Evaluation of the Line 3 Proposal Public Commentary


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As I did on a previous session of public comments on the Enbridge Line 3 proposed new line project, I am again reporting on the nature of the data for this latest round of Revised Final Environmental Impact Statement (RFEIS) Public Comments for the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

Yes, I am a glutton for punishment!!  But I am also a curious fuck and wanted to see what the commentary looked like for several reasons.  I suspected that, like last round, the Pro-Pipeline commentary would be very terse, uninformed, and belligerent.   I expected the Anti-Pipeline people to be more educated, verbose, and supportive of Indigenous Rights.

What did I find?

The Pro-Pipeline was definitely short and somewhat ignorant but not nearly as hostile as I suspected it would be.   The Anti-Pipeline was largely as expected.

Here are the details.

The listing indicated that 180 individuals had submitted comments.  I ended up with a few more so I’m not sure if this is their miscount or mine but with several hundred pages of letters, I’m not gonna be super nit-picky with the details.  I’m providing this review as a way of showing qualitatively how the two sides compared.  But if you want to count them, here they are [and yes, they AGAIN listed my name incorrectly – sheesh!]:

Mary Adams Lisa Havelin Mary-Churchill Peeples Vicki Andrews Gary Heimark Sheila Perrington Elizabeth Baker-Knuttila Ann Hess Cheryl Peters Steve Bakkum Janet Hill Doug Peterson Kathryn Beatty Jenny Hill John Pettingill Bill Bennett Kathy Hollander Joni Phillips Shannon Benzer Julie Huber Greg Pierce Ric Berkholtz Neal Illes Debbie Prestby Paul Berland John Iversen Richard Preston Reece Bertholf Carl Jarvi Curtis Proud Mike Birkeland Gary Jepson Cynthia Purchase Michael Blandford Chad Jewell Casey Quinn Dean Borgeson Barbara Job Ranee Raddohl Frank Bowker Al Johnson Rose Ragole Diana Brainard Deanna Johnson Phil Randall Annelise Brandel-Tanis Glen Johnson Kate Richardson Dave Butcher Matt Johnson Jim Roberts Mary-Kay Byers Rachel Johnson Deb Rogers Aaron Camacho Thomas Johnson Lora Schroeder Robert Chastan Bryn Johnston Leah Shwer Jaci Christenson Emily Jurgens Jennifer Smith Cyril Christo Daniel Kelley Rebecca Smith Nick Compton Matt Kesner Daniel Snidarich Michelle Crawford Kathy Koch Loren Solbergf Anne Cremons Dave Kotula Ashley Stalvig Alan Crompton Rachael Krivinchuk Michael Stang Lois Dalsin Jason Kruse Charles Staten Judy Diaz Kathy LaBerge Amy Stenseng Jimmy Dick Kathy Labriola Craig Sterle Tess Dornfield Philip LaFlamme Bud Stone Mary-Theresa Downing Craig Larson Richard Stuckey Jay Doyle Randy Lasky Walter Suronen Janet Draper Kurt Lauderbaugh Dean Swenson Eleanor Dvorak James Lawson Nancy Terhark Chris Elliot Sharon LeMay Mel Thoreson Nicholas Eltgroth Trevor Lindblom Gary Tibbitts Torrey Erickson E Lindell Jim Tjepkema Bill Erzar Gudrun Lock Jessica Tobin Jeanne Fahlstrom Mary Ludington Shelly Tocchio Lory Fedo Jason Markert Greg Todavich Cynthia Finch Terri Mathis Susan Tomte Brian Foster Nathan McKinney Bailey Troth Jamie Gaither Nancy McReady Peter Tuitt Shaun Germolus Brian Meier Wendy Ulrich Kerry Gersich Jorie Miller Joe Van Vynckt Chad Gilbert Keith Miller Nick Voss Steve Giorgi Kevin Miller Wendy Vyskocil Dawn Goodwin Mitch Mincoff Don Wagner Dylan Goudge Melodee Moniken Justin Wallace Mike Gragert Michael Monsrud Phillip Wallace John Grover Boucher Mooney Corey Weber Katie Grymala Tom Morgan John Weber Paul Gustafson John Munter Joe Wenker Shannon Gustafson Sharon Natzel Josh Yank Jaqueline Hadfield Nancy Norr David Ybarra Fredrick Hage John North Koh Zhi -You Shauna Haines Kevin OConnor Raymond Zidrick Patricia Hammel Gary Oja Tony Hansen Connie Olson Kelly Harrington Kevin Olson Brian Hartje Teresa Paris

Of the 192 submissions I counted, I found one Pro-Pipeline guy had submitted his commentary – the same letter – three times.  On the Anti-Pipeline side, there were two repeaters, one woman who submitted the same letter twice and one man who submitted two letters of substantially different material.   There were a total of 114 Pro-Pipeline and 78 Anti-Pipeline submissions.

In all, there were ~264 pages of letters from individuals.  [Note – one Pro-Pipeline submission  had about 10 blank or only a couple meaningless word pages in it, which I didn’t count. Looked like an internet issue.] Some of these letters were full pages and some were one line letters.  In trying to be fair about the counting, I would give a 3/4 page Pro-Pipeline letter a full count but if it was 1/2 page, only half.  For the 1-2 liner messages, I gave them 10% of a page – even though it was not truly that substantial.  And even the three-six line comments got 20% or 25% of a page.  I tried to count letters as 1/4 page, 1/3 page, 1/2 page and 1 page as best I could.

In all, the Pro-Pipeline folks submitted 36 pages of commentary.  Of these, 46 of the submissions were three lines of text or less.  Just for curiosity’s sake, I went back through the 264 pages and counted… 22 single line submissions (all but one Pro-Pipeline). Here are some of my favorites [No, I did not alter the punctuation, grammar, or spelling in any of these… and yes, these are the complete letters excluding the greeting/closing]:

  • I am a Minnesota resident and 100percent for the replacement of line 3 and for the positive help to are local economies and the taxes that help the school district in the county that they cross
  • I am in full support of line 3 replacement!
  • this project needs to be completed ASAP!  [This exact verbiage was submitted twice, both without the capital letter to begin the sentence.]
  • Build it and pull the old one out to create more job and help the economy in the area plus it will be a safer line with better coating and steel
  • The EIS is more than adequate, the law’s been followed, grant the permit.  [Should I have counted this as a 3-liner???]
  • JBW Consultin LLC fully supports the Line 3 endevour.  [This appears to be someone hoping to capitalize on the “endevour”…  Let’s hope their “Consultin” skills are better than their English skills.]
  • This line replacement is an integral part of repairing America’s Infrastructure!!!

This was probably the best written of them all:

  • It is in our community’s best interest to allow replacement of the Line 3 pipeline in a timely manner to enhance the safety of the pipeline and to reduce maintenance activities that disrupt landowners and the environment.

[I also counted about nine 2-liners, so… sixteen 3-liners.]

Here is the Anti-Pipeline 1-liner I found (I’d originally counted it as a Pro letter – my bias is showing!!)

  • Line 3 makes no sense not only from an environmental and native rights standpoint, but also fro the economic standpoint of investing in an outmoded energy resource.  [So our side has typos too!  But at least I am now unconfused about a Pro-Pipeline letter referencing Indigenous Rights…]

Here’s one of my favorite short ones from the Anti-Pipeline side:

Tar sands…
> are a dirty and inefficient source of energy,
> will hurt the environment through climate change,
> and use land in violation of existing treaties.
Please do not approve a continuance of this offensive, opioid-like addiction.

Only 19 of the Pro-Pipeline submissions were more than a half-page in length and I don’t recall any being longer than a page.  I would say 12-15 were full-page submissions (again, if it was 2/3-3/4 page, I gave them a full page credit) but the majority of the submissions were very brief, 5-6 sentences or less.

As to the uninformed charge I make, I give this as an example of a Pro-Pipeline sentiment:

This is a long overdue needed line . The old line is failing and constantly being repaired . I c these things as I locate utilities for all pipeline projects in my area . The safety programs these guys put in place are top shelf .the environmental issues are above and beyond what’s required and the safety concerns of the pipeline are met
constantly with new technology and old they upkeep and inspect these line like no other . The money that this will bring into areas along it’s route will not only thrive while it’s going through but the tax base it will provide after that is detrimental to all plus it will employ and help our economy . Build it build it build it

OK, I admit, when I saw “Build it build it build it” as an ending to a letter, I knew I’d be picking it.  Now, reading it through, it shows some of the ignorance but really, I’m seeing how hard this is to even decipher!  What’s uninformed here?  Yes, the original Line 3 is old (and had quality issues when it was built because no one thought dropping pipes as they handled them might lead to issues down the line).  And it is constantly failing and needing repair, especially since they are pushing Tar Sands.  BUT I’d take issue with Enbridge’s safety programs.  They are NOT top notch.  In fact Enbridge has one of the worst records in the industry.  They do inspect lines but… we still have failures that are not detected by these inspections.  Best available technology does NOT mean sufficient and competent technology, just the best we’ve come up with to date.  As far as the money the pipeline will bring into the area?  Temporary jobs do not provide long-term economic support and while he says the tax base will be “detrimental”, I think he means the opposite.  And yes, I know I will pay higher taxes if a new pipeline doesn’t come through and provide.  But I’m pretty sure the risks to our much bigger economy of tourism are not worth chancing for a few jobs.  And I’m willing to pay higher taxes.

Very few of the Pro-Pipeline letters actually addressed what the PUC was requesting, whether the RFEIS addressed the four points that the PUC deemed Inadequate in the FEIS.  Most were about pipelines being the safest transport for oil, how we really need the jobs (though many will go to non-Minnesotans), energy independence (“It is time we get to the point where we’re not depending on other countries oil. Countries that fund the exact terrorism that is killing people every day!”), and how we all use oil and its products every day (“These include computers, cell phones, beauty products, appliances,
clothing and sporting goods.”).

So how many pages did the 78 Anti-Pipeline folks submit?  About 92.  Yes, 2.5 times the number of pages submitted by 40% less contributors.  On average, more than a full page per submission.  Yes, we had a few of our own short and poorly written letters and some were simply supporting the environment or Indigenous Rights.  But, by and large, the data in our letters was substantial, referencing links, news articles, and the page references in the RFEIS in question.  Most of the letters actually addressed the four items in question by the PUC.

