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This past week, Minnesota Environmental Justice advocates got some good news. Yeah, we lost with the PUC, but we saw the tide turn with the actions of one PUC Commissioner with not only a smart brain and big heart, but also some HUGE balls. (And boy, was Enbridge upset! Hope they’re envisioning the hard work of packing up and taking their Line 3 project back to Canada… where, you might have noticed, there is growing opposition to fossil fuel corporations. And the Wet’suwet’en People are grateful for those supporting their Sovereignty.)

So I decided to send a little Valentine to Matt Schuerger from our Minnesota Waters.

You can send one too! Need some help figuring out how? Click Here. Please help make my dream come true – let’s flood the docket with Valentines for Commissioner Schuerger.

I can imagine little groups everywhere making valentines for Matt. Maybe your youth group could have a learning session on Line 3 to share information about the dangers a Tar Sands pipeline brings to our wetlands. Do your friends know there are 227 water crossings for this pipeline proposed route? Could you take an hour to make some valentines as you learn about the myths* of “Safety of New Pipelines” and BitCrude technology, which allows completely safe transport of solid bitumen (tar sands in sold form are not flammable or explosive AND are safe for marine life if the containers go overboard!). No more concerns about train derailment!! The worst that happens is you have to pick up a bunch of hockey pucks and put them back in the rail car! [Then next month your group can write letters to our Governor asking for new green energy jobs instead of dirty old fossil fuel energy jobs for Northern Minnesota.]

* Myths of Pipeline Safety:

  • New Pipelines are safer than Old Pipelines. Not necessarily. Spill Data show that new pipelines are just as susceptible for spills as the old. [Perhaps it is related to the corrosive asphalt from Alberta being pushed through them…] As has been clearly demonstrated by failures on newer pipelines Dakota Access and Keystone 1 – the spills can be big on New Pipelines too… like 210,000 gallons big. Keystone would suffer a second large failure of 383,000 gallons just two short years later.
  • Old Line 3 is a Safety Risk!! Well, ever since the Consent Decree was put into place, we’ve seen a massive drop in spills on Line 3. In fact, in the last 12 years, there have only been 66 gallons spilled, less than 2 barrels!! And that is likely due to the requirement that Enbridge 1) run at reduced pressure and 2) inspect via 3D microscopic images every inch of pipe every year. This pipeline is the devil we know.
  • It is clear that a new Line 3, once it passed its pressure testing, could run UNINSPECTED for 5 full years – FIVE! – before Enbridge would be required to inspect it. It would be the devil we don’t know. [The bottom line is that, as Paul Blackburn reported in his testimony, the PUC cannot make decisions on pipeline safety… as supported by many 8th Circuit decisions.]

Enbridge has lied to us for long enough about their safety and jobs. PUC Commissioner Schuerger has done his homework to come to the following findings on their proposed project, which led him to vote in opposition. Note: The time stamps correspond to the video of the 2/3/20 full PUC meeting with the parties. I encourage you to check out some of the powerful testimony, especially the favorites I share below.

On the Second Revised Final Environmental Impact Statement (2R FEIS) for Enbridge’s Proposed Line 3:

  • 1:46:37 Louise Miltich (DOC EERA) admits the 2R FEIS DID NOT EVEN DEFINE the Lake Superior watershed!!! Now, how the heck are ya’ supposed to comment on the “adequacy” of the revision to address the “impacts to the Lake Superior watershed” if there is no definition of what exactly constitutes the “watershed”?
  • 1:54:10 Schuerger asks about the Superior/Duluth Harbor being noted as an “industrialized” site… indicating that it is less important?  1:54:40 Miltich argues her case. 1:55:18 Schuerger argues sociological and economic impacts also being important. Miltich later admits the Harbor could be an important site.
  • 1:56:30 Referencing recently available bitumen and dilbit studies, Matt asks about their inclusion in the evaluation.  1:57:18 Miltich admits no additional studies or bodies of work were included and 1:57:55 that a literature review was not done to assure inclusion of recent analysis. 
  • 1:58:15 The Commissioner discussed the possible 193 MT CO2 and $287B social carbon cost associated with Line 3, eventually asking where in the 2R FEIS we can see an understanding that we have now on the impacts of Climate Change incorporated in the EIS?  2:00:32 Miltich admits that they used all the original modeling approaches.

After Tuma makes a motion to approve EIS Adequacy, Sieben asks for discussion (of which there is none) and Matt gives his “deliberation” (as the Chair referred to it several times during the meeting). 2:28:52 “I disagree.” He notes impacts of Lake Superior watershed being critically important.  

