How Accurate are the Claims in the August 30th Letter to President Biden from Representative Omar and Other Anti Line 3 Legislators?
While the decision to replace Line 3 began when the Obama/Biden administration issued a consent decree requiring the line to be replaced, and the Biden Administration has recently filed its support of federal permits for the project, Line 3 opponents are still trying their best to push against the administration’s decisions.
Unfortunately, a recent letter against Line 3 from Representative Ilhan Omar, members of “The Squad,” and multiple state legislators to President Biden uses misleading and inaccurate claims.
Let’s see how some of the claims from this letter hold up:
“. . . we have seen concerning violations of treaty rights by public agencies and private actors…”
Enbridge respects Tribal sovereignty. The Tribal governments of Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe (LLBO) and Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (FDL) reached agreements with Enbridge and have spoken and written in support of project permits. The replacement route reflects Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe requests. Members of both tribes participated in a first-of-its kind Tribal Cultural Resource Survey of entire route to identify and make changes to the project based on their Indigenous knowledge and understanding of the land. Tribal monitors have authority to temporarily halt construction to help protect important cultural resources.
“…on going violence against Indigenous women…”
Enbridge has zero tolerance for violence or exploitation by anyone associated with the company or its projects and anyone caught or arrested for such activity is fired immediately. Enbridge will not tolerate human rights abuses and will not engage or be complicit in any activity that solicits or encourages human rights abuse.
More than 11,000 workers have completed human trafficking awareness and prevention training (to spot and report suspected trafficking activity), making the Line 3 Replacement Project one of the largest human trafficking education platforms of its kind in the state and industry.
Enbridge worked with the Tribes United Against Sex Trafficking (TRUST) Task Force and other experts to support the development of a public service campaign to raise awareness of human trafficking, Your Call Minnesota.
“…environmental impacts that will have long-lasting impacts on hunting, fishing and wild rice gathering as we grapple with the climate crisis.”
Enbridge pipelines have safely co-existed in Ojibwe treaty territory for 70+ years. No data in the regulatory record demonstrates that Enbridge has damaged Minnesota wild rice lakes Tribal food sources, such as wild rice beds, fishing waters and hunting grounds and Minnesota’s natural resources are at greater risk if Line 3 is not replaced.
Stopping Line 3 replacement will not stop oil flow nor reduce impacts of climate change. This is a false choice—oil will still get to market by less safe, less energy-efficient means on truck and train. During a just energy transition from fossil fuels, Indigenous people, rich natural environments and communities must be protected by newer, safer pipe and all families need safe, affordable energy. The vast majority of climate change emissions come from oil usage—a responsibility we all share.
“We ask that the Department of Interior uphold the rights guaranteed to Indigenous people under federal treaties and fulfill Tribal requests for a government-to-government meeting concerning Line 3.”
Enbridge respects Tribal sovereignty and believes building and maintaining sustainable relationships with Indigenous nations and groups—on projects such as the Line 3 replacement, and ultimately over the lifecycle of the company’s assets is essential. Enbridge’s lines have crossed tribal reservation lands in Minnesota for more than 70 years.
Line 3 is most studied pipeline in Minnesota history and far exceeds regulatory standards. Throughout the extensive Minnesota regulatory process, Tribal governments from five Minnesota tribes (Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Red Lake Band of Chippewa and White Earth Band of Ojibwe) have been official parties to the regulatory process, repeatedly provided testimony and comments during regulatory hearings and 13 of the 71 public regulatory meetings were held on their reservations to gather input from their members.. Additionally, the Indigenous activist group, Honor the Earth, has been an official party throughout the regulatory process.
The Line 3 Replacement Project included a first-of-its kind Tribal Cultural Resource Survey led by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa who managed review of the more than 330 mile route in Minnesota through the 1855, 1837, and 1863/1864 treaty areas. Fond du Lac employed tribal cultural experts who walked the full route identifying and recording significant cultural resources to be avoided. The project is now being built under the supervision of tribal monitors with authority to stop construction, who ensure that important cultural resources are protected.
“…In this context, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently allowed Enbridge to remove an additional 4.5 billion gallons of water from seasonal wetlands during construction, without undergoing additional environmental review or assessment of impacts on treaty rights.”