I was pretty proud of the Anti-Pipeline showing.

When it came to form letters, Enbridge had given up on this tactic.  No pre-printed postcards for this round on the Pro-Pipeline side.  While this blog only concerns itself with self-directed letters submitted to the PUC, MN 350 and Interfaith Powe & Light did submit some pre-printed forms.  They were tallied in subsequent batches of Public Comments. As in the last go-around, many of these cards/petitions also contained verbiage, not just signed names and addresses without comment.  How many did they submit?  Over 23,000 citizens agreed that Enbridge’s New Line 3 is not good for Minnesota’s future.  Yes, the Anti-Pipeline submissions definitely surpassed those of the Pro-Pipeliners all-in-all.

As to the belligerence?  It was really not as bad as I thought it might be.  I recall one Pro-Pipeline letter saying something about putting “politics aside” and some stressing that this project has been on hold long enough.  But for the most part, the letters were civil on both sides.  Most of the outrage on the Anti-Pipeline side was regarding the racism (some called it by name) of not giving Indigenous People a voice by including a Traditional Cultural Properties Survey in the EIS or lamenting the little time left if we truly want to address climate change.  But even when an Anti-Pipeliner was short and forceful, they were often still polite…

I OBJECT- Before the Administrative Law Judge tries to make her findings, I request that you create a supplementary EIS that addresses the deficiencies in the Final EIS. Please.

So here’s the summary:

Pro-Pipeline: 114 letters, 36 pages, 21 one-line submissions, 9 two-line submissions, 15 three-line submissions, little data but lots of unsubstantiated statements.

Anti-Pipeline: 78 letters, 92 pages, 1 one-line submission, many multi-page submissions, lots of evidence backing up the statements saying that the RFEIS continues to be inadequate.

Seems like a no-brainer to me.  Deny the Certificate of Need.  Kick Enbridge’s New Line 3 Tar Sands Pipeline to the curb.

Update 3/15/18: The public Utilities Commission voted to accept the RFEIS as Adequate. You can read more on my FB post from that date.



Updates in the Pipeline Fight


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On March 4th, Honor The Earth held a fundraising event to mark the 27th Anniversary of the largest inland oil spill in these United States.

HTE 27th Anniversary Feast

And when they say “Feast”, they mean Feast!!  We ate from real dishes and drank from real cups – part of HTE’s goal to reduce waste, but it made the whole event feel more elegant and like a family dinner.  I feel so good to be a part of THIS community.

Frank Bibeau brought smoked whitefish and bread from Ball Club, MN that was so delicious… wonderfully balanced salt and fat ~  morsels that greased your fingers as you plucked the flesh from the skin.  I’d never had this before but I am already looking forward to the next chance I will have to try it.  Annie Humphrey made a thick and hearty pork stew with hominy, carrots and potatoes and a mildly sweet, full of fruit wild rice pudding with whipped cream.  Oh! And she brought fry bread.  It looked wonderful but, alas, I could not partake of it.  Dan says it was good!

But the real draw was not the food, as wonderful as it was. With speakers like Scott Hall, retired KAXE journalist, who described the scene and its aftermath from first hand experience, to Frank Bibeau, Leech Lake Tribal Attorney, who spoke on the 1855 Treaty Rights giving  us all a historical perspective, it was a very informative event.

Annie Humphrey’s musical interlude was beautiful and again I was brought to tears as she player her Helper Song, a spiritual chant calling for support in times of need.  An unexpected speaker from the crowd, a young man named Dallon (I am likely screwing up this spelling) spoke from the heart about the losses of Tullibee he has noted since the oil spills have occurred.  These fish (aka Cisco, Herring, Lake Herring) are a part of the ecosystem and when they drop in population, it affects the other species of fish who depend on them for food.  These Tullibee are the canary in the coal mine so to speak for Minnesota’s waters.

“Even slight changes in temperature and oxygen levels can cause die-offs of this sensitive fish.” ~ Jim Umhoefer, Star Tribune 2/3/2015


The keynote speaker was Winona LaDuke, Executive Director of Honor the Earth, a a non-profit organization founded by Winona and The Indigo Girls (Amy Ray and Emily Saliers) to raise awareness and financial support for Indigenous environmental justice.

Winona brought the Honor The Earth biodiesel bus with gorgeous artwork by Votan; a copy of the mural in Duluth.  We love supporting HTE events whenever we can.  And while Winona cannot possibly make all the events for this large organization, it is nice when she does.  She has been at many I have attended and she never fails to give a down-to-earth discussion of what’s happening in the movement.

Today she spoke about how we are done with “bad ideas”.  It’s not a good idea to put a pipeline through the wetlands and watersheds of northern Minnesota, especially when the dangerous poison being transported is not supporting this region.  I agree, why risk our clear waters for Enbridge’s tarry sludge that will only increase the effects of climate change?  I do live in Clearwater County for goodness sake.

Winona explained that if Enbridge brought an idea for renewable energy to Minnesota we’d like them a lot more.  Indeed.  But what she did fail to mention was her recent Letter to the Editor that we found in the Bemidji Pioneer’s online page on arriving home that evening.  She may not have realized it had been posted.

It looks like our neighboring Beltrami County is gearing up to support Enbridge, a Canadian Corporation.  At the February 20th County Commissioners meeting, a request from the Sheriff’s Department to beef up their forces with a mutual aid agreement was approved by the Commissioners.

“It’s to respond to matters such as protest activities that we perceive may occur in the future. It’s about sharing resources among the law enforcement agencies in northern Minnesota, if the need arises.”  ~ Sheriff Phil Hodapp

Sheriff Hodapp feels that the possibility for protests is “very likely” as he references the pending decision on Enbridge Energy’s Proposed Line 3 request.

Winona’s LTE recognized the lone “No” vote by Commissioner Tim Sumner (District 4) saying, “it is nice to see courage.”

“Beltrami County’s decision sends a message that protecting the rights of corporations over the rights of people is acceptable. It is troublesome. Many of us were at Standing Rock and experienced extreme violence at the hands of police, military, paramilitary and other forces upon us. Northern Minnesota is not North Dakota; we neither have the oil interests slathering our politicians (one would hope), nor do we have the hatred for native people that earned North Dakota the nickname “the Deep North.” Or do we? Now is the time, Beltrami County, to decide if you are willing to seize people’s land, and shoot at them, to ensure the profits of a Canadian pipeline company. Now is the time to make a decision not to do that. ” ~ Winona LaDuke, LTE Bemidji Pioneer 3/4/18

Here is a story from two days after the hearing.  It appears that Commissioner Reed Olson (District 2) quickly regretted his “Yes” vote.

“When I was driving home that Tuesday night, I thought about it and I wished that I had not voted for it. I don’t know if we understand the power that we’ve given over to the office of sheriff,” Olson said. “It gives the sheriff, and this has nothing to do with Phil (Hodapp), but the sheriff position in Beltrami County the ability to declare a perceived future state of emergency, to put together law enforcement in a preemptive move to block what might be unrest.”

“So, what I wish we would have discussed, instead of how quickly can we get police and sheriff deputies out for protests, maybe a better discussion could have been about engaging the community and ensuring we have a safe environment for people to peacefully and legally protest.”

“My concern is when we’re looking at the potential for determining peaceful protests as a state of unrest.  If there are going to be protests in Beltrami County over pipelines, what we really need is for people to understand on all sides is that law enforcement is there to protect the rights of individuals to peacefully protest and demonstrate as well as to protect the rights of property owners. That they’re a neutral party there to keep people safe and not there to act as the security service for multinational corporations.”  ~ Beltrami County Commissioner Reed Olson

I bet the officers in North Dakota thought they were not acting “as the security service for (a) multinational corporation”.  But that’s what it looked like.  And with Tiger Swan agents at their sides, that is indeed what they ended up becoming.

I am wondering how this affects Clearwater County and if OUR County Commissioners must give their own concurrence vote.  Of course, Clearwater County is largely in Enbridge’s pocket since we’ve been sucking on their teat for so many years.  They think of Enbridge as a “friend”, even though the recent closing of an old folks home in their base city of Clearbrook showed NO INVOLVEMENT by Enbridge to save the place. Not a very good friend for our elderly…

Reed Olson said to the Bemidji Pioneer, “But, sometimes we have to stop and think out what are all the implications.”  RIGHT?!?  I believe that’s what your job is!  It angers me that no one thought to slow down the process in order for enough information to be gathered to truly understand what was being voted on at the Commissioner’s meeting.

Ironically, in January, Reed Olson brought up the idea of televising the County Board meetings and having them available for live streaming.  What a concept!  Letting the public SEE what their Commissioners were doing.  The motion failed in a 3-2 vote.  And, yes, it was Tim Sumner who was also in favor of Reed’s idea.

These are scary times in my neck of the woods.  But there is also much to give hope.

The Water Protectors are ready to Stand for Clean Water.  The Tribes are ready to Fight for Treaty Rights.  And the Valve Turners are ready to Risk Freedom to Stop Fossil Fuels.  Many voices are crying out in support of Mother Earth.  Many letters are being written, posters are being raised, steps are being taken… in hopes we can help prevent the further destruction of our planet.

Minnesotans for Pipeline Cleanup (MPC) is a group that gives me hope.  Along with St. Andrews Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids, MPC held a press conference this past week.  They are spreading awareness about a new report that explains abandonment and its risks.

“A new study released today by Minnesotans for Pipeline Cleanup outlined the different results and consequences of abandonment, including from an economic standpoint, as well as environment and wildlife standpoint.” ~ Clayton Castle, Lakeland Public Television

In conjunction with a release of their report, MPC is releasing a video series telling the stories of landowners, their experience with Enbridge, and the expectations they now have.  This first trailer exposes you to these landowners and an upcoming blog will give more details on their concerns.   Stay tuned.

The Aftermath of a School Shooting



Just before my first blog posted on the school shooting in Parkland, I got a message from an old college friend to call when I got a chance. Not thinking anything of it and having a moment, I called right away.  Two and a half hours later I was still in shell-shock.  Her daughter was at the school in Parkland during the Ash Wednesday shooting.

