Brett Larson Staff Writer
Over 100 people attended public meetings in Hinckley and East Lake June 12 to learn about and respond to the Draft En- vironmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Line 3 pipeline. The preferred route of the pipeline, which is proposed by Enbridge Energy of Canada, would transport “tar sands” oil from Alberta through sensitive wild rice lands in the Rice Lake and Sandy Lake watersheds on its way to Superior, Wisc.
Although public meetings concluded on July 22, the deadline for submitting written comments about the Draft EIS is July 10 (see page 5 for information on how to comment).
Many Band members spoke at the Hinckley hearing, including Harvey and Algin GoodSky, Tania Aubid and Natalie Boyd. MLB descendant Justin Smith also spoke about the issue, as did White Earth Band member and Honor the Earth Director Winona LaDuke.
Harvey pleaded with Enbridge to consider the effects of its “infrastructure” project on the resources of northern Minnesota. “My infrastructure grows on the water,” he said. “I’m so glad you have appreciated your stay, since you arrived in 1492, but I really want to tell you that we don’t want your oil polluting our water.” Tania spoke of her experience at Standing Rock protesting the Dakota Access pipeline and praying for the animals that will be harmed by an oil spill. She asked Gov. Dayton to protect his legacy as a water protector by opposing Line 3.
Natalie said Enbridge has exaggerated the need for a new pipeline and that the technology exists to reduce the demand for oil. “The only reason we can’t use these technologies is because they are suppressed by the petroleum industry,” she said. “For people concerned about their jobs, be aware that you’re being held hostage by the oil industry. We’re all being held hostage by the oil industry. Yeah, we all drive petroleum-fueled vehicles, but it’s not because we want to, it’s because we’re prisoners of the fossil fuel industry.”
Algin talked about the importance of native plants for food and medicine and asked people to think about the effects of their actions on future generations.
An even larger crowd attended the meeting at East Lake Community Center that evening. Harvey, Tania, Natalie and Winona spoke again and were joined by Dale Greene, Russell Shabaiash, Sandy and Veronica Skinaway, Michaa Aubid, Keenan Gonzales, Opitchee Mushkooub and many non-Indian community members, most of whom opposed the pipeline.
Jamie MacAlister of the Department of Commerce opened the meeting by discussing the timeline for the pipeline approval pro- cess. She introduced Patrick Field of the Consensus Building Institute, who presided over both the Hinckley and East Lake meetings. He in turn introduced Tania Aubid, who offered a prayer, welcomed guests and thanked them for sharing their views. All in attendance were treated to a wild rice dinner provided by District II Band members.
Patrick also introduced District II Elder Dale Greene and asked him to speak first. Dale gave an impassioned speech about the importance of protecting Mother Earth: “My name is Kaadaak, and it means ‘roots.’ I wanted to speak to some of the listeners to voice my comments and my opinion. I’m 84 years old, and I have seen a lot of changes. What I see now is that Corporate America is ruining our Mother. The mother is our earth, is our life. She gives us everything; we must realize that. Everything you have today comes from Mother. You’re digging in her flesh, you’re leaving scars, you’re releasing poisons. She has given you many warnings. You’ve seen the warnings but nobody is paying attention. The iron ore and the oil — I’m sorry to say this, but that’s what’s running your war machines. Seventy percent of your oil and iron ore goes to make the war machines run. It seems like corporations have lost all respect for life. I’m just wondering now, they’ve got a bounty on the wolf. Who’s next, the human being? There’s a lot more I could say, but I think I’ve said enough. I just want to remind you, think of Mother Earth, life. We are her; we are Mother Earth. That’s it. Thank you.”
Sandra said that since she first testified in opposition to the Sandpiper pipeline, the issue of climate change has become more critical. “We all need to focus on the future,” she said.
“The pipeline is going to leak. They always do. We need to think about the future and the people yet to come. This pipeline coming through our water-rich area and our wild rice — this is our food. I really suggest you find an alternative route that is away from our wild rice, our waterfowl, our birds. Instead of short-term gain, we need to look seven generations ahead.”
