I finally attended a Twin Cities Line 3 PUC Meeting in-person. It was both wonderful and truly heartbreaking.
I saw people in line on both sides of the issue and waved to them. Big wave to Cheryl Grover, a Line 3 supporting neighbor, and a hug for Murilo who is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet.
I heard dozens of youth who begged the PUC to consider their futures. I heard several Enbridge employees and contractors speak to their needs for employment. And in the end, there were 116 comments in opposition to Line 3 and only 37 in favor.
The comments in favor of Line 3 were voices of fear for self – we won’t have the income we need, we won’t have oil for our cars, we will have to sacrifice. These are voices of those ignorant to the possibilities of the future as they are being held hostage by the fairy tales of the fossil fuel corps.
I can’t say it’s not understandable. Living here in the north woods, we do seem to live a bit in the past. Life often runs at a slower (more human) pace, we make due with what we have (cause town is 22 miles away), and many agreements are still made with a handshake. As such, trust is a currency. Many here don’t have email, get their news from their neighbors and co-workers, and stay local much of the time creating a dearth of exposure to news and ideas outside their bubble.
City folks can see more of the recent progress to efficiency and renewables. Likely because, as it normally goes, the urban areas develop first (economies of scale, eh?) – higher people density means less investment/person for projects. Then, and sometimes only after having to bitch about it or petition for redress, the advancements go statewide. We know the drill. I argue that now is the time to implement renewable energy development in rural Minnesota instead of approving a fossil fuel project that will soon be obsolete.
The comments opposing Line 3 were also full of fear, but not only for self. The fear in the opposition is for the planet, the impacted communities of color, and the children so afraid for their futures many of them have decided against having their own children.
These voices were based in the science of climate change, science that demands we keep most of the remaining fossil fuels in the ground if we hope to maintain a planet under 2° C. They spoke to the economics which predict this new tar sands pipeline would be obsolete before it could even be completed – but not before its construction might ruin much of our natural infrastructure, infrastructure that cleans our air and water for free every day. Some even spoke of faith, praying for this pipeline to be denied and asking the room to join them in this prayer. And they spoke of compassion for our young people and our global communities, especially the poor, who are already suffering from the devastating effects of climate change.
Perhaps the most heartwrenching testimony for many of us in this fight was when Jaci Christenson stood to end her testimony saying, as she got down onto her knees to beg the Commissioners, “I have done everything as a citizen, I am going to get down on my hands and knees, and I am going to beg of you (clasping her hands) to think of the next generation.” (Though video footage was CUT by on the PUC docket [as can be seen here at 57:53], you can see it from CITIZEN coverage – Thanks, Ellen Hadley!!) Chair Sieben can be heard quietly saying, “Next person please.”
Touching for me was the testimony of all of the many warriors I know. Even seeing their names appear on the screen showing the line-up was a huge thrill. All of us attended that day not knowing if we would get a chance to speak. Mine was one of the final names drawn from the box.
I have long been in this fight, watching the hearings from my home in the North Woods, as I will do today when the hearing recommences. To see this process in person was important. To experience it first hand revealed the very limited space for citizen seating (which included a view of a large empty swath of space between the Commissioners and testifying citizens), the bathroom hall passes (making you feel like you were 9 years old again), and the extensive presence of law enforcement, including at least one canine. It did not feel welcoming. I’m not sure giving someone 2 minutes to speak on such a complex scientific, cultural, social issue as Line 3 can be called welcoming as it seems only to laugh at the idea of freedom of expression.
Nevertheless, the entire day was magical for me from the 5:00 a.m. arrival at the Senate Building to leaving after the debrief almost 12 hours later. There are so many to thank for the magical loveliness of my day that I will never list them all but below I will attempt to highlight some of the best aspects of my PUC experience.
The testimony began with two testimonies that highlighted the crux of the issue.
Representative Frank Hornstein spoke first, noting the dearth of information on water quality impacts, the lack of guarantees by Enbridge on spill response, and the dire climate situation ~ which has become much clearer since June, 2018 when the PUC originally decided the EIS Adequate and approved the Certificate of Need and Route Permit. All point to the EIS being inadequate to inform Minnesotans of the dangers of a new Line 3 carrying tar sands through our wetlands and lakes regions.
The next to testify was a single mom, Carrie Robles, who credited Enbridge with allowing her to provide for her family, including buying a house. You could hear her pride and gratitude as she spoke. And in northern Minnesota this seems to be the things for which we are desperate – JOBS! Especially good paying jobs. Enbridge is dangling a carrot. They simply forget to mention the stick that’s attached on the other end of the string. The one that murders your grandchildren.
But this is a false narrative that we need PIPELINE jobs. We need jobs, for sure. But why settle for dirty jobs from last century instead of working together to bring jobs that will energize our future? And Enbridge is NOT saving our environment. If they are, they are only saving it from a failure on their current Line 3. So that is just Enbridge saving us from Enbridge! How about they just take out the old Line 3 and go back to Canada? That would clean up a big part of their mess.
Willis Mattison testified about a Procedural Error recently submitted to PUC Staff – he’d filed it 2 years ago but it was delayed from reaching the Commission until just this week. [Nothing fishy there, right?] The violation was that Enbridge was allowed to apply for, receive permits, and begin project related construction, something that is strictly prohibited by the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act. Because this construction work, outside the approval process, prejudices the entire project, making it look like a done deal, it discourages citizens from taking any any action to deter a project with which they object. This could be a game changer. He also offered the assistance of a pool of scientists who can assist the Commissioners with discerning any of the environmental shortcomings reported on this latest revision of the Environmental Impact Statement.
Murilo Zacarelli, a friend of mine, testified to his research interviewing people in northern Minnesota, including on tribal lands. He explained that he had to get permission to visit the tribes to do his research. If they had said “no”, that would have meant that he could not go there to do his research because these are sovereign nations. When they say “NO” to a pipeline, they need to be respected. Murilo also noted many in northern Minnesota are not happy with the pipeline project.
I was given the opportunity to speak by Patricia Kilmet who, fighting a bad cold, offered to cede her spot. I shared about the land where I live in the Chippewa Plains and the Pines Moraine and Outwash Plains, as directed by my Ojibwe sister, Dawn Goodwin. I spoke to our biodiversity and noted that part of being here is to acknowledge for those relatives that cannot, the dangers to their ecosystems. Also, I noted the historical evidence that Enbridge does not tell the PUC the whole truth and that the public is here today to tell them some of the things they need to know to make the correct decision on this pipeline. Running out of time, I rushed to include the fact that Enbridge has not has a spill on the pipeline for a decade now, thanking the people in the room who I turned to indicate to the Commissioners were the highly skilled workers using things like new weld technology to keep this Line 3 safe. I asked them to let the current Line 3 be monitored and maintained as we transition from the fossil fuel economy and to deny the new Line 3 we cannot afford.
When my name was drawn, the man who was given my opportunity to speak, Ken Pearson (yep, Andy’s dad), was outstanding. He spoke to the shortcomings of the FEIS and the opposition to the project (in the millions as it would affect us all) that dwarfs the public support (largely from the vested interests). He also spoke to the economics of the issue – one of the most environmentally destructive projects on planet Earth.
“This project would put large sums in the pockets of very, very few people while, again, harming millions. It’s no wonder there’s opposition, given this lopsided equation.”Ken Pearson, January 31, 2020 comments to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission
I was so grateful to hear so many beautiful testimonies and about a dozen sketchy ones. I have some glimmer of hope that the PUC will come to the right decision this time around. And we’ll know shortly whether they do have the common sense, courage, and compassion to deny Line 3.