The details she shared were shocking but they are hers, not mine to share.  She simply wanted to talk to someone outside the area.  As might be imagined, there is a pall over the towns surrounding the school.  And the effects, especially to kids, parents, and teachers so closely related to the event will likely continue to be quite heavy for some time to come.  And will affect everyone involved for the rest of their lives, no doubt.

To realize how close I was to this shooting made me see that these things affect more of us than we might imagine. The connections radiate in all directions.  For every child killed, the child has two parents (at least), and often siblings, four grandparents (at least), aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, family friends and neighbors.  I’m in an outer ripple of a light splash for a child who came home from Douglas this Valentine’s Day.  Not a family member, not a neighbor, just an old college friend who lives across the country.  And I feel heartbroken.  I well up with tears as I talk with my friend, I hold back a sob as she talks about her experience and I imagine what this must be like for her.  And I imagine that a thousand fold because this group of affected people goes into the thousands, into the millions I’d venture.  We are all connected in so many ways.  And another’s pain is our pain.  None of us likes when a loved one is in sorrow.  The pain may lessen the further out in the ripples you go, but the pain is there nonetheless.

Listening to her, and talking with others and reading about the shooting, the ramifications are heartbreaking.  Here are some of the things we might not think about.  But our children do.  And parents who’ve experienced the dreaded wait, they do too.

  • Sarah Crescitelli, a 15-year-old, texting her mother during the shooting,“If I don’t make it I love you and I appreciated everything you did for me.”
  • The 7-year old girl who tells her mother, after a “shooter drill” at her elementary school, “Mommy, I need new shoes.”  “But, honey, we just bought you those shoes.”  “Yes, Mommy, but the lights go on when I walk.”
  • The parent waiting outside Douglas to pick up his child, watching the chaos unfold, not knowing if he would be getting bad news instead.

What’s happening?

Well, lots of people are talking.  For now.  I am hopeful, in the short attention span we often have in America, we do not forget this issue by the time November rolls around.  Voting out the NRA-financed members of our government is a good start to being able to find solutions.  The NRA has been funding the problem for some time and they currently have more sway than the millions of Americans who have been affected by mass killings and school shootings.

What’s planned?

A Nationwide Walkout at 10 AM on March 14th ~ Seventeen minutes to commemorate the lives lost at Douglas.

A March 24th Protest in Washington, D.C.  Cameron Kasky, Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Alex Wind and Jaclyn Corin – these teens are stepping up to stop the madness that has gone on too long. They are organizing an event to make their voices heard and to bring about change.  The time is NOW they say, to talk about solutions.  It’s NOT too soon.   The students at Sandy Hook in New Town, Connecticut were too young, these teens say, but they are not.  Now is the time to take action and the NRA is their first point of attack. Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg sent a challenge to all politicians.   Either you Stand with the Children or you side with the Child Murderers.  NRA support is a badge of shame now.

A Nationwide Walkout April 20th – To commemorate the anniversary of Columbine and to stand for change to prevent these mass school shootings.

And perhaps they will solve even more of our problems.  emma gonzalezEmma noted that the gun control issue is “just the first thing” they are focusing on.  They are not just calling B.S. to our politicians in general, they are also calling out 45 on his thoughtless, self-centered tweets.

Thank God someone has the balls to stand up and say what we’ve all been thinking.  The Children will lead us where the Media and Congress have failed.

I’m seeing much hatred, rage, and meme-throwing – yes, I use them too.  But we need to get to real solutions.  We need to talk about real answers.  I personally like the ABC approach I read about: Assault Rifle (AR-15) Ban, Background Checks for all, Closing Gun Shop Loopholes.  I also support Waiting Periods and Limits on Ammo purchases.  And Requiring a License for Buying Ammo and making Ammo REAL Expensive – unless you’re on the range.  How about AR-15s ONLY at shooting ranges?  Kind of like the Army does, they leave the weapons on the range.  They aren’t carrying AR-15s back to the barracks. The MPs carry only handguns.

You don’t like those solutions?  Give me yours.  But I’m not buying that people “need” or “should have” the right to own semi-automatic rifles like that.  What is the basis of their need? And is honoring their desire for an AR-15 more important than protecting our children?  I cannot fathom how.

For a real look at what might work, The Rand Corporation has done a study and it shows what some ideas might do.

What can you do today?  If you are struggling with the aftermath of this shooting, find help.   Be sure you are talking with others, giving yourself space to heal, and finding productive outlets.  Grief is a process.  But balance the grief with hope and optimism.  I think watching these young activists in Florida is a good way to stay hopeful.

And their efforts are already affecting Minnesota’s race for governor.

During the last election cycle, as a Bernie supporter, I became VERY disillusioned with our political system.  Bernie would have beaten 45.  I’m sure of it.  Alas, that’s an argument that no one can never prove. But these kids are already bringing me hope that perhaps our political system CAN return to health.

Over the time since we’ve moved here, we’re seeing the same takeover in Minnesota that we saw in Indiana. The Republicans took over the government slowly and eventually took the Governorship and then began driving out the main Democratic leader, Superintendent of Schools, Glenda Ritz.  It was unbelievable how there would be meetings on Education to which she was not invited.  The Republicans kept taking more and more of her power away.  Of course, they didn’t want real education or teacher supports, all the things Glenda had run on and won in a state becoming more deeply red every cycle.  She took a position Democrats had not held since 1973.

Now we’re watching the same pattern materialize in Minnesota – where we moved because it was more progressive. (Well, and because there’s water.)  Things have been reverting more and more conservative. The Republicans are pushing a fear agenda in their efforts to pit Rural against Urban and it’s working. Division is the friend of the corporate and powerful… It keeps all us peons fighting amongst ourselves while they do as they wish.

This year, Minnesota’s Democratic Governor is stepping down. And it looks like the DFL (Democrat-Farmer-Laborer) party is going to support Walz, a white male candidate – largely because he’s a DINO (Democrat in Name Only) – and they are afraid of being too progressive with any of the three female candidates, all far more progressive than Walz.
But last Tuesday, Walz released a statement noting that he’s listening to these kids.  He’s donated all the NRA funds he’d received and will take no more. And he’s agreed to an AR-15 ban in Minnesota.  Sounds like a real come-to-Jesus experience!

I don’t think that’s enough, but it shows that he’s definitely realizing he may need to fight to hang on where he sees real political trouble.  And we need to keep letting the politicians know where they are in trouble.  From gun violence to climate change to fair wages to health care.

But rather than accept the candidates who “change stripes” to meet the demand, I say we bring in those who KNEW What The Fuck was needed in the first place!  Erin Murphy supported a ban on assault rifles BEFORE the latest shooting and uprising of the constituents-to-be.  These progressive candidates are a more trustworthy place to give our support. So much less likely to, once elected, go back to original plans, with full explanations of why they “simply cannot do what I really wish I could and had promised I would do…”

Closer to home, Bemidji has had it’s own fluff-up last week.  English teacher, Gina Marie Bernard organized “a “Women’s March Youth EMPOWER” walkout at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 14, at the high school. The plan is to have students, teachers, school administrators and parents leave school buildings across the country for 17 minutes.”  The next day, the Bemidji Pioneer reported:

Bemidji Area Schools Superintendent Jim Hess said he didn’t support a Bemidji High School teacher’s call for students and faculty to leave class next month to protest school shootings, and the teacher told the Pioneer the event has been cancelled.

So… those in power can just cancel a walkout, eh?  Do they comprehend that the very nature of a walkout indicates it is an act of civil disobedience?  That it’s not about asking permission but taking to the streets to express outrage?  I’m betting this decision by Mr. Hess spurs the event to be even larger than it would have been had he just let the movement grow on its own.  Never tell a teen what they cannot do.  I’m wondering if this Superintendent ever had children…  Instead:

District staff are weighing other options, which include a plan to speak to students about gun violence during homeroom on March 14, when the walkout was planned, or to meet at the school’s flagpole before school.

I’m betting those students may well do as they please.  Kind of like those in Florida who ignored 45’s attempt to control the situation.  People are ready to take matters into their own hands.  Administration has had plenty of time, and they’ve done nothing.

Two days later, my letter to the Editor posted.

In the end, if we are not teaching kids that they have a right to freedom of speech, and that this country was BUILT on nonviolent civil disobedience, WHY are we teaching them at all?

And do we think the efforts of these Douglas HS kids are working?  Well the criticism they’ve garnered seems  to indicate that thosewho oppose them are pretty scared.  And that’s where the fear needs to be in politics.  The power of the people CAN bring this country back to its senses. If only we can keep our focus.

Photo Credit:  CNN –  This is also a link to Emma’s entire speech.

Revised Line 3 Final EIS Commentary



Because the Pipeline fight here in Minnesota continues, and final Public Comments are due tomorrow, this week’s blog is my submitted commentary.  I encourage you to send a comment.  Feel free to plagiarize from my message below.  You can send them to Scott Ek at  publicadvisor.puc@state.mn.us.  Deadline is 4:30 PM on Tuesday, February 27th.

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Dear Mr. Ek,

Thank you for all you do.  It has been good to have your support in understanding the Enbridge Line 3 Proposal process and I thank you for your hard hours of work with the PUC in this effort.

This letter is in support of finding that the FEIS continues to be Inadequate.

Having watched (some parts many times over) the December 7th PUC Meeting, I have gained some understandings from those proceedings.  I will admit that, with all the legalese, the proceedings were often difficult for this everyday citizen to follow.  However, these ideas seemed clear to me.

