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For those new to the blog, or the Line 3 process: Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes a program to regulate the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States, including wetlands. Section 401 of the CWA requires any applicant for a federal license or permit to conduct an activity that may result in a discharge of a pollutant into waters of the United States to obtain a certification from the State in which the discharge originates that the discharge complies the applicable water quality standards. The 401 certification becomes a condition of Federal permits including Coast Guard Section 10 permits, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permits and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) Section 404 permits.


A friend emailed Sunday, asking how I’m doing so I sent a response:

I feel like a bit of a slug, though I did manage to get some 404 comments submitted – attached here in case there is anything you can glean for your 401 work.  I barely read much of their technical stuff though, more attacking them on their flawed engineering logic if they approve Line 3 in this climate emergency… you know carbon budgets and all that.  And noting the destruction we’ve had on their watch.

I’d discourage you from reading much further unless you’re feeling like you are in a good solid place today…. Dan and I are pretty much Gloom and Doom of late. (I’m Doom)  (He’s Gloom) 

This is really discouraging work and these are discouraging times.  I am wondering if this round of SARS-CoV-2 will be a big killer or a sleepy one that takes its massive toll in the fall once it mutates, like the 1918 round did.  It seems all the US is doing is pushing for the latter… The disinformation, WRONG information, lies about rates, but mostly our lack of medical supplies and an inability to get more… as every other country also needs them.  I wondered last night if this virus will bring on WWIII…

Wondering also how that will affect the election.  We may find all this fighting about candidates to be wasted time…

And I wonder how much my statements really matter in the Line 3 process.  I feel like we’re largely alternately pacified and ignored by the agencies.  But I DO BELIEVE in the power of people and, if we can organize enough of them, maybe we will find a presence that gives MPCA pause in their approval plans.  Though now I’m wondering if we’ll see a cancellation of the 17th and 18th as CoV-2 spreads.  We’re up (in the US) to 464 (from 429 when I last updated last night).  Recovered cases remains at 8 (likely due to a lack of tests to provide confirmation of recovery).  I don’t really trust these numbers as we are doing SO LITTLE testing.

I am somewhat bouyed by the collapse of the supply chains – and feel like a monster because of it.  Yes, many will suffer and die.  But it will be a result of hubris.  And it will largely be a boon to Mother Earth to have so much less CO2 burned.  All the reductions in consumption will give her a breather.  I just can’t help but imagine that she has orchestrated this giant production to eliminate the scourge of human cancer with which she’s found herself contaminated.

So I feed the birds, engineer plans to keep the squirrels off the feeder, and enjoy the outdoor springlike weather…  I try to remember that all the “bad” happening now is like the bad that has happened before and there will at least be some good and love that comes from it as we work for survival and, at best, it may yet bring a new world.  But my hopes are pretty dim to non-existant that we’ll actually save ourselves.  

Mostly I spend each day these days enjoying conversations with fun people (call me any time – if you dare!), writing as much as I can on these things (maybe someday an archaeologist from the future will find this crazy laptop full of my musings and ramblings and see how some of the BS went down…), reading (when I can handle it – which seems to be good most moments this week), and crying, medicating, and laughing at the dark humor (those three usually in that order).

I also find myself being quite grateful for all that we DO HAVE.  I am grateful for people like you who DO so much, SHARE so many ideas, and SUPPORT the process.  Because it may well be the stuff that Stops Line 3.  And I glory with the trees – on their beauty, their stoicism, and their coming reign. 

Have a good week.  And Good Luck.

Email to friends working in the Line 3 movement 3-8-2020

Here’s my letter to the US Army Corps of Engineers:

Dear USACE,

I am embarrassed that you all call yourselves “Engineers” while you FAIL to recognize the dangers of Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 project.  What are you thinking, considering addition of YET ANOTHER fossil fuel pipeline – Tar Sands, no less! – to our ever more fragile atmosphere?  Are you not listening to the scientists around the globe insisting that we MUST reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGe) ASAP?  We MUST transition AWAY from fossil fuels and move to safer energy streams… as fast as we possibly can.

Five-hundred fifteen (515) days ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued their 1.5 Report, which noted that “Limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels would require transformative systemic change, integrated with sustainable development, … implementation of far- reaching, multilevel and cross-sectoral climate mitigation, … linked to complementary adaptation actions.”   The IPCC basically gave humanity a decade to take strong action in order to meet goals, goals which we now know are insufficient to meet the 1.5°C target.

