Things are heating up here in the North Woods, literally and figuratively. Climate change has made for a strange Fall turning to Winter as we’ve had frigid, colder than normal, weather for most of November. However, we have also had some unseasonably warm days here and there. [Most recently we used these warm days to process trees and chickens.] And in December a trial begins in Bagley, Minnesota that could mean big things for the Climate Movement. Climate Warriors Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein, along with co-defendents Ben Joldersman and Steve Liptay, shut down the Enbridge Tar Sands pipeline on October 11, 2016 in Leonard, Minnesota. They will be presenting a Necessity Defense and Dan & I will be there to cheer them to victory.
This past Wednesday as most people were preparing their turkeys for roasting, I sent my second and final comment to the Public Utilities Commission regarding the Line 3 FEIS (Final Environmental Impact Statement).
I am not sure if there is really any point in writing and that is a sad feeling for a constituent to have in writing to their government. The government is supposed to serve the people. But these days it appears the government and law enforcement are supporting Corporate needs over the needs of Citizens. Which, if you read history books by Howard Zinn, is apparently the way it’s always been. I just wish we’d learn more from our history as we proceed through this time of the sixth great extinction, largely caused by and definitely accelerated by man. If we could, we just might save mankind.
What is the source of my hopelessness? In part it is because it seems, based on several factors, that the public comments are not truly given full consideration.
- The FEIS was ruled “adequate” by Eric Lipman even though MANY of the public comments from the DEIS remain unaddressed.
- The environmental factors in regard to climate change appear to be deemed outside the scope or not relevant. How can concerns about climate change be not relevant to a decision that would affect climate change?
- The document in some part reads like a commercial endorsement of Enbridge. It’s pretty evident that much of what Enbridge reported was included without critical evaluation of its validity. If this is truly an Environmental Impact Statement, it should include a scientific evaluation of the information presented by the requester, not just a reiteration of it as fact.
It seems that the PUC has already determined that this pipeline CoN will be approved, it’s just a matter of getting through these pesky public meetings. Oh, and this Evidentiary Hearing process. It also seems disrespectful that the Tribes have not had a true place at the table. The US has violated Treaty Rights over and over. But this needs to end. It is past time when the voice of the Natives of this Land should be heard. If we had listened to them long ago, we would likely not be in the mess that we are. They watched as the Colonials came into their land and raped and pillaged it. The piles of buffalo skulls, the massive culling of trees, the destruction of wetlands – they watched as the largely White population destroyed in a short time the land they had inhabited for centuries.
And we continue to focus on energy products that destroy our world. From the poisoning of the land where Tar Sands are extracted to the leaks that run from the inadequate pipelines fouling the waters to the burning of fossil fuels that pollute the air, we continue to walk a path of destruction. It is high time we stand together for a focus on renewable energy; plant energy, wind energy, solar energy, and those yet to be discovered because we lazily stay the path of fossil fuels.
And we see spill after spill. What a simple little word that is to describe something so destructive. The latest “spill” of 5000 barrels, over 200,000 gallons, in South Dakota should be a red flag to Minnesota’s PUC. There must be a consideration of the dangers of pipeline leaks, something inevitable with Line 3, which even Enbridge admits.
If the PUC approves this Certificate of Need and Permit Route, it does so at the peril of not just Minnesotans but all people of the world. The Fossil Fuel Industry is a DYING Industry.
Please be a force of good on the right side of history and DENY the Certificate of Need.
I also sent a card to Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly.
Unfortunately, we continue to see Government working in favor of the Fossil Fuel Industry, most recently in Nebraska. I posted recently in FB regarding the spill they experienced in South Dakota on the Keystone XL Pipeline:
Worse than we thought… and it may not affect today’s decision on the XL Pipeline. A state law passed in 2011 prevents the commission from factoring pipeline safety or the possibility of leaks into its decisions. [When they passed the law, legislators argued that pipeline safety is a federal responsibility and should not factor in the state decision.]
I think it’s incredible that the media reports “An aerial photo released by TransCanada on Twitter that the company says is of the spill, shows a darkened area on flat agricultural land. There do not appear to be any waterways or towns nearby.” I can clearly see the drainage ditch in the photo feet from the leak. Where do they think this water goes??
The Crow Creek drainage ditch is a small tributary to a major water supply for South Dakota taking the snow melt to the east into the James River.
I read a comment recently that the Navy has a saying about how one drop of oil in a ship’s water supply is deadly. I talked with a Navy Doc friend of mine and he regaled me with tales of what oil does to the body. Basically, when the body encounters it, it forces the body to flush. So then you need clean water to re-hydrate. You can see the problem, no? Where does the crew get fresh water if their supply is contaminated?
As horrible as this is, I am hopeful that it is one more nail in fossil fuel’s coffin.
Indeed, it turns out Nebraska approved the new Keystone XL Pipeline with a vote of 3-2 (all Yeas were Republican Male votes) citing the need for rural tax dollars – apparently oil is worth more than water in Nebraska. The motion OP-0003 was moved by Commissioner Landis and seconded by Commissioner Johnson (and supported by Commissioner Schram) but the best part of the meeting was the commentary from Commissioner Crystal Rhoades who voted “NO” on the motion. She cited several reasons for her opposition including:
- Due Process rights for 40 landowners along the route. These residents were not informed that their land was in the path of the newly approved pipeline route and thus may not have been following or commenting on the issue.