  • Scott Strand, from the Environmental Law and Policy Center and representing the Friends of the Headwaters, noted that, sending the EIS back so we can do better is good. However, the information in the EIS is required for the public engagement process.  This is not simply a document for the Commission to perform a review of the environmental concerns in order to make their decisions.  It is a document that allows for the public to engage in the process.  It matters that we limit the ability of the public to be engaged in this process.  We cannot defer aspects to the permitting stage.  The information must be in the EIS for the public to be able to review what is happening and how it will affect citizens, including the citizens of the future.
  • Paul Blackburn, Attorney for Honor The Earth, noted that the way Enbridge has managed the approval process, along with the Army Corps of Engineers – who have been quite silent about their part in the process, has allowed for the concerns on the Cultural Resources issues to “slip through the cracks”… even though they were brought up as concerns by Indigenous People as long ago as 2014.  Without including Cultural Survey information earlier than “before construction begins”, there is no possibility for public comment or review with regard to any Cultural Survey information, let alone for the parties to be able to file briefs on this topic. The Commissioners seemed to indicate that THEIR review of any of this information would be sufficient and the public’s view was irrelevant.  Based on statements and actions, it would seem that the PUC may often feel that the public’s input is not necessary.  This was notably demonstrated by the cancelled and un-rescheduled St. Cloud Public Meeting on the original FEIS.
  • When Commissioner Lipshultz mentioned that there were possible missing elements or things that could be moved or expanded to make the FEIS as reasonable as possible to absorb, Ms. Miltich of the DOC-EERA said they would bring together the information that is in different areas, they would bring them together for the PUC. Commissioner Lipshultz indicated that “more clarity” for the PUC and the parties would be appreciated.  He later said, when proposing his motion, the information should be “not misleading and as clear as possible to minimize risk of misleading the PUC as decision makers”.
  • Finally, Commissioner Katie Sieben closed the day saying that the testimony showed evidence of the variations on how the data was interpreted with respect to the existing Line 3 corridor and she looked forward to the information being filed as it would help them make a better decision.

In reviewing the Final EIS Revision and associated documents, I found still some things are not in place to allow full public transparency.  One example:

I reported to Daniel Wolf on 12/8/2017, that the Part 2 video for the 12/7/17 meeting was not linked on the calendar page for access, yet this situation has not been remedied.  This again makes it appear that the PUC does NOT want to assure the public can easily stay involved in these proceedings.  This link: https://minnesotapuc.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=575165&GUID=CFC7D38F-3BED-45D1-8D68-DEA2F45ABCCC&Options=info&Search only has access to the Part 1 portion of the video, not the Part 2 portion where the decisions were finalized.  Call me nit-picky but I believe full public access should be accommodated and, when brought to the attention of the PUC that it is not, that it should be rectified immediately.  Else, the impression is that only those who pay to play are truly invited to be included and those of us outside those circles are left to scrap together what we can with extra efforts.  This is a downfall of our Democracy, not giving more full access to the proceedings of our government.  While this is a bigger topic for another forum, it is a part of why this Line 3 decision-making process is inherently unfair to the average public citizen.

Other examples are the way much of the documentation for the case is written in legalese and not commonly understood language and the inability of citizens to access the transcripts for some proceedings.  I am grateful that we have many groups in opposition to this effort by Enbridge; groups that do have legal counsel and scientists.  But the public is also made up of scientists and lawyers and we are also concerned for our environment, our children, and our grandchildren’s grandchildren.  We should be given every opportunity to access and understand the information that can affect our future as residents of Minnesota.

According to the PUC, the requirements of remedying Inadequacy must have addressed the following (referred to as items 1a-1d in most PUC documents):

PUC 1a-d

In a letter dated 2/12/18 to Daniel Wolf from John Wachtler, DOC-EERA Director, the EERA readily admits that, after review with MNDNR and MNPCA, “No viable routes were identified that entirely avoid karst”.  He does concede, with regard to item 1a that there ARE routes that totally avoid karst but that the “technical staff” did not deem them worthy of further consideration.  It doesn’t appear to me that the people doing this analysis are very good at looking outside the box.  There are an infinite number of possible routes that could be considered to avoid karst.  While some may consider the presented information to be a best effort, by the EERA’s own words they FAILED to fully address the request of the PUC.  But perhaps this is as good as the PUC will require.

[I will note that the quality of the figures presented in Appendix U did not allow zooming in to clearly see details, another deterrent to the general public to be able to accurately evaluate the EIS information.  Finally, all the data presented in Appendix U appeared to me to be a bunch of random numbers on a page.  Without verbiage associated with each table, it is impossible to clearly understand not only what is being presented, but what the ramifications of this information might be.]

Items 1b & 1c were so complex and massive that it is impossible for this average citizen to fully evaluate in full the information in the EIS, especially in light of the fact that the flash drive I received arrived on February 22nd, just days before comments were due.   There was verbiage in the Revised FEIS which denoted that the issues are complex and all text and tables should be used to comprehend the issue.  However, I do not see evidence of specific “here is the current scenario” and “here is how the addition of a NEW Line 3 will impact with data”… as seemed to be requested at the 12/7/17 meeting.

Here is an example of a paragraph (from page 5-114):

No single one of the datasets listed above provides a complete indication of all relevant impacts to wetlands. Together, though, these datasets provide a reasonably comprehensive indication of the potential impacts. For example, counts of NWI wetland acres impacted do not consider the unique sensitivities of certain wetland communities. However, data from the calcareous fen database can aid the reader in understanding the extent of potential impacts on these unique and highly sensitive areas.

Furthermore, the quantitative information from the analysis of these datasets should be coupled the qualitative descriptions of impacts that are contained in the text. Tables in this section provide counts, for example, of acres of wetland within the ROI and a general assessment of the duration and magnitude of potential impacts; however, a more complete discussion of the qualitative nature of impacts that could occur to different types of wetlands is contained in the text of this section.

What this seems to be is a re-iteration of Ms. Miltich’s words during the 12/7/17 meeting, namely that all the information is in the report, you just have to search for it.  Thus, rather than making clear the data, as Commissioner Lipschultz requested and Commissioner Sieban was anticipating, it seems that the DOC-EERA has simply taken an easy route of re-saying what was indicated during the meeting, that finding and comprehending the information was not easy but was possible.  Their Revised FEIS shows that there wasn’t much more they would do other than say, again, that this is so.

It is not until over 175 pages into the section, when I come across Table that there was some minimal additional clarification verbiage that seems to show an effort to provide additional input to help “minimize risk of misleading the PUC as decision makers” as Commissioner Lipschultz requested in his 12/7/17 motion regarding Inadequacy.  However, I also noted that these few comments appear to be mainly a result of the additions necessary for item 1a of the same PUC request for revision due to FEIS Inadequacy.

Item 1d was the simplest correction that could be made of the four requested of the DOC-EERA by the PUC.  And, indeed, there are clear statements in and denoting that a Cultural Survey will be done prior to construction.  Check and mark.  However, as was made clear many times during the 12/7/17 meeting, though subsequently disparaged and disregarded by the Commissioners of the PUC, this is a violation of the Rights of the Indigenous to have their concerns considered with regard to the determination in the Certificate of Need.  And it is a disregard of the need for the public to be informed of this information and to provide their input on the issues.

I watched as Dakota Access moved forward with their work in North Dakota showing no regard for Cultural Heritage.  I don’t wish that kind of trauma on anyone.  And regardless of this verbiage being included in the EIS, I don’t quite trust that Enbridge will hold to the requirement.  It seems their standard protocol is “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.”  It is not a stretch to imagine Enbridge moving forward and afterward blaming it on an administrative error.

“Oops!  Sorry! But since we already have this work done, we’ll just leave it in place.”

There have already been disturbances in Minnesota of cultural sites.  Enbridge and the State of Minnesota have already ignored requirements for the permitting for pipeline staging yards.  And Enbridge has already built the Canada and Wisconsin legs of the pipeline path they are pursuing in Minnesota, indicating that this WILL be done, regardless of what Minnesota’s PUC decides.  These are among the many reasons the public has reason to doubt the integrity of the process and the promises.

As I continued to read the EIS to comb through all the data, I continued to find what seem to be shortcuts in the EIS that prevent full evaluation of the proposal, things that, given time and a geologist’s background, I might be able to better unravel.  For example, this line from page 5-30:

Temporary and minor impacts on groundwater quality could occur from small leaks and spills, as discussed above for the Applicant’s proposed project. If any contaminated soils or groundwater are encountered during construction they would be handled and disposed of in accordance with applicable regulations; the Environmental Protection Plan; and a Contaminated Soils Management Plan, which the Applicant would develop prior to construction. The plan would describe site assessment and response actions that would be implemented to manage contaminated soils and groundwater (Enbridge 2016a).”

It would seem to be that a full environmental impact analysis would include having details on the Enbridge’s Contaminated Soils Management Plan, which does not currently exist and thus cannot be evaluated by the public.

While I comprehend that this specific commentary is outside the scope of what the PUC is currently seeking, I believe it provides evidence of the enormity of the data and how it undermines the ability of the average citizen to evaluate it for comprehension, let alone to use it to provide a thorough response.

There has been no evidence to date showing that Minnesota refiners, or any refiners in the region, have been unable to secure enough crude oil to meet their demand without a new Line 3 pipeline.  The forecasts are for a steadily decreasing need for crude oil, not the steady increases Enbridge would like us to believe.  If we are to meet the agreements for mitigating climate change, most sensible humans comprehend that this demands less, not more, fossil fuel usage.  We have seen no evidence for a net economic benefit that this new Line 3 pipeline will bring but ample evidence of the cost to Minnesotans should failure occur.  In addition, we have had no commitment to assure that, should failure occur, Enbridge will be held accountable for the physical and financial liabilities.  Enbridge already holds the record for largest inland oil spill in the U.S. and it was right here in Minnesota.  We have no insurance policy that Minnesota tax payers will not be left holding the bag when this new Line 3 pipeline fails, which all pipelines do eventually. The Tar Sands pipeline in our neighboring state took just 7 years to have a massive failure of 210,000 barrels spilled.

The PUC must determine that this project is a No-Win for Minnesota.

The need for both endless fossil fuels and military-style assault rifles, are rapidly being revealed as the fallacies they have been for some time.  As our children will be the most affected by a possibility of a Tar Sands pipeline in their midst, I believe we must consider their best interests as a top priority.  And as they become more outspoken, like those teens at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Minnesota may realize that they too are on the wrong end of history if a Certificate of Need and Permit are issued for this New Line 3 pipeline. It is NOT in the best interest of our children to put a Tar Sands pipeline through Minnesota’s watersheds.

Thank you for your consideration.