To clarify, Enbridge removes, uses and returns water to its source, it is not permanently removed. The DNR permit allows Enbridge to create a safe workspace by removing water from trenches dug during construction. All water removed from trenches is returned to the ground a few feet from the trench. When digging the trench for the pipe, workers remove water that collects at the bottom, then release it nearby so the land can naturally filter it as it returns to its original source. As approved in state permits, Enbridge construction crews remove water to protect workers in the trenches, the water itself and the natural environment. The revised permit conditions allow Enbridge to use equipment that draws larger volumes of water than traditional sump pump systems, but discharges cleaner water back into the surrounding area. Of the 5 billion gallons of water allowed by the permit, Enbridge only moved approximately 1.2 billion gallons of water. Enbridge is working with State Agencies to implement strategies to reuse water to minimize total needs. More than 50% of the water being used for hydro-testing is recycled water.
“When such massive environmental changes during construction are weighed alongside the long-term impacts of climate change driven by ongoing Line 3-related emissions, it appears clear that we are not upholding our obligations under treaties to preserve ecosystems that are economically and culturally vital to Indigenous nations.”
Line 3 has passed every test through six years of regulatory and permitting review including 71 public comment meetings, appellate review and reaffirmation of a 13,500-page EIS, four separate reviews by administrative law judges, 320 route modifications in response to stakeholder input, and reviews and approvals from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
On July 23, 2021 the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources issued a statement to address concerns and confusion related to Enbridge’s water permits for the Line 3 replacement project and the company’s current construction activity. The DNR stated, “We currently have no indication that the company is operating in violation of any of its water appropriations permits, and we are monitoring compliance on an ongoing basis,” and shared via multiple channels corrections to misinformation.
Line 3 has passed every test through six years of regulatory and permitting review including 70 public comment meetings, appellate review and reaffirmation of a 13,500-page EIS, four separate reviews by administrative law judges, 320 route modifications in response to stakeholder input, and reviews and approvals from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (The only Tribe with “Treatment as a State” water quality authority along the pipeline route).
“Relatedly, state agencies and local law enforcement entities have taken steps that appear to be clear violations of Tribal rights, as well as financial conflicts of interest.”
Enbridge recognizes governments have the primary responsibility to promote and protect human rights. Enbridge approach to protest activity is respect for freedom of speech and de-escalation. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission required Enbridge to create a Public Safety Escrow Account for the reimbursement of local government regarding costs of public safety around the Line 3 Replacement Project. To receive payment from the Public Safety Escrow Account, Local Government Units (LGUs) submit written, itemized requests to the Public Safety Escrow Account Manager, who was appointed by the Minnesota PUC. The Manager makes the determination on eligible expenses.
“Law enforcement entities in the region have received around $2 million from Enbridge to pay for police activity against water protectors, which has included staggering levels of violence, tear gas, and rubber bullets.”
Community police and sheriff deputies are responsible for public safety. Officers decide when protestors are breaking the law – or putting themselves and others in danger.
Minnesota Public Utilities Commission included a condition in the L3RP Route Permit establishing a public safety escrow account. Enbridge is required to pay into the account – an independent public safety escrow account manager receives these bills – decides if they are appropriate – and reimburses communities accordingly.
Opponent claims of violence do not present a full and accurate picture of the protest activity and law enforcement response. Opponents have held multiple training sessions preparing protestors for lawless, often violent direct action and their social media recruitment efforts promise legal and financial support for those who purposefully break the law.
Given the opponent cameras present and activist leadership involved, this action was planned and staged with the goal of eliciting a response from law enforcement. In fact, a social media feed captured an argument during which one opponent shouted to another her disapproval of protestors taking violent, not prayerful action.
“As law enforcement focuses on water protectors, the influx of temporary residents in the region has exacerbated the concern of violence and health threats to local communities – and to Indigenous people in particular.”
Enbridge has been clear that it will not tolerate exploitation by anyone associated with our company or its projects and is committed to preventing it:
At Enbridge, we are guided by a strong set of values: Safety, Integrity, and Respect. We hold ourselves and others to these values. All employees and contractors are held to high standards and must act in accordance with the policies outlined in our Statement on Business Conduct and within the law.
All Line 3 Replacement Project workers are required to complete human trafficking awareness training as part of their onboarding requirements as mandated in the route permit conditions issued by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Our human trafficking prevention training provides insight and education on human trafficking in Minnesota, including stories from survivors, impacts on Native communities, local programs and resources, and how to spot and report suspected trafficking situations.
