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The MN Public Utilities Commission met on Tuesday, September 11th, Patriot Day, to discuss Enbridge’s compliance filing to the conditions of the Certificate of Need for their proposed Line 3.  And there were Patriots for the Land present in full force.  Many wore cloth signs pinned to their backs.

PUC Signs

As the proceedings began, these Patriots turned their backs to the PUC Commissioners to display their messages signifying that they felt the PUC had turned their backs on the Public in deciding unanimously that there was a Need for Line 3.  My favorite was probably “Public Utility Cowards” indicating the Commissioners are people who lack the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.

I would have to agree. The Commissioners did turn their backs on the Public, opting instead to grant a foreign Utility company access to push Tar Sands sludge, and all its poisonous constituents, through the clean land and pristine waters of Minnesota’s North Woods and Lake Country.  I decided I would write letters to all five of these Commissioners to let them know of my disappointment.  Here’s some of what I told them.

  • You are responsible to the PUBLIC.  More than 90% of the letters have been in opposition, surely nearly 100% of the volume of input, as many of the pro-pipeline comments were simple pre-printed postcards and very little of anything written to the PUC from that side had any scientific or technically sound detail, much of it being simple aping of the Enbridge hyperbole. Yet, you continued to question those in opposition much more critically.  All the while, taking Enbridge at their word, assuming they were being honest and forthright.
  • I’m sure Ms. Brusven and Mr. Swanson (Enbridge representatives) are very nice people and believe what they say to the PUC.  But, as Upton Sinclair once wrote, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”  The company they represent did all it could to minimize and delay the cleanup in Michigan and has not done enough to maintain their Line 3 pipeline to the point that now, it’s a horrible mess.  Enbridge has one of the worst records for safety in the industry.  Yet, you have unanimously granted them a Certificate of Need.
  • You are supposed to be an intelligent group of individuals.  [A requirement of being appointed is that a Commissioner must be “learned in the law, engineering, public accounting, property and utility valuation, finance, physical or natural sciences, production agriculture or natural resources”.  I would expect a scientific, discerning approach, especially from Matt Schuerger, the sole engineer on the PUC.]  Yet, as one attorney noted, it was surreal for you to accept the premise that Enbridge can build a perfect new pipeline but when they tell us they can run the current Line 3 safely, you don’t believe them. You (specifically Commissioner Dan Lipschultz) talked about Enbridge holding a gun to your head.  THERE IS NO GUN!  If Line 3 is SUCH a hazard, then it is Enbridge’s responsibility to SHUT IT DOWN.  They have said they will run it if they do not get the new Line 3.  If it is so prone to leaking that it is hazardous to continue operations, it is THEIR responsibility to assure they stop using it before a catastrophic spill, Not Yours.
  • Commissioner Lange said she asked herself how she would feel if she woke up in 5 years and had voted “no” and there was a leak.  What she didn’t ask herself was how she’d feel when there is a spill in 6 months, before anything was done to shut down or replace Line 3.  Nor did she ask how she’d feel if her daughter miscarried her grandchild because of benzene exposure directly related to an oil spill.  As she won’t likely be living near the Rez where so much of this pipeline runs, perhaps there is no validity for such a concern.  The June 28th decision will result in more deaths for us and our Indigenous friends and neighbors.  The cancer rates in this area are abnormally high already.
  • The way the Youth Climate Intervenors were patronized was appalling. The body language and condescending tone should have been my first clue the Public Utility Commissioners were predisposed to Enbridge, not the Intervening Parties.  It disgusted me to see the PUC dismiss them without shame… these kids who are working just as hard as any of the other legal teams, all while not getting paid.  They are literally fighting for their lives… for a planet that will be for them, at least what we have today.  A watershed that isn’t poisoned with Tar Sands.
  • Science has made clear that 80% of the remaining fossil fuels MUST remain in the ground if we are to avoid massive climate change that will render our planet unlivable.  In addition, ALL Tar Sands oil must remain in the ground, not only because it has only a 3:1 return of energy (at best) but because when it burns, the result is so much more devastating than burning regular crude.  By failing to prevent this Tar Sands pipeline, the Commissioners are directly dooming the people of Minnesota to extinction, likely before our grandchildren’s grandchildren are able to decide if they want to bring another generation into whatever world remains. It’s hard to comprehend you could make this decision while a group of Youth Climate Intervenors, young people who will be most affected by these decisions, sits in each hearing, each meeting regarding the Line 3 proceedings.
  • You also decided to eliminate RA-03 from consideration, a slap in the face to the Indigenous.  Especially after it was clearly the route they all preferred, as you clarified with multiple rounds of tantalizing questioning.  You asked them to choose a route in an idealized unreality where the pipeline would never leak. And then you ignored RA-03 as a possibility after they unanimously preferred it.
  • Each Commissioner should be asking how he will feel when Enbridge’s New Line 3 fails catastrophically in 2026 (or sooner) and spills 210,000 barrels, like the new pipeline in South Dakota did last November.  Will you feel then like you protected the people of Minnesota?
  • How will you feel as you watch on the evening news as Minnesota Law Enforcement, financed by Enbridge, throw Minnesotans to the ground as they protest this pipeline in accordance with a higher law than man’s law… because they see their duty to protect our water and our planet?  How will you feel when they spray our citizens with water in below freezing temperatures? Or when they face us with dogs and automatic weapons?  How will you feel when people are injured or killed in these police actions that the PUC itself assured would be covered by Enbridge funding?  Does it make it OK if the Canadian company pays for the police instead of the Minnesota taxpayers? Or if Enbridge’s private security forces are the ones perpetrating these actions, as long as the contractor is licensed in the state of Minnesota, of course?
  • While Commissioner Tuma put on a good show of being concerned about those voicing their first amendment rights, his question about whether Enbridge would financially support the requirements for law enforcement at the construction sites sounded more to me like Winona LaDuke has phrased it: “Will you finance the brutalization of Minnesotans in order to get your pipeline in, Enbridge?”
  • In addition, his linking of a sex/drug trafficking fund with the fund to deal with on-site situations leaves me fearing that there will be nothing for the former and all spent on the latter.  At present, I see no evidence in the record that there will be anything that will prevent the Applicant from doing exactly what they did at Standing Rock with their collaborators Energy Transfer Partners.

In conclusion, I let them know: Perhaps you can justify your decision as being outside your job description, but I will be fighting this Line 3.  I will fight for our children, our grandchildren, our water, our plants, our animals, our planet, our future.  I will even be fighting for you.  I just wish you would have done more to help me in this fight.

Please write to Governor Dayton at 75 Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. #130 in St Paul, MN 55155  or call 651-201-3400 to let him know you do NOT support Line 3.  We need every citizen if we expect to stop this foreign company from poisoning our water.