Jami Gaither


Can We Stop School Shootings in America?



Once again, it is the talk of the Nation: Another horrendous mass shooting in a public school.  If a country cannot assure its children are safe in public schools, I don’t think it deserves to call itself civilized.  And if continued outcry for solutions doesn’t lead to improvement, then it’s a pretty piss-poor democracy.  It’s been almost 20 years since Columbine – the school shooting that brought this issue to our attention April 20, 1999.  But that was far from the first school shooting.  School massacres are older than our democracy but have taken a seeming exponential rise over time.  And in 2018, we’ve had 18 shootings already this year.  Or have we?  We cannot even agree on the statistics.

Snopes has a pretty thorough analysis of 2018 school shootings but I was disturbed by this sentence in their analysis – which seemed to downplay the statistics.

Only seven were intentional shootings that occurred during normal school hours.

Only seven!  In the first six weeks of the year.  Well, cheer up, everyone!!

While I agree that suicide at a school which has been closed for several months would not be a public school shooting, I would not classify incidents where no injuries occur as non-relevant.  Snopes gives a thorough breakdown of each incident with details.  In all, 22 deaths and 36 injuries.  Just this year.  Just in our schools.

And the laws are fucked up.  In Florida, you have to wait 3 days to buy a handgun but an AR-15 style rifle?  You can clear a background check and walk out with one in minutes.  “Under federal law, you also must be 21 to buy a handgun from a firearms dealer. But 18-year-olds can buy semiautomatic rifles.” But there is some good news from the election of 45.  “The publicly traded gun makers Sturm, Ruger & Company and American Outdoor Brands both lost about a quarter of their market value in the days after Mr. Trump’s victory.  Earlier this week the Remington Outdoor Company, one of the country’s biggest and oldest gun manufacturers, said it would seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection amid plunging sales and mounting losses.”

Ironically, the fear mongering of the NRA is quite successful when “gun-control” Dems are elected, but their purchase of “pro-gun” GOP leaders has resulted in losses for the businesses that should find their efforts the most helpful.

So where can we look for answers?

I’d first like to direct you to a recent blog of someone I have newly discovered. Guns She said so much so succinctly and so well that I have left much of it to her.  Please check her out as she has much wisdom on this and many other topics.  Here’s an excerpt from her Engineering, Parenthood, and a Solid Attempt at Adult Status blog Fuck you, I like guns.  (Note – the title is a quote and accounts for a third of the f-bombs in the piece.  She does a nice job of making solid points with excellent analogies and minimal cursing.) :

“This (AR-15) rifle is so deadly and so easy to use that no civilian should be able to get their hands on one. We simply don’t need these things in society at large. I always find it interesting that when I was in the Army, and part of my job was to be incredibly proficient with this exact weapon, I never carried one at any point in garrison other than at the range. Our rifles lived in the arms room, cleaned and oiled, ready for the next range day or deployment. We didn’t carry them around just because we liked them. We didn’t bluster on about barracks defense and our second amendment rights. We tucked our rifles away in the arms room until the next time we needed them, just as it had been done since the Army’s inception. The military police protected us from threats in garrison. They had 9 mm Berettas to carry. They were the only soldiers who carry weapons in garrison. We trusted them to protect us, and they delivered. With notably rare exceptions, this system has worked well. There are fewer shootings on Army posts than in society in general, probably because soldiers are actively discouraged from walking around with rifles, despite being impeccably well trained with them. Perchance, we could have the largely untrained civilian population take a page from that book?” ~ Fuck you.  I like guns. 2/15/18

Weapons meant for quick people-killing are NOT the type of gun you want anywhere… except maybe the front lines of a war.  This blogger makes an amazing argument and I’m hopeful her voice will make an impact on this issue.

Australia has figured it out.  After a mass shooting in 1996 by a gunman who killed 35 and wounded 23 more – notably NOT in a school – Australia implemented a massive buyback of semi-automatic weapons and implemented “new gun laws (which) prohibited private sales, required that all weapons be individually registered to their owners, and required that gun buyers present a “genuine reason” for needing each weapon at the time of the purchase. (Self-defense did not count.)” While that may not be feasible in America “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave”, it has been successful in Australia: “In the decade before the Port Arthur massacre, there had been 11 mass shootings in the country. There hasn’t been a single one in Australia since.”

Switzerland has a pretty good system too where men ages 20-30 (34 for officers) are issued guns (for militia training) which they can keep at home.  However, there are strict controls on ammunition.  Every round is accounted for in regular checks.  In recent years, only the gun is kept at home and ammo is retrieved from nearby in case of a need for militia (with the exception of a few designated people).

Danny often argues that we don’t have to worry about guns if we should make ammo EXTREMELY expensive.  If it cost $100/round or even $25/round, you’d be thinking hard about each time you shot.  At shooting ranges, you could purchase all the ammo you want really inexpensively. But you’d have to shoot it all there. We could even subsidize this ammo with the “home” ammo purchases.  And what about those who make their own ammunition?  In the time spent making bullets, they’d have time to think about where those bullets were going to be used.  And, if they used them in the wrong place, pre-meditation would be easy to prove.

Maybe the Youth in America will finally resolve the issue.  The #MeNext and #NeverAgain movements, along with the planned walkout on 4/20, the anniversary of Columbine, may give the wake-up call we need.  I’m hopeful we won’t have to wait until these young people are all old enough to replace the bought-and-paid-for NRA politicians we have in place now.  But fear runs strong in America and many just can’t see any cure for guns except… more guns.   I think the real cure is to work on getting rid of the fear.  But the rich and powerful love it when we’re afraid… especially of each other.

And how might this affect the race for Governor in Minnesota?  No telling. But what we do know is that Walz has an A+ rating from the NRA… on which Erin Murphy has said, “That means he’s done their work plus the extra credit to get the plus.”  Love it.  Note: Erin has an F rating from the NRA, supports “limits on sales of certain ammunition, expanded background checks and a ban on sales of AR-15 rifles in Minnesota,” which puts her toward the top in my ratings.  While Rebecca Otto appears to be our most Progressive candidate, with the data indicating she will beat out the competition, I’m guessing the DFL will weakly decide to run with DINO candidate Walz and end up losing anyway.  They’ve maybe learned nothing from the Bernie Sanders / Hillary Clinton fiasco from last cycle.  Or the continued horror happening in our schools.

Photo Credit:  Please go here for MANY MORE well-written memes…

Storyteller Michael Venske



I knew I’d likely be going to see Storyteller Michael Venske in the Farm by the Lake Storyteller series and, after reading the report on his event in the Farmers Independent and on FB, I definitely knew I wanted to meet this guy.

Michael… spends his (time) on projects that help the greater good.  ~ Michael Venske Event Promotion

From recordings for Hazelden, teachings on de-escalation techniques for individuals in mental health crises, HIV awareness videos, performing environmental comedy shows, and working with First Witness Child Advocacy Center teaching law enforcement how to conduct forensic interviews with victims of childhood sexual abuse… this guy has spent a lot of time working on the greater good.

And he spent three years in China teaching English.  I was anxious to hear his reporting as compared with what Tom had shared with us years ago after his trip to China.  Michael seemed the kind of guy who’d be up for adventure. So what did I do?  I reached out to him!

I sent him a message and, as I expected, he immediately responded.  He ended up calling the house and we chatted about the possibilities of meeting, deciding that he’d come for a meal with us during his visit to Clearwater County.

Michael came by our place for lunch prior to the Library gig and we chatted for a while and then had a nice local food lunch including pork roast from Split Oak Farms along with pickles and green beans from Merry Gardens Farm that Connie and I canned this past fall.  We ended with some warm tapioca with a bit of coconut added – this is becoming a great go-to dessert for me of late.

We shared a bit of our story with him and Michael noted, after being introduced to our Rocket Mass Heater, that his story today would include a fireplace aspect.  I was impressed when he mentioned his “Rumford” fireplace.  Ah, a kindred spirit…  We told stories all through lunch and then Michael and I headed to his gig while Dan wrapped up at the Harn.  It was endless back and forth during our ride to Bagley.

We had a good crowd at the Bagley Library where Dawn Loeffler and Marty Cobenais from Farm by the Lake had prepared a wonderful place for him that included a fake fireplace!  The story went up and down, from dramatic and compelling to hilarious (yes, I was laughing out loud – a lot!).  It pulled us all forward and then circled back and then wrapped up with a warm and comforting close.  The crowd was very happy with his performance.  Lots of laughs and a few good things to ponder.  We had a lovely Q&A session at the end and I was surprised by several questions – these people knew a few things about Michael’s work – what a prepared audience!!


A really fun day of meeting a new friend.  I was thrilled to learn more about this amazing guy.  He’s worked on some wonderful projects, one of my favorites of which is training police officers on de-escalation practices for interacting with people with mental illness.  I had some ideas on how we could really use this training to help improve our law enforcement in Minnesota.  But I’m most looking forward to sharing more with him on one of my favorite subjects, which as he was wrapping up the day I found also interests him, Death.

Dan and I Michael-Venske-Pink-Robehave decided Michael can come visit us at the Harn any time, especially if he brings his pink robe!  And Athena.

Photo credit: http://michaelvenske.com/about/

What Even Matters Anymore?


I was going to do a full-analysis blog on the State of the Union (SoTU), but I didn’t have the heart to really listen to it and report on the BS.  If you’re interested, you can check out the Politifact report on it.  Of course, there are those who claim Politifact is left-biased, which was disputed by a Media Bias/Fact Check report.  This group also did their own analysis of 45’s statements.  And they also provided a list of his statements by topic which was probably a much more efficient way to hear his address than actually watching it with all that crazy hand-clapping that’s always involved.  And surprisingly, it seems many approved of the speech, according to a CNN poll.  [Not so surprising in the end, as you’ll read later.]

So why am I so disheartened?

