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Protestors Oppose Leech Lake Tribal Council signing power line agreement
Thursday, October 14 2010
 
Written by Elizabeth Sherman,
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 Leech Lake Tribal Chairman, Arthur “Archie” LaRose has called forth a meeting sponsored by the Leech Lake Tribal Council on the 230 kV Transmission Line from Bemidji-Grand Rapids, MN.  The meeting will be held on August 30 at the Palace Casino on the Leech Lake Reservation. The goal of this power line meeting is to seek input from Leech Lake band members and community members on the power line.
In Zha Wen Dun Aki (Loving the Earth) members along with other Minnesota Chippewa Tribe band members will attend this meeting to voice their opposition to the power line coming through Leech Lake tribal boundary lands. 
During our week-long protest in late August,  the Leech Lake Chairman has kept In zha Wen Dun Aki members abreast on updated negotiations with the power companies, which are: Minnkota Power Cooperative, Inc., Otter Tail Power Company, Northern States Power Company D/B/A Excel Energy, Great River Energy, Inc. and Minnesota Power (Utilities).
The Leech Lake Tribal Council (Band) has not signed an agreement with these power companies yet, but have reached a tentative agreement of 5.75 million dollars for constructing the power line on Enbridge Pipeline’s permanent easement right-of-way on Highway 2. 
Secretary-Treasurer Michael Bongo promised Leech Lake band members during his 2010 re-election campaign that he would advocate for a tribal referendum on this power line. Now he is going back on his word, and is the main tribal council member pushing this power line on our people and land. To put the transmission line over the Enbridge pipeline right along our tribal school is a recipe for disaster.
In Zha Wen Dun Aki members are demanding a power line tribal referendum be held, and if band members vote for it then we will hold our peace because the people have spoken. The tribal referendum will be presented to the tribal council this evening at this meeting. Power company representatives and Roger Moe, Utilities lobbyist, will be at the meeting as well. 
In Zha Wen Dun Aki members will also confront these power representatives at the Leech Lake Tribal Council meeting why they have not committed to implementing the 2007 Minnesota Renewable Energy Standard (MN RES) signed into law in 2007 by Minnesota Governor, Tim Pawlenty. The MN RES law mandates electricity by utility companies be committed to 25%-30% renewable energy by 2025. 
I doubt that the Leech Lake Tribal Council and their attorney’s even care if the utility companies are abiding by these legal mandates. They are not making rational and sound leadership decisions to protect our environment and our tribal members by agreeing to this contract with the power companies.
The House of Representatives passed the Minnesota Renewable Energy Standard bill by a 123-10 vote, and the Senate passed it by a 61-4 vote a couple weeks prior to Pawlenty signing it into law.
I am not privy to what progress the utility companies have complied with this law. But, I did pose this question to the utility companies as part of my testimony on March 18, 2010 when the state and federal public utility commission representatives came to the Leech Lake Reservation as part of their mandates to solicit input from tribal and non-tribal members. They (public utility company representatives) were not allowed to answer my question.    
The Minnesota Renewable Energy Standard law requires benchmarks be implemented for Excel Energy to comply with renewable energy standards in the amount of 15% by 2010, 18% by 2012, 25% by 2016, and 30% by 2020. All other utility companies are required benchmarks of renewable energy of 7% by 2010, 12% by 2012, 17% by 2016, 20% by 2020, and 25% by 2025. These benchmarks show that a total of 22% renewable energy must be in place by 2010. (Source: Wind Energy Weekly/AWEA.) 
Why are Roger Moe and his cohorts  pushing this transmission line through and not initiating renewable energy in northern Minnesota? Because we do not have enough wind power in northern Minnesota?
Long-term exposure to these electro magnetic fields (emfs) from the electrical line cause cancer, breaking down of cellular body tissue, killing fetuses in pregnant women. The Leech Lake Reservation and surrounding area landscape is second to Alaska as being the greatest bald eagle breeding and nesting site. We believe this transmission line will also kill bald eagles.
In Zha Wen Dun Aki grandmothers have been gathering signatures on a Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Constitution petition which opposes Leech Lake Tribal Council to sign an agreement with these above-mentioned utility companies to allow construction of this transmission line through Leech Lake Reservation tribal boundary lands.  

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