I’ve watched for decades as the Deal-with-Climate-Change can has been kicked down the road.  And we’ve seen what our current implementation of environmental policies on water quality and environmental review have given us here in Minnesota. 

  • We have a half million citizens drinking tainted water. 
  • We see the southern half of the state with substandard lakes. 
  • We have decimated our biodiversity as reported by the MN DNR.

Engineers are supposed to be the smart humans!  But perhaps you are guided more by political pressures or stymied by regulatory capture?  Come on, guys!  Use your engineer brains to determine that this Enbridge Proposed Line 3 Tar Sands Pipeline is NOT IN ALIGNMENT with protecting our environment for human habitation.

Or… You can spin your numbers all you’d like to check the boxes and say you’ve done your duty.  But I’d encourage you to look at the woods and waters around you.  We can see the local impacts already, especially here in northern MN.  Our wildlife is almost non-existent when compared with previous years.  Our forest is rapidly converting to prairie.  Our pollinators are nearly silent now compared to decades past.  But hey, we no longer need radiator insect shields on our vehicles!

Listen to the daily headlines.  Watch as the devastating stories come in from around the world.  And the WORLD matters in this decision because building Line 3 will unleash up to 193MT CO2 EVERY YEAR.  Scientists have made it clear that global greenhouse gas emissions need to trend to zero.  Why?  To maintain a planet hospitable to human life!  What a concept!

This is the question you need to answer.  Do you want to save Minnesota – and our nation – for our children and their children?  Or do you want to risk some of the cleanest waters in America by permitting a tar sands pipeline to be built across our Anishinaabe Treaty-protected lands?

It seems the Agencies Poorly Performing Environmental Analysis/Review Still want to permit Enbridge to push a tar sands pipeline through Northern Minnesota waters and wetlands while allowing “compensatory mitigation” to make up for any damages. What does this mean?  Well, it APPEARS to mean that the agencies want to allow Enbridge to cross some of the cleanest waters of our state, including across the Headwaters of the Mississippi River, as long as they PAY to purchase their access by helping make water quality improvements elsewhere to amend for the damages Line 3 will bring. 

So, let’s lay that out:

  • Enbridge can trudge under the Mississippi River – one of the highest valued water bodies in the state  (designated “Outstanding”) with a Tar Sands pipeline…
  • right through the Lake LaSalle Valley – which, per a retired DNR friend with years of experience on pipeline projects, is the “worst site” he’s ever seen for a Tar Sands pipeline route.
  • But then Enbridge can… what? Restore a stream that a farmer modified out-of-existence when he designed his field for growing crops, to make up for this destruction? 

If the 404 Certification is approved, the USACE is saying it is A-OK that we trade an Outstanding water body that fulfills untold biological responsibilities, many of which we barely or do not yet understand – AND provides drinking water for millions of Minnesotans and others along the Mississippi River route… for a substandard body of water.  All while we have no idea whether the new body restores real ecological value to the environment being “restored”! 

Enbridge gets their pipeline route, while Minnesotans get degraded water at the Headwaters of the Mississippi River and, as consolation, a restored stream somewhere near Brooks?  Wow.  Is this how the Army Corps of Engineers protects the drinking water for Americans?  By giving us a system with a continued downward spiral of poor water quality until we no longer have any valuable natural assets remaining?

WHY would we make that losing bargain??!?

No engineer – charged with protecting the environment and hoping to do so – ever would.  But it seems many engineers HAVE made poor decisions with regard to protecting our environment over the years.  We know now that those old decision-making systems have failed us.

It’s time for that bad decision-making to stop.  Before we’re out of time here on Mother Earth.

We KNOW that new pipelines are not proving any safer than old.  Data from 2015 shows us this, and if we added the data from the other spills on New Pipelines since 2013, we’d see further problems, especially with Tar Sands Pipelines.

