By Winona LaDuke
Minnesotan’s for Line 3 is actually paid for by the Enbridge Corporation. The group participated in the regulatory process as a grassroots organization, and continues to run an aggressive pro-pipeline media campaign, including $11 million spent by Enbridge on lobbying for Line 3 – which was dealt a major blow by the Minnesota Court of Appeals (MCA) in late June as the Court rejected the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) submitted, as a requirement in the law. Additionally, the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Pollution Control Agencies have determined that they will delay additional permitting until the required EIS is submitted.
In the meantime, it turns out that Minnesotans for Line 3 boasts the CEO of Enbridge, Al Monaco on its board. There are people who want this pipeline in Minnesota, but not nearly as many. A June 6 report released by DeSmog, an investigative journalist project, found that “Minnesotans for Line 3 presents itself as a grassroots organization consisting of ‘thousands of members.’” But the investigation found that behind the scenes… Enbridge has provided the group with funding, public relations, and a variety of advocacy tactics.
According to the investigative, Minnesotans for Line 3 spent a chunk on advertising to portray Al Monaco’s grassroots organization as a legitimate interest group. Minnesotans for Line 3 was the tenth largest digital ad purchaser among interest groups between November 2018 and April 2019. “…And it allegedly engaged in more stealthy tactics as well: Dozens of young people wearing Minnesotans for Line 3 shirts occupied spots in a line at a state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) hearing on the project at the expense of the project’s opponents – only to disappear shortly after receiving the tickets.” For many tribal people who traveled from low income communities to participate in the hearing process, this became pretty discouraging. Literally hundreds of people who are actually impacted by this proposal were not allowed to speak at hearings, because of Enbridge’s manipulations.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires a disclosure of the advertisements placed on networks, including FOX and Minnesota Public Radio. That disclosure found that Minnesotans for Line 3 listed Bob Schoneberger, Al Monaco (Enbridge CEO), Cynthia Hansen and John Whelan as their Board members.
The MCA’s decision against the Enbridge Line 3 proposal sends the company and the state agencies back to the drawing board. The Court determined that the EIS prepared by the Minnesota Department of Commerce was inadequate, primarily because there was no worst case spill scenario assessment for Lake Superior. That’s been a deep concern to Enbridge, whose stocks dropped 4 % the day of that decision.
And questions have arisen as to how the Minnesota regulatory process has been influenced by Enbridge. Minnesotans for Line 3 was supported by a public relations firm called Velocity, which notes its “invaluable” grassroots work it provided Enbridge on the Line 3 project through a service it calls “Advocacy Elevator.”
“To garner favorable decisions by government agencies that would decide the fate of the project, Enbridge needed an exceptional and sustained show of statewide public support,” the now-deleted web page says. “Enbridge tapped the Advocacy Elevator’s power to develop uniquely comprehensive sets of data that were the foundation to better define and understand a universe of people more likely to support the project and to take action.”
The description continues, “Velocity used a variety of tactics, including a phone program, direct-mail, digital and content engagement, and canvassing to create grassroots support. All of this was focused on the objective of further identifying the strongest group of likely supporters and then getting them to ‘walk the walk’ by taking actions that would create an impact with specific audiences that would, in turn, support approval of the line.”
Minnesotans For Line 3 is not the first Enbridge front group involved in the battle over the pipeline replacement project, first proposed in 2014. In 2017, the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), an Enbridge-funded arm of the lobbying firm HBW Resources, created a campaign titled “Modernizing America.” CEA ran two TV ads in Minnesota in support of the pipeline. The group pushed out a University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) study that concluded the project would create 8,600 jobs. But as the watchdog group Public Accountability Initiative revealed, Enbridge provided the data inputs for the study and funded the entity that commissioned it from UMD, which casts major shadows on UMD’s academic credibility.
I know people say, “that’s how the system works”, but I have to say, I want democracy to work in Minnesota, for the millions of Minnesotans who oppose more Enbridge pipes and a new corridor. And for the Anishinaabe. I for one, will keep trying to make the system work, not just for rich Canadian corporations, but also for the little people and the birds, fish, wild rice and animals of Minnesota, and for future generations.