SNL did a skit recently called “What Even Matters Anymore” and it really got me thinking, “Does Anything Really Matter?”  I mean, we see so much for which we need action or redress but… mostly things just stay broken and more things seem to be broken all the time.  Nothing seems to be getting done.  And it seems like no one cares.  Here are the topics from the SNL skit, none of which truly ends up mattering:

  • 45 referring to Shithole Countries and all Haitians having AIDS – Nope!  Just another day in the news cycle.  A funnier than normal news day watching everyone say “s-hole” and tittering, but no real consequences for 45.
  • 45 has an affair with a porn star, just after his wife has a baby, and then pays said porn star a substantial amount of hush money – Nope!  Even his Evangelicals supporters have managed to justify this as a non-issue.
  • 45 fires Robert Mueller – ok, this one hasn’t happened yet, but when it does, will it really matter?

I asked Dan after this episode of SNL which also featured Mueller (played by Kate McKinnon) insinuating there really is something coming on 45… and it’s BIG, “Do you really think anything will ever come of all that?”  I mean, we’ve been hearing about this investigation for a LONG time.  We even had four people charged… months ago.  But nothing has really happened that has had much meaning for our government.

And I’m disheartened by the things that we do hear in the news, or don’t, that I believe should be raising our levels of concern.  Like what?

And that’s just in the US.  What about craziness around the world?  I just can’t start listing on these lines… too depressing.

I did watch the Democrat response… because it was shorter, would have less hand clapping disruptions (though the first three or four lines in the speech almost had me giving up on that being true), and I heard there was actual speaking to Hispanics in their native tongue – something I always like to see.  The thing that most surprised me?  There was a topic bar on the left side of ABC’s screen letting you know what part of the speech we were in… “American Spirit”, “Year of Chaos”, “Disunity”, “Unity”… what I realized was a guide to know when the speech was going to be over.  Is this because the attention span of the average American is so short we need to let them know “it’s almost over”?  The good news was that this was a young Dem, albeit a Dynasty Dem, which perhaps cancels out his legitimacy.  Though I am not sure Dems have much hopes for this year, if they continue to not look in the mirror to see where they have gone wrong in the last couple decades.  Unless we get the money out of politics, We the People have little hope of being heard or  helped by the Powers that Be, regardless of their party affiliation.

So, can I give any input on the SoTU address?  Well…

I decided to go ahead and read 45’s speech.  I know, I know!  That means I missed all the times when he went off-script, and yes, those are often the funniest (or scariest) moments, though I hear he pretty much stayed to the Teleprompter this time.

Overall, it sounds pretty good.  There is much to like in the speech.  As long as you don’t think too hard about what he leaves unsaid, or what his word choices imply.  Oh, and if you excuse the exaggeration and outright lies.  Oh! And forget how many of his campaign promises remain unfulfilled.

  • 45 boasted about his “biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history” (see above link) because, well, what else is there that’s been accomplished during his administration?  Yeah, that’s about it.
  • 45 speaks to “citizens”… implying those among us who are visiting or on VISAs, like students or migrant workers, are not included.
  • 45’s refers,  to “America first”, amazingly only once in this address.  What I wonder is, is it akin to the 1940’s isolationist attitudes or the KKK slogan? 

  • 45 speaks to the police and military (and veterans) deserving our “unwavering support”.  But many of these officials are used in the protection of corporate interests and not the interests of the people or the planet.
  • 45 speaks of “actions to protect religious liberty” that many read as a call to make laws that allow refusal of medical treatment for abortion and birth control along with rights to refuse a variety of services to LGBTQ people.
  • 45 boasts about eliminating regulations.  But what does he think keeps corporations in check with regard to our environment and worker rights?  Remember when we used to not have regulations on releases from manufacturing plants and our rivers were so polluted that they caught on fire?  Remember, before OSHA, when workers were regularly and fatally injured in workplace incidents because business as usual was cheaper than implementing safety programs?
  • 45 talks about “All Americans” deserving “accountability and respect” and then immediately calls on Congress to “reward good workers” and “remove Federal employees who undermine public trust or fail the American people”.  But who defines undermining public trust?  What about Edward Snowden, who has recently been in the news again)?  45 says he should be executed but he was one of the biggest patriots for the American People since Daniel Ellsberg.  Which reminds me, go see The Post and then check out the Oliver Stone’s Snowden (a docudrama with a lovely storyline, though partially fictionalized) or  Citizenfour, a true documentary on his final days of freedom and his heroic whistleblowing.  And again, “Americans” implies no allegiance to foreign visitors or immigrants not yet fully recognized as citizens.
  • 45 mentions FDA approval of “more new and generic drugs and medical devises than ever before in our history”.  How many of these things will later be proven dangerous or even fatal due to quick and incomplete study?
  • With regard to opioid concerns, 45 says we “must get much tougher on drug dealers and pushers”.  Are they going to start arresting more doctor’s?  Or pharmaceutical manufacturers?  Or just the people pushing these drugs on the streets?
  • And is anyone concerned that 45’s order of dealing with “terrorists” being 1) annihilate them and THEN, 2) when “necessary” detain and question them?

Yes he made many promises that sound good:

  • Expanding US Manufacturing
  • Cheaper prescription drugs
  • Infrastructure investment
  • Vocational schools
  • Paid family leave

But there has been some criticism.  Some pretty well stated.

I keep thinking, this is just performance art for the People – going through the motions of saying pretty things.  I keep wondering if this is what Democracy Dying looks like.  Nothing is getting done, at least nothing that is making life much better for the majority of people, especially the working class.  Nothing is being done to mitigate our effects on the environment.  Mostly just more and more wealth transfer to the already wealthy.  Less regulation to free up Corporations to save money by taking shortcuts with the environment and worker safety.  Little actions to help veterans, children, the working poor, the elderly, immigrants, disabled people.

America is an oligarchy.  Our “democracy” is basically up for sale.  Until we get the money out of politics, I suspect we will continue to see more of the same.

There are some good things…

  • Millions marched in the Women’s March this year, more than last year in many locations, including Bemidji. But are we really making a difference?  Watching part of the Grammy Awards seemed to be more exploiting of women than ever, though there were exceptional performances, specifically by P!nk.  Maybe the elections in 2018 will tell.  I’m hopeful to see many women candidates win seats in our government, at all levels.
  • Macklemore owning his White Privilege, again, and challenging us on ours.
  • We’ve declared Eastern Mountain Lions extinct.  Isn’t this bad news?  Well, maybe not as perhaps states will now, unencumbered by laws regarding Endangered species, re-introduce big cats from the West… to cull excessive population of deer, who have few natural predators.
  • And one more.  One word.  Logic.  Check this out – watch until the end.

OK.  I think I can keep going now.

Photo Credits:


C&C with C&A



What a week of fun!!  Cooking and Crafting with Connie and Angie.

I am feeling so lucky in many of the new friends we have up here in the North Woods and two of the best are Connie and Angie.  Luckily for me, Connie lives close enough that we’re talking about biking to each other’s homes… once summer comes ’round again!  And even though Angie is farther away, she has cute bunnies and goats and the best cat ever, Helga, so I get there too.  Both of these ladies have something that I do not… a real kitchen with stoves, ovens, running water that doesn’t go into a bucket. 😀

But the other thing they have is a love of crafts.  We started the crafting venture with Wire-wrapped Pendants and now we’re on to Driftwood Art, which uses some of the same techniques.  While Connie focused more on the bead creations aspect, Angie and I both made a Driftwood piece.  And we all chatted and chillaxed and created.  Here’s our work: Angie’s, mine and two for Connie.

So much fun!  I am loving this creative outlet.  It is amazing to see where it all goes as it’s a natural process and came sometimes turn out different than you expect.

So this was the second day this week for creation at Connie’s as she and I had done cooking too.  We worked on a few Gluten Free (GF) recipes and had good luck with all though we thought we’d only had luck with about half. cook 3 So, we started with a GF Beet Chocolate Cake… I KNOW!  It sounds weird.  But it’s really good.  I wasn’t sure but I really ended up liking it a lot.  Even Danny liked it!  So.  One success.

We had some weirdness along the way like a hard boiled egg in with the regular ones.  But we tried three different cracker recipes with mixed results.  The Sesame Seed crackers were the best of the three – nice and flaky, crunchy and tasty.  The Corn Puffs did not really puff – and while these were the third favorite, they were too salty.  This lead to several ideas on how we could improve on the recipe and we plan to implement three of those ideas by making a few more batches for the Super Bowl Feast.  The least workable was an Almond Flour Flax Seed cracker which we didn’t use Almond Flour to make.  Yeah, maybe most of the problem.  The substitution flours were likely too absorbant and we ended up with a VERY crisp cracker.  Too dry.  But the spice blend was good and Dan declared them “good”.  So, we can claim 4 victories… of sorts!

We’ve got lots of crafting and cooking plans so I’ll keep you posted if we have more fantastic adventures to share with you all.  Hope you are having your own successful creative endeavors as well.

Montreal Cognitive Assessment as a Qualification to be President


With many questioning his mental stability, intelligence, and health, GOP Leader 45 recently underwent his first annual physical, given by Navy Rear Admiral Dr. Ronny Johnson*.  And the results were… well, a bit questionable.

We’ve seen many memes regarding his height and weight but we have failed to discuss the details and their ramifications. The fact that he’s only gained 3# since his last assessment (by his personal doctor in September, 2016) seems to defy the weight he appears to have gained during his first year in the White House.  But the even bigger surprise is that he GREW AN INCH in the same time frame!!  In January 2017 he was 6’2”. But NOW he’s 6’3”!! Now that is gravity defying!

I think the most amazing report in his assessment  is his fasting glucose.  I find it hard to believe he is at 89 when he is constantly eating McDonald’s.  However, if it’s true, we might want to pull him for critical study to determine what chemical in his blood allows this to occur.  It could save America by Making us Less Diabetes Prone Again.

Though I am also surprised by the cardiac performance demonstrating “above average exercise capacity” for a person of his age.  I’m wondering if he did the chemical stress test as opposed to the treadmill test.  I’ve heard people say it’s easier.  I just can’t imagine a guy who had to take a golf cart last year during his time in Europe being “above average” in exercise capacity.  Remember when he pushed that other world leader out of the way because he was later on arrival for the cameras?  Not the leader of the pack by any definition.

Some experts have “weighed” in…   And they give some pretty good photos with which to compare 45 to others in the same height range.   It’s uncanny how he can make himself look shorter than people who are reportedly shorter than him!  Must be a talent only a Stable Genius has.  Oh, along those lines, Eugene Robinson has written a lovely letter to 45 on this topic.