Keenan talked about his ancestors who were removed from their village when the Rice Lake Wildlife Refuge was created. He said the water was a crucial resource for food as well as transportation. “We were river people,” he said. “That was our highway, and water was life for us.”
Veronica said, “I’m a non-removable Sandy Lake Band member, and I’m going to be here to ensure that my grandchildren are going to be able to love that wild rice. That’s my dream, and that was my ancestors’ dream, and that’s why I’m saying ‘gaawiin,’ no, we don’t need pipelines here.”
Russell said the tribes have been fighting terrorism since 1492 and asked people to consider the lives that would be affect- ed by construction of the pipeline — mitigoog (trees), manidoon- sag (insects), nibi (water), bineshiinhyag (our ‘winged relatives’).
Winona showed a feather she’d been given by the Dine people of the tar sands region of Alberta, where the Line 3 oil would come from. “They can’t drink their water,” she said. “Their lakes are poisoned; their people are dying from cancers they never heard of; their villages are sick... It’s immoral to destroy an area the size of Florida and stuff it in a pipe.” She talked about the stresses already facing Indian communities, from suicide to drug addiction to poverty. “And now you’re asking us to deal with this one, and it’s really unfair.” She accused Enbridge of doing nothing to help the water protectors at Standing Rock who were being attacked by dogs and water cannons. She concluded by drawing attention to Enbridge’s plan to abandon the existing Line 3. “You gotta clean up your old mess before you make a new mess. That’s what I tell my children. This is our chance to stop something bad from happening and our chance to do the right thing.”
Michaa said, “The local Indians have made their point clear: no means no.” He said the new pipeline would run right between the Indian communities of Sandy Lake, Minnewawa and Rice Lake. He said there is nothing in it for the people of Aitkin County. “We go from the land of 10,000 lakes to the World’s Biggest Pipe- line,” he said. “To me that’s not a good attraction to bring people to our beloved county.”
Opitchee talked about the necessity of water, the impact of the pipeline on animals, sh and birds, and her fear that her daughter will not be able to rice.
Several non-Indians who testified said they opposed the pipeline in large part because of its impact on Indian people. Richard Draper talked about the wild rice lakes and historic village sites that would be affected, saying the pipeline is “guaranteed” to leak “near an Ojibwe heritage site that will be spoiled beyond repair.” Scott Cramer said the proposed Line 3 route disproportionately affects Indian people — similar to the way the Dakota Access pipeline was re-routed to Indian lands in order to avoid the city of Bismarck. John Munter talked about “First Nations genocide” in Alberta as a reason to oppose the pipeline.
Over 20 opponents of the pipeline testified at East Lake, compared to only two who supported the project. One supporter was a member of a trade union that would benefit from the project. The mayor of the city of Tamarack also said he supported the pipeline because he did not want to see increased rail traffic in the city.
Honor the Earth has prepared a summary of the DEIS and guidelines for submitting comments.
Make Your Voice Heard During Public Comment Period
The Line 3 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is the result of several years of battle between Enbridge, state agencies and grassroots groups working to protect the water — battles that began with the Sandpiper pipeline. The State tried its best to avoid doing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for this project, but a grass- roots-funded lawsuit by Friends of the Headwaters was successful in overturning that decision. In September 2015, the Minnesota Court of Appeals revoked the permit for the Sandpiper and ruled that the Public Utilities Commission was required by law to start over and prepare an EIS. The public comments are intended to help shape the final draft of the Environmental Impact Statement.
How to comment
Anyone can submit written comments on the DEIS, even if you live outside the state. If you speak at a hearing, put it in writing too! The deadline is July 10, 2017. You can submit comments in three ways: email to Pipeline.Comments@state.mn.us, fax to 651-539-0109, or mail to: Jamie MacAlister, Environmental Review Manager Minnesota Department of Commerce, 85 7th Place East, Suite 280 St. Paul, MN 55101-2198. Make sure to include the docket numbers (CN-14- 916 and PPL-15-137) on all comments.
