporation.
The Minnesota Supreme Court has ordered a
Minnesota Tax Court to determine if thirteen northern (mostly poor)
counties owe Enbridge back taxes. And it’s a lot.
Red Lake County,
with 4000 people (many of them Ojibwe), faces some financial losses.
According to the Star Tribune, “Enbridge is its largest taxpayer, and
the county had a total levy last year of $2.6 million. County auditor
Bob Schmitz says that if Enbridge prevails, the county could be on the
hook to Enbridge for $3.5 million. “How do we possibly get the money to
pay them back?”
“It’s scary for us,” Allen Paulson, Clearwater
County’s auditor, told the Star Tribune. “If Enbridge wins its appeal,
the [tab for the county] will be $7.2 million, and our levy is $6.8
Clearwater County faces the biggest hit because it’s
home not only to pipelines, but an Enbridge tank farm and terminal in
the town of Clearbrook.
All of this becomes pretty pertinent when
we are discussing a brand new pipeline through new poor counties, whose
greatest asset is their clean water. While the company is squeezing
some poor counties, it continues to make hefty profits from the
transport of oil through our territories; and it hopes to paint a good
picture with donations to tribes and environmental causes. This is
called “red washing” and “green washing”. Let me explain how this looks.
Greenwashing: Eco Grants from Enbridge were around $l.2 million a couple of years ago (the last update is from 2015).
really should be taking care of the water, the pollinators, and our
land. Enbridge has been trying; they’ve doled out a chunk for small
wind, playgrounds, and even the Mississippi Headwaters Foundation got a
grant from them to look at protecting the water.
This is a bit
ironic because two of the single largest threats to the water up north
are oil pipelines and climate change; both of which are squarely in
Enbridge’s plans. Enbridge is battling to not have to clean up the past
mess they have made, and instead wants to abandon pipelines and make a
new mess. There is, frankly, no amount of greenwashing that will clean
up those hydrocarbons.
Red Washing: Enbridge’s brand of red
washing is to offer water bottles to White Earth’s Rice Lake village,
when the power outage caused the water system to break down this past
summer. After Bad River announced it was not renewing Enbridge’s
easment, the corporation offered food to the Bad River tribe for their
food pantry (Bad River did not take the food).
This is likely
just the beginning. Powwow season is upon us and with federal budget
cuts, Enbridge will likely be trying to make friends in poor communities
who are facing more cut backs.
Maybe someone should ask why the
infrastructure in northern tribal communities is so shaky, and why it is
that l3l first nations in Canada have drinking water advisories.
problem with red washing is the huge implications as projects are
forced ahead, with corporations making the appearance that they are good
neighbors. Clayton Thomas Muller, a Winnipeg based Cree writer, talks
about this problem, “The problem here is that we rarely talk about what
those communities are giving up by providing social license to
corporations to be able to state that, for example, they are sending our
youth to university. Sure, corporations such as Syncrude and Petro
Canada/Suncor are some of the largest employers of Indigenous peoples in
the country (with Canada’s mining companies following in second place),
but their ecological footprint on our way of life is not exactly
something we should be cheering about….the cumulative impacts of
corporations’ ecological footprint – which includes thrusting the costs
of cleaning up their mess to local communities – has a long-term,
devastating effect on our collective rights and title, our lands, our
waters and our health.”
And so here we are. The Enbridge Company
seeks a social license to move ahead in Minnesota; but let’s look at
what we have. The two largest oil spills on the Mainland were on
Enbridge lines – the Kalamazoo Spill, and the Prairie River Spill. On
March 3, in 1991, the Line 3 pipeline ruptured near Grand Rapids,
spilling over 1.7 million gallons of oil into the Prairie River, after a
delayed response by Lakehead Pipeline, Enbridge’s predecessor.
company lost its battle for the Sandpiper fracked oil pipeline through
our territory, but then moved to the Dakota Access Pipeline. After the
September 4th use of dogs on our people, I called Enbridge’s Linda
Coady, the Director of Sustainability, and Enbridge’s “Indian Listener”.
I asked her to use Enbridge’s one third ownership of the proposed
Dakota Access Pipeline (at that point in financial straits) to
demilitarize the battlefield, condemn the destruction of sacred sites,
and call for an environmental impact statement. That would be Minnesota
I wrote to the CEO Al Monaco, asking for Enbridge to uphold
the “Aboriginal People’s Policy” which they have signed. The company did
nothing, electing to let our unarmed people be injured and take
bullets, tear gas and compression grenades.
To be clear, Enbridge
is responsible for 28% of the tanks, rubber bullets, tear gas, and the
arrests and injuries. They should have no social license here. As powwow
season approaches, please do not let Enbridge underwrite our powwows.
all, if the village of Rice Lake had no good water, shouldn’t they
improve the water system for the village? Or at least, not threaten the
water of the region with leaking pipelines. And, instead of making
more pollution in our territory, how about they clean it up.
company estimates over half a million structural anomalies in Line 3,
or about 1 every 10 feet. Enbridge Integrity Supervisor Laura Kennett
has testified, “I consider Line 3 to be in the deterioration stage … as
external corrosion growth is increasing in an exponential fashion.”
might ask Enbridge, with a 5.7 billion renewable energy portfolio, why
that renewable energy is not offered to our region. Finally, Enbridge
testified two years ago that it makes $550 million annually in profits
from the transportation of oil across our lands. That’s after they pay
all the salaries and expenses.
Enbridge is trying to pull back the
tax money it paid to the good state of Minnesota, while at the same time
it tries to offer candy to our tribes. We need to remember what our
moms told us long ago, “that is a bad man you don’t take candy from.”
Green washing and red washing only work for a short time. That time is over.
Winona LaDuke is founder and ED of Honor The Earth .