I think if we really want to see Genius Stable Boya “stable genius”, it’s this kid… and he knows how to use a button.

What I haven’t seen is much outpouring of concern over his mental assessment.  With all the concerns being expressed of late, hearing he had a “perfect score” on his cognitive assessment was confusing.  So, we at the Gaither Place decided to do some research.  We wondered what exactly the questions were on this mental assessment and we found it!  The Montreal Cognitive Assessment:

Montreal Cognitive Assessment

Doc Ronny Johnson noted that 45 did “exceedingly well” on this assessment.  But is this truly meaningful?  I mean, if a second grader got a 30/30 score I might be impressed.  But really, every grown adult who is free from Severe Mental Retardation, Dementia, or Alzheimer’s should be able to easily answer these questions correctly.  And should we be concerned that the part we (ok, I) mostly expected him to fail is not worth any points?

The foreign press says his exam did not include a psychiatric evaluation.  Well, the Daily Mail is fake news, of course!  But the Guardian did not expect news of his mental acuity to be shared.  And were they right?  Was all the reporting on his evaluation modified?  Possibly for National Security reasons?

Should We the People have concerns due to the fact that the White House Physician is selected by the President?  Though Ronny was selected by G.W. Bush, and appointed by Obama, are his loyalties truly with us, the American People?  Or is he somehow guided, heck even directed, by the National Security Administration or the Department of Homeland Security?  Why would they lie to us?  Why would there be any cover up of what their responsibilities are in the process of the Annual Physical for the President?

Which brings us to the Super Bowl…  “What?”  Yes. The Super Bowl.

One of the interesting news bits of late in Minnesota is concern over whether the Federal operatives will push out the Minneapolis Police Department – there was a recent blurb on MPR but I can’t find it, though I did find this article that notes: “The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) is the lead agency for security at this year’s Super Bowl, and they are being supported by an impressive team that includes dozens of local police departments and public safety organizations, along with federal agencies including the FBI and multiple components of the Department of Homeland Security.”

However, our experience in Indy for Super Bowl XLVI indicated DHS was truly in charge.  The DHS built a Command Center in Indy [a “gift to the city” that was so poorly built it was falling apart a year later] in which camera monitoring and security oversight took place.  While they may say local officials are in charge, the fact is that if anything happens, DHS will be running the show. As they probably already are.

Why should we believe there is any difference in what they say about the Super Bowl security and the information they provide on 45’s physical? They are really only telling us what they want us to hear.

The good news for Mikey Pence is that they have told us some things that could work out well for him.  With a declaration of 45’s cholesterol issues, the plan for taking him out in a year or two can now go unquestioned.  They can reasonably claim, “It was a bad ticker!”  Then Pence can get a short term, to finish out The Don’s first term, and then still be eligible for 2 more terms!!  They just have to be sure to keep him alive long enough to get to that point where it won’t make Pence ineligible for that third term in the Executive branch.  And how long is that?  Well, here’s a meme that gives you a hint.

Trump Businesses Closed

Imagine if next year we see:

1/20/2017 Trump Inaugurated

1/20/2018 Government Shutdown

1/20/2019 Trump in Critical Condition after Heart Attack

Then we could see 10 years of Mr. P.  [Or, if they take him out before then, whoever fills Paul Ryan’s post.]  You see, the Twenty-Second Amendment says a person can only be elected to be president two times for a total of eight years. However, if said person (typically a Vice-President) takes over for a president who can no longer be President and serves two years or less of the last President’s term, he or she may serve for two full four-year terms.

Now that is something to ponder.

* Dr. Johnson… and he’s a Rear Admiral!!  Think about it… You can’t make this shit up!

Image Credits:

Another Step in the Line 3 Fight


So it looks to me like Enbridge and their partners didn’t gain much by their recent machinations. As I spent time watching the entire January 9th Public Utilities Commission Special Meeting, I thought I’d share the details.

Aside:  Maybe I should have done a summary earlier, but hopefully it will be helpful to those of you who have not followed these events as closely as some of us locals have done, to see the following.

As you may recall, the entire reason an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is being done is due to the suit by Friends of the Headwaters (FOH) that questioned the process the State of Minnesota was using to handle the Applications for Certificate of Need and Route Permits by Enbridge for what they refer to as their Line 3 Replacement (but that is actually a NEW pipeline in a NEW corridor, much of which lies in wetlands and lakes areas previously untouched by Tar Sands pipelines).  There is an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) handling the case for FOH and she will issue a recommendation to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on whether or not to allow Enbridge to build this new Line 3 pipeline.  MPR did a brief story on this last September. You can read more about the FOH concerns, including lots of reports on the issues here.

Here is some further background (from the briefing papers for the Special Meeting):

On August 29th, the ALJ issued, based on a planned early December PUC decision on the Adequacy of the Final EIS, the following post-hearing briefing schedule:


On 11/1/17, Judge Lipman deemed the FEIS “Adequate” and on 11/22, the ALJ issued a modified hearing schedule as follows:


However, on December 7th, the PUC found that the EIS was “Not Adequate” citing four deficiencies that the Department of Commerce Energy Environmental Review and Analysis unit will need to redress before the EIS can be deemed “Adequate”.  As such, the EIS is yet to be a set document and will be updated with information on 1) how far and where an alternate route (SA-04) will need to move to avoid delicate topography along with a revised Environmental-Impact analysis reflecting this new location, 2) clarifications that quantitative representations do not necessarily reflect actual qualitative impacts, 3) identification of which resource impacts are additive (introducing new or additional impacts) beyond those already existing in a corridor, and 4) clarification that a Traditional Cultural Properties Survey is required before the start of any construction (if a permit is granted).

On December 14, Intervening Parties (FOH, Honor The Earth, multiple Tribal Bands, Northern Water Alliance of Minnesota, and Youth Climate Interveners) filed a joint motion to the ALJ requesting an adjustment of the Briefing Schedule pending a PUC determination of Adequacy on the EIS.  They argued that until the EIS is deemed Adequare, the Final EIS could change facts underlying issues of central importance in both the Certificate of Need and Route Permit matters making it impossible for them to brief their cases on the issue.

Enbridge, the United Association, the Laborers Council, and the Shippers rejected the need for said motion stating it was am unreasonable attempt at further delay and:

  • Neither Minnesota Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) or Minnesota Rules require an “Adequate” EIS prior to post-hearing briefing being submitted to an ALJ.
  • The purpose of an EIS is to inform the permitting authority (PUC), not to provide support for intervening parties legal arguments.

On 12/22, the ALJ issued a change in the schedule noting, among other things:

3In her extension, she pushed some dates out by a couple weeks and some by a couple months.  However, the more extensive pushes appear to be a result of the fact that the Final EIS will not be available for a second determination of Adequacy until the end of February (as they were given 60 days to re-issue an EIS with the above mentioned remedies).

On December 28th, Enbridge et al requested a Joint Motion to Certify the issue – basically asking the PUC to determine if this push of the schedule is justified or not.  A special meeting of the PUC was scheduled the next day, for January 9th.  This new meeting would require additional resources be used to argue this specific push of dates (again, mostly affected by the EIS requiring revision), thus taking away from resources to address the ALJ decision.

[I guess I shouldn’t be too upset as Enbridge is paying for all this work being done on the EIS and such.  Of course, they will likely, should they not be issued their permit, sue the State of Minnesota for all their lost income in the fight that did not allow them to continue building pipelines as they wished.]

So what happened at the January 9th Meeting?

It began with Jim Newberger (District 15B) making a statement on how we need these proceedings to move forward as quickly as possible as Minnesota needs the jobs.

Then opening arguments began, starting with Enbridge and their associates.

Kevin Prentice for Laborers Council, Sam Jackson for United Association, Mike Ahern for Shippers, and Eric Swanson for Enbridge.

Eric Swanson began noting the need to get the process back on track.  MEPA simply requires an EIS be determined adequate before permits and construction; it is for the use of the permitting authority, not for use by Interveners to prepare legal briefs. He requested parallel progress of permitting during EIS process as the EIS adequacy is NOT required for parties to submit briefs.  Delay means continued uncertainty – delayed jobs, economic stimulus, more integrity digs, higher costs.  He suggested Initial Briefs and Enbridge Proposed Findings by 1/23/18 (14 days), Reply Briefs and Proposed Findings by 2/23/18, ALJ report by 4/23/18 (typically 2 months), (8 weeks later) PUC hearing by 6/18/18.

Mike Ahern explained that Customers of Enbridge who have agreed to pay for what they ship through the mainline system have already been delayed.  They finalized agreements in February 2014 anticipating all approvals by July 2016, at which point the Shippers had a right to cancel their support but waived it due to a need for the project.  The effect of delays is further “apportionment” – rationing of pipeline capacity.  He noted chronic and frequent level of apportionment in the last few years and noted that apportionment is increasing. He requested a support of the Enbridge dates given today.

Sam Jackson represents welders and pipefitters and noted that delay means jobs, wages, tax revenue, and economic stimulus are all delayed.  Additionally, they may be faced with building in a different construction season if the pending delays occur, affecting future projects.

Kevin Prentice representing Laborers said that more than a year ago, the PUC showed deference to the proponents, in giving delays.  While respecting the legitimacy of PUC’s decision, if further delays are carried out, it indicates the MN Permitting process is broken.

So, the main message I see in the arguments from the above is this:

Since we all have this money and hope invested, we need to keep moving forward as quickly as possible!

It was time then for opening statements from the Interveners:

Scott Strand for FOH, Sara Van Norman for Fond du Lac Band, Joe Plummer for White Earth, Leili Fatehi for Sierra Club, Brent Mercia (Aquila Sanders-Reed /Sarah Harper) for Youth Climate Interveners, Joe Blackburn for Honor The Earth, and David Zoll for the Mille Lacs Band.

