So I should not have so quickly judged the Administrative Law Judge in the case filed by Friends of the Headwaters.  After attending the Public Hearing in Bemidji this past week, I realize she just has a sing-song voice.  I don’t think it’s an intentional belittling, it’s just the way she talks.  It is, when you see it as a whole, somewhat comforting.  But it was still tough occasionally when it did feel patronizing.  She sounds like a first grade teacher dealing with her class.  OK, I’m still really judging her… but I am giving her the benefit of the doubt that most of the time, it’s just how she sounds.

10-17-17 ALJ Hearing Bemidji

Onto the Public Hearing details…

We attended the afternoon session in Bemidji on October 17th.  The afternoon session (1-4 PM) was going to be the harder of the two sessions with more Water Protectors expected for the evening session (6-9 PM).  Many of them have to work for a living so would not be available during the workday.  But that left plenty of room for all the paid Enbridge supporters at our afternoon meeting!!  They were all wearing green shirts.  Most were employees but some were local landowners, farmers and other concerned citizens.  Many had been bussed in for the event and there was even a party room at the Sanford Center where Enbridge catered in snacks and drinks, all to help their supporters feel more conformable.  I will say that this does mean ALL the Enbridge supporters were compensated for their endorsements of the pipeline.  And I think this is an important point.

It’s easy for someone to be paid to support something.  If I get snacks, a ride, perhaps even paid for my hours and travel time, it’s EASY for me to agree to give my support. On the other hand, if I’m strictly volunteering my time, have to pay my own way to the event, and maybe even have to take time off my job to support Mother Earth in the Public Hearing, I do consider my testimony more honorable.  It’s a sacrifice for me to give of myself for our Earth which cannot speak for itself at this hearing.  But for paid employees or people who are given gifts for their endorsement, I see this as less pure.  It is corrupted testimony.  It is, or at least can be perceived to be, induced or persuaded testimony.

I was one of the first 10 people to speak. Dan and I were only 10-15 people apart or so at the event and I believe we both did well.  Overall, the Pro-Pipeline folks outnumbered the Water Protectors but it wasn’t as bad as I had expected when I saw the crowd on arrival.  Overall, there were about 18 Water Protectors and 27 Pro-Pipeline speakers.

And I will give the ALJ props on her willingness to stay until 5 PM to assure that all the first time speakers got a chance to be heard.  However, I do wish there had been a question posed to each person when taking the stand – “Have you received any compensation for your testimony today?”  I believe knowing this about each speaker would have made an impact on how the testimony was perceived.

I also noted that the process of events was very “white man’s world”.  What I mean by this is that the 3-minute time limit did not allow for the respectful, spiritual nature of the presentations by a couple of the Anishinaabe speakers. Dawn Goodwin, for example, had jars of Water, Manoomin, and other Medicines that she set up for her speech.  She noted that, if one is to speak of these beings, they should be present.  It struck me that the process of the event was not taking into account the way of life of the people to whom we should give most of the attention – those whose land this has been from the beginning.

Whether we will make a difference or not is to be determined.  I was talking with a fellow Water Protector after the event and she noted that the Department of Commerce speaker Bill Grant said that Enbridge had not proved a Need for this pipeline “at this time”.  This indicates they will have further opportunity to provide additional data or information to prove said need.  However, the public comment period ends November 22nd and will be made without seeing any of this additional information.  It would seem if Enbridge is allowed to submit more information, it too should be able to receive public scrutiny.  So we’re not out of the woods yet with Line 3.  While the Public Utilities Commission and Department of Commerce hammer it out, we will remain vigilant.


Note: I did get a response from the PUC on my question regarding Enbridge providing more data.  Here it is: Upon closure of the public hearings, the evidentiary hearings will begin. As indicated by the ALJ the evidentiary hearing process is meant for the official parties to the proceeding. A transcript of the evidentiary hearings and any filings made by the applicant and official parties will be available via the eDocket system for any interested person to review. Once the public portion of the hearing ends on November 22nd, the ALJ reviews all the information and provides the Commission with her report and recommendation.

In other news, Bagley, Minnesota may be the place to watch regarding Climate Change.  The Valve Turner Trials – trials for Annette Klapstein and Emily Johnston, along with their supporters Ben Joldersma and videographer Steve Liptay – have recently been granted permission by the Judge to present a Necessity Defense.  What does this mean?  They may be able to prove that their actions were justified in light of the inaction by companies and governments to protect the citizens’ rights to clean air and water.  Because there has been no movement on actions to mitigate Climate Change, their actions were Necessary to help mitigate Climate Change.  This would mean they are innocent of breaking man’s laws because they were answering to a higher law.  350.com press release

I am hopeful that Minnesota, right here where I live, may be the place we make real strides in defeating the Fossil Fuel Industry, in helping to save our planet from the destruction of pollution.  The world is watching.