How to write good comments
The best comments point to specific sections or page numbers of the DEIS and explain how and why they are inaccurate, incomplete, biased, based on unfair assumptions, etc. It is also good to reference credible sources of information. Feel free to include personal stories or accounts of how the project will directly affect you, your rights, your community, the resources you depend on, etc. Comments such as “Please build the pipeline because I need a job” or “Water is Life, No Pipelines!” do not have much impact... but may be counted in an overall tally, so something is better than nothing!
Where we stand
Last month, Minnesota released its DEIS. The final EIS is expected in August, followed by the “contested case process” in October and November, a final report from the judge in February 2018, and a final permit decision from the Public Utilities Commission in April 2018. At some point, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will also go through a permitting process for wetlands and river crossings. If En- bridge receives the MN and USACE permits, they will start construction in MN immediately. Honor the Earth is intervening in Minnesota’s regulatory process and supporting three tribal governments to intervene: White Earth, Mille Lacs and Fond du Lac.
Following are some of the problems with the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that pipeline opponents can use in their comments:
Most of the issues specific to tribal people and tribal resources are confined to a separate chapter that attempts to provide “an American Indian perspective.” They are excluded from the main chapters that assess potential impacts. This allows the EIS to avoid drawing conclusions about the impacts on tribal people . (Chapter 9)
Chapter 9, “Tribal Resources,” states that ANY of the possible routes for Line 3 “would have a long-term detrimental effect on tribal members and tribal resources ”that cannot be accurately categorized, quantified, or compared (9.6). It also acknowledges that “traditional resources are essential to the maintenance and realization of tribal lifeways, and their destruction or damage can have profound cultural consequences” (9.4.3).
Chapter 11, “Environmental Justice,” acknowledges that pipeline impacts on tribal communities “are part of a larger pattern of structural racism” that tribal people face in Minnesota, which was well documented in a 2014 study by the MN Department of Health. It also concludes that “the impacts associated with the proposed Project and its alternatives would be an additional health stressor on tribal communities that already face overwhelming health disparities and inequities” (11.4.3).
The DEIS concludes that “disproportionate and adverse impacts would occur to American Indian populations in the vicinity of the proposed Project” (11.5) But it also states that this is NOT a reason to deny the project!
Chapter 6 states that Enbridge’s preferred route would impact more wild rice lakes and areas rich in biodiversity than any of the proposed alternative routes (Figure ES-10).
Most of the analysis of archaeological resources in the path of the pipeline rely on Enbridge’s surveys. For some reason, only three of their eight surveys are available, and the five missing are the most recent! In those, Enbridge found 63 sites, but claims that only three are eligible for protection under the National Register of Historic Places. (188.8.131.52.1)
The DEIS acknowledges that “The addition of a temporary, cash-rich workforce increases the likelihood that sex trafficking or sexual abuse will occur,” and that these challenges hit Native communities the hardest. But the DEIS dismisses this problem quickly, saying that “Enbridge can prepare and implement an education plan or awareness campaign around this issue” (11.4.1).
Big picture problems
Many of the environmental impacts and plans for minimizing them are drawn directly from Enbridge’s permit application (“Enbridge would do this” and “Enbridge would do that”). His- tory shows that Enbridge continually violates permit conditions. The DEIS should analyze the likelihood of compliance.
The Alternatives chosen for comparison to the pipeline proposal are absurd — for example, the only rail alternative assumes the construction of a new rail terminal at the US border, and thousands of new railcars to transport oil to Clearbrook and Superior. The only reasonable rail option would begin in Alberta. The truck alternatives are similarly unreasonable.
The “No Build” Alternative is not genuinely considered. It is framed as “Continued Use of Existing Line 3” (Chapters 3 and 4), but nowhere is the “Shut Line 3 Down” option considered. There is no discussion of renewable energy, conservation, the rapid development of electric car infrastructure or the decline in oil demand.
There is zero discussion of where all this extra oil will go once it leaves Superior, Wisconsin. We know that they plan to build Line 66 through Ojibwe territories in Wisconsin, but they continue to deny this. Why isn’t MN asking?
