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After posting last week’s blog, I got a request to update folks on what the current legal status is for the proposed Enbridge Line 3 project. I will admit my title was a bit deceiving… the Motions for Stay to the Court of Appeals were what I was anticipating, not a Stay decision, which would take a few more days… or longer.

While Enbridge experienced their first fatality on the project, we still hear no word from the Walz Administration to give pause for the project. No stopping for death of any kind it seems… The politics on the Virus and the Project are undeniable these days. 😦

So, where are we exactly with the Line 3 legal fight? This is what Kevin Whelen, former Executive Director for MN350 and current Line 3 Water Protector active in the Palisade, MN area wanted to know after reading last week’s blog.

RE Kevin’s request for an overview:

Friends of the Headwaters hopes that the court will expedite a stay request, but it’s unlikely that our other appeals will get decisions before spring.

Current FOH court appeals regarding the Line 3 oil pipeline:

* A challenge to the MN Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) misguided and lackadaisical decisions around the contested case and the water permits.

* An appeal DISPUTING THE ADEQUACY OF EIS, the Line 3 Environmental Impact Statement.

* A STAY ON LINE 3 CONSTRUCTION until the appeals have been heard, argued, and decided.

* An appeal CHALLENGING THE MN PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION (PUC)–its process, its lazy acceptance of incomplete Enbridge data, its willful ignorance regarding the MN Environmental Policy Act, and its incoherent rationale for Line 3.

* A legal complaint regarding the US Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) 404 permit.

Friends of the Headwaters’ member response on FB 12-15-20 (my additions)

What does all this mean? And when can we hope for relief from the Enbridge onslaught to our forests and wetlands?

We must first remember how unlikely a Stay is to secure: 50% of requests don’t get the desired ruling. It’s almost always a long-shot. That said, 2020 isn’t like most other times. And the presence of a Global Pandemic, alongside increasing evidence that we need urgent and immediate response by governments as the planet burns, floods, and convulses due to the human activity – may help our cases.

The LTEs are fast and furious, with most of the Enbridge support focusing on jobs and profits and most of the opposition focused on the risks for death and environmental destruction. Which do YOU find “Irreparable”? I think it’s pretty clear we can fix jobs and financial problems while death is hard to remedy… whether it’s an 80-year old tree or your 80-year old Grandma.

A temporary Stay for cultural reasons was issued recently when on December 5th the project encountered a lodge (waaginogaan) near the proposed SECOND crossing under the Mississippi River. [Why cross once when you can cross TWICE? FFS. This project is a bad idea for SO MANY FUCKING reasons.] To my knowledge, Enbridge has YET to produce their Cultural Resources Monitor to review the location with The People, though work continues to the west of the lodge, including on a drill pad at the Mississippi River. [18:55 is a summary by Winona of the project. Permits with no enforcement power… No protection of the Water. The details on the Cultural Resources Monitor is at 26:30 (24:24-28:00 covers the topic). So far, no response for the White Earth Tribal Historic Preservation Officer on a name for that Enbridge representative, who is supposed to be leading any work that involves digging? Who can call Enbridge to task for NOT having the Appropriate Cultural personnel to do a project of this magnitude through Indian Country??? It seems no one. It’s been more than two weeks and no response from the MPCA, PUC, DNR, or even Enbridge – as they barrel on with their work.

Winona also mentioned the death at Hill City and the speed Enbridge is using on this project. She notes (28:25) that Transmountain had two workers die and an injury (12/16/20) and they have closed their project down this week. That article notes the injury occurred after MULTIPLE COVID violations were discovered on inspections. There was also a father of 4 lost in late October on the project – “That injury comes seven weeks after an employee of SA Energy — the contractor leading the pipeline expansion work in the Edmonton region — died at a work site on the outskirts of the Alberta capital. Samatar Sahal, 40, was caught and pinned under a crossbeam of a trench box that was being disassembled at a Trans Mountain site on Oct. 27.” Rushing pipelines IS a dangerous thing.

Trans Mountain is suspending all work in Burnaby and across the entire pipeline route starting Friday, Dec. 18 until Jan. 4, 2021, says a statement. …

The accident follows revelations that federal regulators recently found “systemic non-compliances” of COVID-19 mask rules at Trans Mountain worksites in Burnaby and the Lower Mainland.

Four workers were sent home following an inspection that found more than three dozen violations by contractors in three days.

Canadian Energy Regulator staff conducted a compliance inspection at the Westridge Marine Terminal (Dec. 1) and the Burnaby Terminal (Dec. 2) on Burnaby Mountain. The inspection also focused on “Spread 7,” the section of the pipeline expansion construction being done in the Lower Mainland, on Dec. 3. Work at each of these sites is contracted out to Kiewit-Ledcor Trans Mountain Partnership (KLTP).