Enbridge is committed to working with Native American Tribes and the communities along our pipeline route to raise awareness of human trafficking and support local educational programming, such as Your Call Minnesota. This training and public awareness program is a public service campaign created in collaboration with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA)-led MN Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force (MNHITF) and the Tribes United Against Sex Trafficking (TRUST) Task Force to raise awareness about and increase reporting of suspected human/sex trafficking in the state of Minnesota. The Tribes United Against Sex Trafficking Task Force includes representation from eight of Minnesota’s 11 federally recognized tribes.
To protect the team, workers and surrounding communities, Enbridge has instituted strict and industry-leading coronavirus testing and screening protocols for Line 3. These include repeated, regular COVID-19 testing and daily health and temperature screenings, as well as required on-site safety protocols like wearing masks, observing strict physical distancing, and regularly sanitizing work areas. All Line 3 project COVID safety protocols follow the latest guidance provided by local, state, and federal guidelines to protect both themselves and local communities.
A letter to the editor in the Grand Forks Herald best summarizes where the real threat to communities lies:
In one day, two events were connected to Line 3 – and both really show the reality of what is going on with the project.
Enbridge last week donated $366,000 to the Waubun-Ogema-White Earth Community Schools to help them provide internet access for low-income families. The donation will help provide critically important services for students in the Mahnomen-Naytahwaush school district and create a long-term benefit.
On the same day, Line 3 protestors marched through downtown Duluth. They blocked traffic and shut down the lift bridge. The protestors forced police to respond, who were taking part in the Kids, Cops, and Cars event at Bayfront Festival Park. Instead of spending time with kids, officers were forced to deal with protestors about a project that is almost complete.
“Lastly, Tribal leaders have highlighted that the cultural studies required under law were not adequate considering the diversity of Indigenous history and culture throughout the region.”
The Line 3 Replacement Project included a first-of-its kind Tribal Cultural Resource Survey led by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa who managed review of the more than 300 mile route through the 1855, 1837, and 1863/1864 treaty areas. Fond du Lac employed tribal cultural experts who walked the full route identifying and recording significant cultural resources to be avoided.
The Army Corps wrote of the survey, “The Level of Effort for the identification of historic properties has been impressive and thorough, far surpassing the “reasonable and good faith” identification standard per Part 800. In essence, the Project corridor was surveyed twice, a complimentary dual effort conducted by both “traditional” archaeologists and tribal cultural specialists. The two survey efforts were complimentary and supportive of the other investigation, and to borrow from the TCRS report, the dual survey effort provided opportunity to view through a different lens.”
“When completing historical and cultural reviews of the sites, Enbridge did not include key stakeholders in the Tribal Cultural Resource Management survey team. The Fond du Lac Band of Superior Chippewa, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, White Earth Band of Ojibwe and Red Lake Band of Chippewa challenged the cultural studies in court, but were unsuccessful in having their claims heard by the Minnesota Supreme Court.”
The L3R Tribal Cultural Resources Survey, led by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, encompassed all 337 miles of Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Project route across northern Minnesota—the largest Tribal cultural resources survey ever attempted in the energy industry. Representatives of nine Tribes participated directly through survey work, and more than 30 Tribes in total were involved via consultation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
Enbridge has consistently demonstrated respect for Native American Tribes in Minnesota. Enbridge respected the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe’s wishes to route the pipeline around their reservation, and has an agreement on the deactivation and removal of Line 3 through Leech Lake land. The Fond du Lac Tribe was willing to allow the replacement pipeline to cross their reservation.
In total, Enbridge made 320 route adjustments across the entire route based on stakeholder input; 60 of those adjustments were made to avoid tribally-significant locations.
“There is no ongoing consultation”
Since 2014, community outreach and the regulatory process have offered public meetings, comment periods and open house events to share information and to listen. It has always been evident to Enbridge that construction of a pipeline starts with open and frank discussions within the community. To that end, Enbridge has and will always be committed to meaningful and robust communication and dialogue throughout the development, construction and operation of the project. To date, the community outreach team has conducted more than 4,000 meetings. As with all of our projects, Enbridge’s goal is to provide project information to, receive input from, and address questions and concerns raised by those affected by the pipeline.
Enbridge’s outreach activities included, but were not limited to, listening sessions and open houses in communities along the project’s route, publicly available fact sheets and survey results, one-on-one meetings with individuals and local groups, and offering various means by which the public can connect with project representatives. Enbridge will continue these activities throughout the life of the project.
Similarly, the State of Minnesota has tribal liaisons in the agencies and departments responsible for the oversight of the Line 3 Replacement Project.