As an example, look at the spills on the Keystone pipeline… now just 10 years old:

  • October 31, 2019 – 383,000 gallons (9000 barrels) in northeastern North Dakota – no cause yet determined.
  • February 6, 2019 – 1800 gallons in St. Charles County, Missouri – metallurgical failure.
  • February 20, 2018 – 15 gallons in Steele City, Nebraska – leaky float control valve.
  • November 16, 2017 – 407,000 gallons near Amherst, South Dakota – originally reported as 210,000 gallons – weight, meant to keep the pipeline in place, damaged corrosion-resistant coating leading to rupture.
  • December 27, 2018 – 10 gallons at a pump station near Tina, Missouri – no reported cause.
  • April 2, 2016 – 16,800 gallons in Hutchinson County, South Dakota – faulty girth weld.
  • July 24, 2014 – 30 gallons in Nederland, Texas – no reported cause.
  • March 7, 2013 – 15 gallons near Potwin, Kansas – no reported cause.
  • May 29, 2011 – 14,000 gallons in southeastern North Dakota – metallurgical failure.  
  • May 25, 2011 – “unknown volume” at Roswell Pump Station – metallurgical failure.
  • May 7, 2011 – 16,800 gallons (400 barrels) at Ludden Pump Station in North Dakota – metallurgical failure (reported as likely caused by over-torque at installation).
  • March 16, 2011 – 126 gallons at Seneca Pump Station in Nemaha County, Kansas – seal failure.
  • March 8, 2011 – 5 gallons at Ludden Pump Station near Brampton, North Dakota – seal failure.
  • February 23, 2011 – 10 gallons at Rock Pump Station near Udall, Kansas – possible leaky fitting.
  • February 2, 2011 – 15 gallons at a pump station in Cushing, Oklahoma – failed vapor separator.
  • January 31, 2011 – 10 gallons at a pump station near Turney, Missouri – seal failure.
  • January 5, 2011 – 10 gallons at a pump station near Andover, South Dakota – faulty seal.
  • August 19, 2010 – 20 gallons near Hartington, Nebraska – check valve failure.
  • August 10, 2010 – 5 gallons near Freeman, South Dakota – cause unknown.
  • June 23, 2010 – 20 gallons at Roswell Pump Station in North Dakota – equipment failure.
  • May 21, 2010 – 2 gallons at Carpenter Pump Station in Clark County, South Dakota – leaking valve body.

That’s 21 leaks adding up to over 800,000 gallons of spilled crude!

Meanwhile, Line 3 has spilled only 66 gallons in the last dozen years!  That’s well under 2 barrels!!  Are we really willing to risk destruction of so much valuable natural infrastructure to get better than that – less than 2 barrels in over a decade???

{Thanks, Paul for this chart… and the next!!}
{So, Old Line 3 is trending well… And is Enbridge’s responsibility for safety…}

In fact, the current Line 3 may very well be out-performing new pipelines because it is operating under a Consent Decree from the United States government, which requires Enbridge to fully inspect every inch of their Original Line 3 each year – inspection only required every five years for new pipelines. Original Line 3 is the devil we KNOW.  Intimately.  Enbridge knows every inch of that pipeline and gets to know it better – as well as how it is changing over time – as they perform the thorough annual inspections mandated under the Federal Consent Decree.  

This Consent Decree would not apply to a New Line 3.

With a new pipeline installation comes unfamiliarity.  And a possibility for massive failure if Keystone is any indication. 

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made to PHMSA in 2013 returns documents uncovering an alarming rate of corrosion on TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline: “a section of the pipeline’s wall had corroded 95%, leaving it paper-thin in one area (one-third the thickness of a dime) and dangerously thin in three other places.” PHMSA did not disclose a cause for the corrosion at the time, saying it “might impact an ongoing compliance review the agency is conducting of TransCanada.”

This excessive metal loss anomaly was detected on September 28, 2012.  When the vendor reported the anomaly on October 17th, and the Keystone pipeline was shut down for safety concerns, the pipeline had only been in operation for two (2) years.  New pipelines DO NOT assure safety or environmental protection for Minnesotans.

A NEW Line 3 would be the devil we DO NOT KNOW.

And a New Line 3 is incompatible with a plan for continued human habitation of Planet Earth.

Enbridge testified during PUC Hearings that they can and will continue to operate Original Line 3 safely if a New Line 3 is not approved.   Let’s let them!

But if you DO want to continue with approvals on this pipe dream of a project, you must FULLY consider the environmental effects.  As such, you must consider your own Environmental Impact Statement for the places where the Minnesota Department of Commerce EIS on the proposed Line 3 project has failed.  You must do all you can to protect what remains of our fragile home planet.

You have enough understanding of our current global climate catastrophe to know the fossil fuel era is ending.  Divestment shows the end of this industry is near.  So it’s a good thing you have all the understanding you need to DENY the 404 Certification and all other permits for this deadly pipeline proposal. 

Please do. 

It’s your duty to your fellow humans.

Sincerely,

Jami Gaither