  • The Record and Law do not support a conclusion that the single site selected adequately represents the Lake Superior watershed or that the 2R FEIS adequately assess the consequences of a spill into the Lake Superior watershed.
  • The 2R FEIS fails to accurately characterize the current scientific understanding of climate change.  PUC is required under MEPA to follow the guidance in its first paragraph:

“…to create and maintain conditions under which human beings and nature can exist in productive harmony…”

  • “This FEIS in this revision does not yet do that in my viewpoint.” And he noted his opposition. [Several in the audience voted Aye! alongside Matt which was so good to hear. [2:38:47]

On the Certificate of Need for a New Line 3: [3:53:09 – 4:25:50, 4:29:40 – 4:42:48, Commissioner Means interrupts to throw Enbridge a bone…]

  • Schuerger confirmed with both Mike Aherns, representing the Shippers, and Eric Swanson, representing Enbridge, that they do not believe the demand situation has changed.
  • Schuerger confirmed with Enbridge that the applicant’s forecast of demand for the proposed facility means demand for crude oil, energy products from crude oil for MN and the 5-state area.  He also confirmed with Enbridge and the Shippers that they believed there was no new pertinent information of concern to add to the record. 
  • Then he reads through a list of changes in MN including the Transportation Department commitment to an 80-100% reduction in GHG emissions and the Clean Cars Initiative, confirming with Swanson that Enbridge doesn’t believe any of these things show any less need for the project.  Then Commissioner Schuerger walked through the many climate change insights since the last approval including the IPCC 1.5 Report and Walz’ Climate Change subcabinet. Again, Swanson indicated… No further record development needed.
  • Then the Commissioner read to Mr. Swanson about the past week’s trade news reporting: ‘Enbridge … publicly acknowledged the transition may happen more quickly than expected… which could strand existing or future assets.’
  • Finally, on the integrity concern that the current Line 3 must be replaced to prevent a spill.  Commissioner Schuerger confirmed with Mr. Swanson that Enbridge understands their responsibility to prevent discharge from their pipelines “whether or not the Commission approves a new Line 3”. 

In “deliberation” 5:23:23, Commissioner Schuerger makes clear on this “immensely important and intensely consequential” decision:

  • It is entirely about the law and the evidence.
  • 5:24:57 The record shows MN refiners to be getting the oil they need. [He indicated this is a fatal flaw… just before Katie interrupted him before he was finished.]
  • The science on climate change is entirely clear– we must take action to reduce climate change.  There is evidence toward electrification and toward a new system which would eliminate apportionment (relied on heavily in the last decision).  All indicate a contested case hearing with a focus on the demand forecast. 
  • 5:27:27 We are facing a seachange in the world, around the country, and especially in this state to act and change the way we use energy.  “When we have this significant scientific political understanding, which we have, we are not only accelerating this transition but it means that it no longer makes sense to invest and build new infrastructure such as this new project.”

“I do not support the motion before us and I’d ask that we vote this motion down and that we refer to this to contested case with a focus on gathering additional information on the changed circumstances around the change in the applicant’s business and contract structures, potential impact of electrification of transportation or other sectors, and the impact of climate change on demand.” 

Commissioner Schuerger’s closing on the Certificate of Need for Line 3, 2/3/20 5:28:56

On the Route Permit for a New Line 3: [6:33:52 – 6:37:07]

  • As there were no questions, I’d like to include an approximation of Schuerger’s statement [discussion/deliberation, whatever Katie wants to call it] as it is so good!!

We have before us a preferred route and 4 alternatives that we are required to consider (APR, RA-03AM, RA-06, the In-Trench Replacement RA-07, & RA-08). “When we look at the evidence before us and the criteria, the impacts we are required to consider are overwhelmingly minimized by the In-Trench replacement option RA-07. Overwhelmingly minimized.  RA-07 & RA-08 have not been removed from our consideration.  We’re required to consider them all. I believe, that when we apply the law, we have to designate the In-Trench replacement option and, under the law, we are required to recognize the sovereignty of tribal governments, ALL tribal governments. We’re required to consider all the routes and apply the criteria AND we’re required to recognize the sovereignty of tribal governments – ALL OF THEM!  I believe we can accomplish what’s required of us by applying our criteria and designating In-trench replacement RA-07 and, in that same act, requiring Enbridge to obtain explicit written consent from all Tribal governments along the designated RA-07 route prior to Enbridge receiving the Route Permit. I heard, I’ve read the testimony, I’ve read the record, I heard the opening arguments today.  I do not believe under the law it is this Commission’s problem that they may not get that consent.”