- Federal and State agencies did not study this new route.
- This route continues to run through fragile soils with a high probability of landslides.
- The mainline alternative route crosses the Ogallala Aquifer.
- TransCanada has shown no positive evidence of an economic benefit to Nebraska as they have no contracts with any NE Labor Union or Contractor and there is no evidence that any construction jobs will be given to NE residents. Short term tax payments will not offset the losses to the value of the land through which the pipeline runs. Furthermore, the NE Department of Revenue could not conclude a positive tax impact for NE.
- TransCanada admitted it had not spoken with NE Native American Tribes.
- Another corridor exists but TransCanada did not “prefer” using their existing corridor.
Commissioner Mary Ridder also voted against the motion. Yea for Women!! Another fine example of why we need more women in government.
There are also Activists fighting in opposition to the pipeline.
“One thing we’ve learned through this whole process is we take our victories as we can get them, no matter how big or how small,” Randy Thompson, a Nebraska rancher who has been among the most visible pipeline opponents, said on Monday. “And this today is another victory for us because the damn pipe is not in the ground, and they said 10 years ago they were going to have it in the ground.” ~ NY Times article (linked above)
It could be a tough fight for TransCanada and I sure hope it is. Even the Economist reporting was bleaker than I expected. And South Dakota might be getting serious about holding TransCanada accountable after this third leak in a year. None of this is helping TransCanada in a time of cheap natural gas (oil prices have dropped on them from $130 to $58 a barrel) and while they are seeking new Shippers – turns out they’ve seen a “reductions in volume commitments by other shippers.”
Meanwhile, here in Clearwater County we gear up for our own Climate Change Activism. In the little County Seat of Bagley, Minnesota (population 1400 per the 2016 census, though the local sign still says 1574) we will be hosting the trial for Climate Activists Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein, on which Emily recently wrote for the Guardian. She said:
We knew we were at risk for years in prison. But the nation needs to wake up now to what’s coming our way if we don’t reduce emissions boldly and fast; business as usual is now genocidal.
In shutting off the pipelines, we hoped to be part of that wake-up, to put ourselves in legal jeopardy in order to state dramatically and unambiguously that normal methods of political action and protest are simply not working with anywhere near the speed that we need them to. ~ Emily Johnston
Dan and I attended their arraignment hearing back in August and the courtroom was filled with Water Protectors supporting these four defendants… and one Enbridge employee – their local cheerleader, Cheryl Grover (previously the County Assessor). Cheryl brags about how she “retired one day and was working for Enbridge the next”. While the original arraignment was a fun day with lots of friends, we have seen some not so great outcomes in the trials for the Shut It Down Activists to date.
Ken Ward (who planned to use the Necessity Defense in his actions against the Brayton Point power plant in Somerset, MA until the DA dropped all charges) had a relatively good outcome in his Washington State trial – basically time-served along with community service and supervision. Michael Foster was tried in North Dakota, a strong supporter state of the Fossil Fuel Industry. James Hanson and other Climate Science experts were barred from testifying. Michael faces up to 21 years in prison. His sentence will be announced in January.
More recently in Montana, Leonard Higgins was convicted of felony criminal mischief and misdemeanor criminal trespass. He is looking at a possible 10 year prison sentence and up to $50,000 in fines. His sentence will be announced January 2, 2018. If you want to donate to the defense fund for these Climate Warriors, please click here.
Emily gives me some hope as she writes in her article:
“I’m heartened by the way the law can be supple—not a thing that, once set, holds that exact shape forever (or we’d still have slavery, and I couldn’t vote or marry), but a thing that responds—slowly—to our evolving understanding of what is just and true.”
Do they have a chance? Ted Hamilton and Bill Quigley make a strong argument that there may well be reason for hope in this little courthouse in Bagley in their article Do Climate Activists Have a Legal Justification for Civil Disobedience? They describe the Necessity Defense where one can break the common law in order to obey a higher law:
“The common law — the collection of precedents, norms, and legal traditions that originated in medieval England and which forms the fabric of our legal system today — has long allowed for some wiggle room to justify lawbreaking.
For example, a ship captain may destroy precious cargo to prevent capsizing in a storm, and a prisoner may escape from prison to avoid being raped. The logic of such cases is simple: sometimes you need to violate the law in order to prevent a greater harm, and you shouldn’t be punished for making the right choice.”
A year ago, an Oregon Federal Judge ruled in Juliana v. US that “there is a fundamental right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life’.”
“If the government has a duty to protect the atmosphere and other resources effected by climate change, and if there is a clear gap between this duty and the government’s conduct in aiding and abetting the fossil fuel industry, then major changes in energy funding and extraction permits are required.” ~Hamilton-Quigley article (linked above)
And as more of us stand up, the Powers-that-Be are going to have to start listening.
Dan and I will be there December 11th in the Bagley, Minnesota courtroom to support Annette and Emily. I feel like we will be a part of history… and standing on the right side of it too.