The DEIS contains no spill analysis for tributaries of the St. Louis River or Nemadji River, where spills could decimate Lake Superior and the harbors of the Twin Ports.
For calculations of impact, the lifespan of the new Line 3 is estimated at 30 years. But Lines 1–4 are 55-65 years old! And hasn’t the technology improved? The lifespan should be at least 50 years.
The DEIS assumes that the Koch pipelines to MN refineries get all their oil from Line 3, but the current Line 3 does not supply enough capacity for this (390,000 barrels per day), and we know that some of it comes from Line 81, which brings oil from the Bakken in North Dakota.
The 7 sites chosen for spill modeling are not representative of the locations and resources put at risk along the entire corridor. A more thorough analysis of different locations is needed — for example, what about Lake Superior?
The DEIS estimates the annual probability of different kinds of spills on the proposed route: Pinhole leak, 27% (once every 3.7 years); Small Spill, 107% (once every 11 months), Medium, 7.6%, Large, 6.1%; Catastrophic = 1.1% (once every 87 years). So in 50 years, we can expect 14 pinhole leaks, 54 small spills, 4 medium, 3 large, and 1 catastrophic!
The risks of pipeline abandonment are not adequately assessed. For example, there is no discussion of landowner property values and the effect that an abandoned pipe could have on them (Chapter 8).
There is also no discussion of exposed pipe, how fast it will corrode, or how much currently buried pipe will become exposed once it is emptied. (8.3.1).
There is no mention of the abandonment of the other 3 ancient pipelines in Enbridge’s existing mainline corridor (Lines 1, 2, and 4), which we expect Enbridge will very soon attempt to abandon. Nor is there any discussion of the abandonment of the NEW Line 3 in 50-60 years.
The DEIS states that it will be very risky to remove and clean up the existing Line 3 because the pipelines are very close together. (8.3.1). This is not consistent with our extensive observations and physical measurements on the land. Also, don’t they dig up pieces of pipe for maintenance purposes all the time? Why is it suddenly risky?
The DEIS simply states that “Enbridge has indicated that it would develop a contaminated sites management plan to identify, manage and mitigate historically contaminated soils and waters” found during the abandonment or removal of the existing Line 3 (184.108.40.206.1). We want to see that plan.
Construction and restoration
Chapter 2, “Project Description” states that Enbridge has re- quested a 750-foot route width (375 feet on each side of the Line 3 Replacement pipeline centerline). (2.1) Is Enbridge using this permit to prepare the area for more pipes in the future?
Their “restoration” plans for restoring the landscape around the corridor after installation is laughable. Enbridge’s process for restoring wetlands includes dumping the now compacted (and probably de-watered) soil back in the trench, sowing some oats and “letting nature take its course.” This is not how you re-establish a wetland.
Cathodic protection, which applies electric current to the pipeline in order to protect it from corrosion caused by nearby utility lines, will not be installed for up to 1 year after pipeline construction (220.127.116.11).
Chapter 5, “Existing Conditions, Impacts, and Mitigation” states that Line 3 will create ZERO permanent jobs. (5.3.4).
Also in Chapter 5, the DOC assumes “all workers would relocate to the area” and ZERO construction jobs will go to Minnesotans. (5.3.4).
The DEIS does not acknowledge that when the existing Line 3 shuts down, Enbridge will stop paying taxes to the MN coun- ties along the mainline corridor.
Line 3’s direct and indirect emissions alone would be 453,000 tons of CO 2 per year. Over a 50-year lifespan, that would cost society an estimated $1.1 billion. (Executive Summary p.18).
The lifecycle emissions of Line 3 would be 193 million tons of CO 2 each year. Over a 50-year lifespan, that would cost society an estimated $478 billion (18.104.22.168).
The DEIS does not discuss the unprecedented challenges of human casualty, displacement, conflict, natural disaster, biodiversity loss, etc., that climate change is causing, or the consensus from the scientific community that we must leave fossil fuels in the ground. It also fails to acknowledge that across the planet, Indigenous people are disproportionately impacted.