Summary of Commissioner Schuerger’s comments on Route Permit, 2.3.20 6:34:34

I have watched hours of testimony. I have watched over and over some pieces of testimony. And I am much encouraged by some of that testimony on February 3rd. Here are a few of my favorites:

Gaagigeyashiik (Dawn Goodwin) gives EIS Adequacy testimony 2.3.20 1:00:00
  • Starting at 32:10 you can see two of my faves – Paul Blackburn and Scott Strand. Together they explain why the EIS was inadequate based on the location site (no WI sites were selected, even though these locations would have a potential for harm). Little Otter Creek picked as the farthest east and first site in MN. Not sufficient. Scott also talks about response times noting that history of Enbridge should have been used, including a reflection of their 17 hour response time, much longer than the 13 minutes used by the modeling. This failed to capture the fact that most spills are not caught by the pipeline company but citizens happening upon the spill. Scott recommended a 2-hour response time with a range of possible alternatives, specifically referencing the Michigan model. He also mentioned the requirement to include the latest information as part of the ongoing responsibility of the EIS process, which the DOC EERA decided deliberately to not include, a likely legal error.
  • 56:20 Gaagigeyaashiik Dawn Goodwin spoke eloquently about the Indigenous historical, cultural, and spiritual connection to the land. She also spoke to the lack of study on tar sands which negates the idea that we have an adequate understanding of the impacts of tar sands on our living organisms per the National Academy of Science. Thanks to Frank Bibeau for giving her some time after he walked through the legal aspects of the Treaties along the Line 3 proposed route.
  • 1:03:48 Brent Murcia, A Youth Climate Intervenor, who explained that they’ve watched as their government has done nothing again and again and again.  These youth have participated in this process.  All have finished HS now and at 18-26 years old, they should have bright futures ahead.  But Brent walked through how little time remains to respond to our climate crisis along with the many shortcomings they have identified in the 2R FEIS. He also stressed the No Action Alternative has been in place for 3 years and we have not seen “1900 trucks per day” of oil driving the MN or several hundred oil train cars per day. The actuality looks a lot more like the YCI estimates than those of Enbridge, which indicates an inadequacy. Finally, when Enbridge plans for run the line for 5- years, why is the FEIS not including 50 years of effects but only 30?
  • 3:09:25 Paul Blackburn argues that the safety of the current Line 3 is NOT the decision of the PUC, not within their jurisdiction and they have no expertise. How much safe is this new pipeline – by what metrics? This is the most important thing per Enbridge. Data of the oil spills from this pipeline are NOT YET IN THE RECORD. Corrosion and age related spills are your concern but there are many other things that factor into spills. In fact, with the current Line 3 requiring 3-D microscopic images of this line EVERY YEAR. A new Line 3 would not be covered by the consent decree so it would only be inspected once every 5 years. Records from Canada shows shipment as a solid safely and there are two technologies to ship by rail. Rail safety is yesterday’s argument.
  • 5:55 Just following another round of testimony from Scott Strand and a short message from Brent Murcia, “… we will see you all soon.” [In court!!], Winona LaDuke and Dawn Goodwin again address the commission. Winona bringing a Midewiwin scroll, a map of the migration story of the Ojibwe People. They both recognized the value of all the life in our land, most of whom have not been asked here to testify. Threading a needle to meet regulatory framework is not an adequate assessment of the issue.

“We’re a Living Culture! You’re putting that at risk.  What don’t you get about the 1855 Treaty?”

Gaagigeyashiik Testimony, 2/3/20 Watch it here .- it’s powerful stuff! Thanks, Seekjoy!

One of the BEST moments of the day was when Akilah Sanders-Reed explained to Chair Katie Sieben – as Ms. Sieben tried to deny the Youth Climate Intervenors their rights, that YCI would take the 5 minutes ceded to them by the Northern Water Alliance. [So, fuck you, Katie Sieben! Oh, sorry, did I say that out loud?? I did in my living room as I watched it happen!]

Not happy?

“You have 5 minutes to present your opening statement. We’re not going to allow for more compression of time at this time because we don’t have the Northern Water Alliance folks here.”

PUC Chair Kaite Seiben tries to silence the Youth Climate Intervenors – pretty much in line with how they’ve treated the YCI over and over again – Oh! kinda like the government has always treated our kids – as best seen and not heard. They didn’t pull this shit with any of the male lawyers using this tactic. Watch from 3:26:04
We’ll be taking our 10 minutes.

“We’ve communicated with them explicitly and I would be happy to show you the communications where they asked us to absorb their time so that we could cover issues that are of interest to both of us. So we’ll be taking the ten minutes as was stated in the notice from the Commission that parties could combine arguments for the sake of fluidity.”

Akilah Sanders-Reed explains to Chair Sieben how this process works. Once again, youth speaking to truth and power in these days where adults have seemingly lost that ability.

So we lost, but we’re seeing the tide turn. We’re losing better each time. And now we have a Commissioner on our side.

My FAVORITE PUC Commissioner Matt Schuerger/
And, who knew? He’s a Purdue grad!!! Boiler Up, Bitches!!

If you can’t get enough, here’s another great blog on this issue.