Over the course of those three days, the inspector found 37 violations of three COVID protocols set out by Trans Mountain’s COVID-19 response plan.”

Trans Mountain suspends project in Burnaby and across pipeline route after worker hurt Are they being considerate humans? Or screwing workers out of holiday pay?

And is this kind of COVID violation happening in Minnesota on the Line 3 project? Some photos have been secured on non-complying contractors locally. Regardless of whether or not protocols are followed, COVID is a real risk in our communities. This is a screenshot from a recent FB posting for an employee on the Line 3 project:

Crews falling victim to the Virus… what does this mean for the local community?

State of the Current Legal Cases

As noted above, there are multiple fronts in this tar sands pipeline opposition:

  1. Appeals disputing the Adequacy of the EIS, the Certificate of Need, and Route Permit are currently filed with the MN Court of Appeals. [Initial Briefs on these cases were just recently filed (Red Lake, White Earth, & Mille Lacs Bands, along with Youth Climate Intervenors, Friends of the Headwaters, Sierra Club, Honor the Earth, and the Minnesota Department of Commerce) though the cases will take many months for completion. Hence, a Motion for Stay on the project until the judicial process can make a ruling.] These filings challenge all aspects of the PUC process, which the Office of Legislative Auditors reported did not adhere to the law with regard to public engagement.
  2. A Motion for Stay on Line 3 Construction to assure all appeals have been heard, argued, and decided was filed November 25th and heard 12/4/20 in an expedited Hearing by the PUC who promptly refused it on a 4-1 vote. This past Thursday, Parties filed a Motion for Reconsideration to the PUC to give them ONE LAST CHANCE to grant a Motion to Stay the project by holding their Orders of approval for the project. This hearing happens on December 23rd [though I doubt the obstinate PUC Commissioners will budge]. Red Lake and White Earth Bands will have ability to act once the PUC a decision on the Motion for Reconsideration has been decided; filing in court if denied again, or celebrating a change of heart by the four Enbridge-programmed Commissioners if approved. This could happen by Christmas Eve! [Don’t hold your breath though!]
  3. Challenging the MPCA ruling on the contested case hearing and their water permits has pushed out as the MPCA has asked for an extension on their response, pushing this case into the new year for briefs. [And, based on a recent MN350Action report on the MN Chamber of Commerce, this avenue may be a long-shot given Laura Bishop’s long-standing ties to Big Business.]
  4. A legal complaint regarding the US Army Corps of Engineers’ 404 permit. This is still in the works as it regards Federal courts as opposed to Minnesota Courts as the USACE is a Federal Agency. This work may also depend on additional factors (which I’m just too tired to investigate at this point… and I guess we have time, though perhaps by next week I can give an update).

Once filed with the Minnesota Court of Appeals, estimates are 15-20 days being about as quick as the Stay could be issued – not much less as Enbridge will be offered a chance to respond. Based on all the reading I have done, the case seems pretty cut-and-dried. And the scientific evidence is certainly piling up against it being a good idea to 1) build a tar sands pipeline ever again, and 2) to even consider doing that unnecessary work during a global pandemic.

Here’s hoping that the Court of Appeals will represent a branch of Minnesota government showing reason and an adherence to the law – kinda their balliwick, eh? – as we’ve not seen that to date from the Executive or Legislative branches. The politics of collusion with Enbridge is thick and includes our media – even resulting in Osterholm NOT being asked about the effect of Line 3 pipeliners coming into the state on River Radio… though a local politician had asked for the question to be presented. Though he did mention that, even with the vaccine, we’ll be seeing the effects from COVID for “many years to come”. He also worried about the tremendous damage we’re doing with PTSD to our health care professionals. Yet, still no #DelayLine3 effort from the Walz Administration? Perhaps they can get Ellison and Osterholm on TOGETHER and talk the Science of Climate Change and COVID and how the Enbridge Line 3 project makes NO SENSE on either front. The focus of the program was on economics, not life, it seems. 😦

Resistance Along the Enbridge Corridor of Death

Rather than write much, I’ll direct you to Healing Minnesota Stories’ Monday blog post about their last weekend’s experience. Sadly, DNR Conservation Officers have been co-opted to work against the citizens of Minnesota – also illegally – in supporting the Canadian Oil Transport Company, Enbridge, over the People of Minnesota. I will note that the treatment of Water Protectors and Natives, and their culture especially, has been egregious. Officers grabbing a Staff (these revered beings are to be respected) and holding people with hands bound behind their backs in freezing temperatures for almost an hour? WTF? How is THAT humane? Strip searching people for petty misdemeanor offenses? During a pandemic? Taking N95 masks from vulnerable parties and giving them paper masks? These aren’t hardened criminals that required jailing, they are young women and older ladies standing to protect the water! The actions of this Sheriff were beyond comprehension and truly are criminal. It is clear the intention was to dissuade further voice to those opposing the Line 3 project. I do not think their actions will be successful. I think mainly they will reveal the inhumanity of our law enforcement officers acting as goons… for a few Enbridge dollars.