Joe Plummer of Red Lake and White Earth said he was sympathetic to their arguments but excess capacity is currently available.  Six pipelines exist and they are looking at building into a new corridor.  This REQUIRES extensive environmental surveys.  If anything they should be working with the process but instead they filed a motion resulting in a meeting announced on the last day of 2017 with no details of the agenda.  There was no way to easily prepare for this meeting.  Shippers are focused on exporting refined fuel but there is no need for this in Minnesota.  The delays they complain of are the required environmental needs for the project.

Leili Fatehi first took issue with Swanson’s characterization of MEPA.  Its purpose is to assure government agencies can look at environment and socio-economic issues AND that the public is apprised of the issues and details.  The statute provides for public interest considerations, not only for use of the information by a permitting authority.  MEPA is not designed to expedite for economic benefit of private entities, it is to protect the public and give government all needed information.  Normal PUC practice is that when parallel proceedings are happening or changes in circumstances (change in inadequacy) exist, schedules can change.  Both conditions exist now.  When the PUC joined the two items, they noted that the EIS gives parties information needed to proceed.  Saying the EIS is solely for the PUC undermines the purpose of the contested case hearing process.  It limits the ALJ and parties from having all needed information to proceed.  There is a far greater risk to due process than the risk a 3-month delay would bring to Enbridge’s process.  [Did I mention how impressed I am with this woman?? I believe I failed to do so in the last PUC blog.]

Sara Van Norman noted that this meeting being on the agenda creates an ongoing impact on being able to respond to the PUC’s other requirements.  There was no way to provide written comments in the last week and a half to provide information of the briefing schedule.  It was not clear this would even be allowed for discussion, giving no opportunity for analysis.  While it is understood that creating due process issues was not the PUC’s intent, she suggested pausing on the briefing schedule and instead reviewing other issues that would give better direction.

Brent from Youth Climate Interveners noted that procedurally they agreed with Sara.  While expressing that “we are not lawyers”, reading the notice, Enbridge’s request seemed to be not the briefing schedule but whether the ALJ’s decision should be certified.  This was not clear to the public or to the YCI.  Prentice talked about new procedural hurdles – but this is due process… FOLLOWING THE LAW.  Delays are their concern but concerns to water, climate and treaty rights are the concern on this side and more time to assure complete information is not a delay but instead is a more thorough process.  Best vehicle for additional information is the Final EIS, which, coming in February is not currently available, but will change the substance of the issue.  As intervenors, they should be allowed to respond with all evidence on a given record.  Requiring briefings prior to the information is available DOES NOT ALLOW for a complete argument.  Matters of consequence and significance need all information to be best decided.  MEPA is not just for the government agency but for the public.  The public is watching.  What do you want the public to see?  A PUC being pressured by Enbridge and Shippers (due to their frantic statements on “apportionment”)? Or that the PUC is listening to the public concerns about water and climate issues with this pipeline being constructed and carrying Tar Sands through our state? [I was so impressed with this young man’s presentation that I sent him an email acknowledging the hope he brings me.]

Scott Strand for FOH discussed the practicality. The decision to send back EIS for amendment means we will have more information to consider.  The Enbridge schedule would require briefs to already be submitted.  If SA-04 is given as a strong alternative, then Enbridge will want to dispute this and will want to supplement their briefing – and we would alternatively.  What ALJ has done is allow for more rapid movement because there won’t be re-design after the fact.  Given both the parties and the public understanding that this is not a check-the-box process, full consideration needs to be given to this matter.

David Zoll noted three items.  1) The 280-day deadline under MEPA has been satisfied as a decision has been made on the adequacy of the FEIS, though in the negative (12-7-17).  2) MEPA purpose 4410.2000 Subpart 1 https://www.revisor.mn.gov/rules/?id=4410.2000 is to provide info for governmental units… AND OTHER PERSONS  having concerns regarding environmental effects.  To be useful to intervenors to use in briefings it HAS TO BE AVAILABLE.  ALJ Ann O’Reilly is closest to the record and knows what is necessary for a complete report to be made. 3) Discussion regarding timing – three petitions for December order may affect timing; those decisions are still to be made and could change the timeline.  There has been a decision made by the ALJ which doesn’t presuppose when other things will be done.  It requires only that EIS is DONE and COMPLETE.  This means all other issues are irrelevant and won’t require more meetings/decisions/etc.    If Enbridge/DOC had done a better job on the FEIS, not preventing information from being included and such, this process would be moving forward.  Since this work was not robustly done, it does not mean we should now continue to push forward.

Mr. Blackburn stated that when PUC refers a matter to the contested process, it gives up their ability to control the schedule.  If PUC disagrees with ALJ and demands her to change her schedule, it is not lawful as they are not as close to the record as she is.  Since the ALJ provides a recommendation to the PUC, her analysis must conclude her decision WITH a complete EIS, otherwise it seems Enbridge is arguing that the EIS is just a box to check, not truly a requirement.

Following a break, Commissioner Lipshultz had a question for Enbridge.

Your idea of delaying the project assumes we will be approving the project.  Explain more about why delay is a problem beyond delaying an outcome you can’t predict.

Eric Swanson replied that continued uncertainty and straying from the process set in statute and rule would have effects only if approved.  Other impacts he agreed would only be felt if the project is not approved.  Commissioner Tuma then asked about where Enbridge was taking the PUC with regard to where they want to come in a decision.  He indicated there was no desire to be an arbiter for the ALJ.  He noted: It seems that Enbridge is suggesting that the PUC should tell the ALJ what her schedule should be.  Back in August 2017, we discussed the schedule and why it was going the way it did.  You stated in page 9 of your brief on your understanding of why we were doing what we were doing.  The “buffer zone” was allowing the PUC to get an adequate FEIS.

Swanson responded that he understood the schedule was an April 30th date but now “we’re dealing with this NOT being the schedule.” He is sympathetic that the PUC should not get “in the weeds” of dictating to the ALJ; his specific request is to expeditiously certify the order to the commission on whether the schedule change was warranted.

Commissioner Tuma asked for clarification that that he was saying it was unwarranted to link the FEIS with the briefing schedule.  Swanson agreed this was his stance.

Commissioner Tuma noted: We decided we are not marrying the process.

David Zoll then explained that a decision on adequacy was to be done prior to the briefings being due.  However, he had no recollection of what we would do if adequacy was decided in the negative.

Commissioner Lange asked Enbridge (from page 9 comments – not sure what they kept referencing with this “page 9” deal…) about Enbridge and Co-petitioners discussion of the schedule.  A Waiver granted by Enbridge comports with orders.  Originally, there was a February ALJ decision due but the ALJ extended by a month to report by March.  Enbridge is now proposing to give the ALJ an additional 24 days.  One could argue that the PUC should go to the 3/30 date, no ambiguity of this, no waivering.  Why is 4/23 appropriate?

Swanson said they were “Just trying to react to the reality on the ground.” The ALJ told everyone to keep working but she did indefinitely extend the briefing schedule 10 days before briefings were due.  They took that information and decided a schedule that will work. Enbridge is “Not in a hurry.”

Commissioner Lipshultz then asked Zoll: There has never been an adequacy determination on an FEIS prior to the judge giving a report.  What’s different here?

Zoll noted it was Practice, not Precedent (which is binding).  The EIS being is prepared to the 4410 rules.  As noted at the August Meeting: Decision depends in part on an EIS, in it’s final form, available for the parties, for us to have a reliable record.  Can’t get around staging this in a way that has an EIS available for the parties to refer to in their testimony.  (12-21-15)  This is the PUC comment.  The EIS is not a formality, it is a basis for the arguments to be made before the Commission.  There would be sufficient time to use this EIS before the PUC.  A policy decision for this to be available is UNCHANGED.

Commissioner Lipshultz noted the debate was DEIS vs. FEIS available prior to testimony, Not Adequacy.  Inadequacy was defined as narrow and the full EIS is pretty complete.  What do you need more than what you have?  With 1 year of investigation, 3 rounds of testimony, 12 days of evidentiary hearings – what are you lacking?

Zoll:  We do have a voluminous EIS – tons of data – but it lacks synthesis and analysis in order for them to make arguments.  Fails to acknowledge difference between existing pipeline corridors and siting a pipeline in a greenfield.  NOT AVAILABLE in CURRENT FEIS. The EIS is not there only to collect info but to also SYNTHESIZE this information.  This is what parties and public are entitled to in order to make their decisions and arguments.  This is a matter of months.  Need to get this right and right the first time.

Lipshultz: You identify one inadequacy – to distinguish between greenfield and non-greenfield routes.  When you file your briefs, you know this.  Write the brief to address that the EIS understates the impact to greenfields, with more information to come.

Zoll: Cannot argue precisely the extent to which these are understated and why a route alternative is preferable to the applicant’s preferred route.  Could leave it for gaps to be completed later but this is not the correct approach.  Can argue what we THINK the information will say but no reason to prevent parties from having actual data.

Tuma directed Zoll to “Bring your witnesses on the greenfield issue. The DOC / FEIS is not your witness.”

Zoll: The EIS does not make the decision but it is required to have all the data and analysis available.  The EIS is still a moving target.  If it’s important for this information to be available to the parties per 4410.2000 and the December comment from PUC; it should be available.

There was more back and forth about the fact that the PUC did not want to “direct” the ALJ.  And finally, a Motion:

Request the ALJ to issue report by 4/23/18 and adjust her schedule to accommodate this date.

The ALJ can determine dates for filing briefs.  This 4/23 date allows more time for brief completion, and allows more time between initial and reply briefs.  There is no harm to parties with a 4/23 ALJ Report.  It gives the ALJ 60 days to come to her decision which, considering the scope of the issue, is necessary.

It would seem that if they are sincere about wanting a thorough and well-considered recommendation from the ALJ, that they will want to assure she and all parties have the full and complete EIS and enough time for a thorough review of the facts.  Unless they’ve already decided the final decision and this is merely a box-checking process. If they are willing to dismiss the ALJ on a decision about the dates in the schedule, are they going to be just as willing to ignore her final decision if it says to NOT permit the pipeline application?

Commissioner Seben noted this was a “Fair hearing” with allowance of all to be heard, which follows due process.  She admonished that… Indicating there is corruption undermines the process.

Unless the PUC process IS corrupt… in which case, we are merely making it evident with a full review of the details.  And that IS in the public’s best interest.