Three Honor the Earth and Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light volunteers accessed the waaginogaan area for prayer. We were up the river bank – 150 yards from ANY construction – and were besieged by eight DNR Officers crashing through the woods yelling at us, citing us. Definitely a show of force.”

Shared after an early December experience at the proposed Line 3 Mississippi River Crossing

The Global Situation

Big news this past week regarding Lloyd’s of London:

Caving to pressure from climate action campaigners, Lloyd’s of London, the world’s largest insurance market, announced Wednesday that it will no longer cover coal-fired power plants and mines, tar sands, or Arctic energy exploration activities from January 2022 onward, with plans to fully phase out such businesses by 2030.

Under Pressure From Climate Activists, World’s Largest Insurance Market to Ditch Coal, Tar Sands, and Arctic Projects 12/17/20 Common Dreams

Meanwhile, Climate Justice Advocacy groups bemoan the announcement as still too little, too late:

We welcome Lloyd’s new policy of no longer providing new insurance cover for coal-fired power plants, thermal coal mines, oil sands, and new Arctic energy exploration as a step in the right direction,” said Lindsay Keenan, European coordinator for Insure Our Future, in a statement. “However, the policy should take effect now, not 2022.”

“Additionally, the target date for Lloyd’s to phase out existing policies should be January 2021 for companies still developing new coal and tar sand projects,” she said. “Lloyd’s 2030 deadline is not justified by climate science and the urgent need for action. We will continue to hold Lloyd’s accountable until it has met these recommendations.” …

Flora Rebello Arduini, senior campaigner consultant for SumOfUs… “Lloyd’s needs to prohibits all members of its market from renewing insurance for the Adani Carmichael coal mine, the Trans Mountain tar sand pipeline extension, and other such climate-wrecking projects when they come up for renewal in 2021, not in 2030.” …

Elana Sulakshana, energy finance campaigner at Rainforest Action Network, put it: “Lloyd’s is sending a message to the U.S. insurance industry that it cannot continue its unchecked support for climate-wrecking projects under the Lloyd’s name.”

“Building on today’s momentum, we will continue pressuring the U.S. insurance industry to match and exceed Lloyd’s policies across their entire fossil fuel underwriting and investment portfolios,” Sulakshana vowed. …

Lloyd’s announcement is “a step in the right direction” but “not enough,” said Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee. ” As Indigenous Peoples, we are living in ground zero of climate change while fighting to protect our sacred lands and our ways of life. People need to understand that the land, the water, and the animals are what makes us who we are.”

“Our human rights have been violated not just by our government but by corporations and people that are not educated on Indigenous issues,” she added. “We urge Lloyd’s to join AXA and Swiss Re to exclude themselves from any Arctic Refuge energy development or exploration immediately and show the world that they respect the rights of Indigenous peoples whose lives will forever change if drilling is to occur.

Under Pressure From Climate Activists, World’s Largest Insurance Market to Ditch Coal, Tar Sands, and Arctic Projects 12/17/20 Common Dreams

The piece notes: “AIG, Liberty Mutual, and other U.S. insurers that operate Lloyd’s syndicates will be forced to abide by the new rules for their underwriting.”

So that could mean Enbridge will no longer have insurance for their pipelines NEAR-TERM. THIS should be a good reason to evaluate whether we REALLY want a Tar Sands pipeline pushed through Minnesota forests and wetlands. I mean, who is gonna pay for the spill if Enbridge no longer has an insurance policy?


Enbridge can’t even file their fucking compliance paperwork correctly:

Enbridge can’t even get the paperwork filed accurately…
Enbridge says the mainline is 6.8% complete and Right-of-Way clearing is 14% complete.
If we don’t get a Stay soon, Enbridge could clear all our trees before we can save them.

If they can’t even complete their compliance filings correctly – something they’d done hundreds of times over the decades – How On EARTH can we trust them to comply with the complex things like engineering documents and environmental permits… or novel things like COVID protocols? For crying out loud, they’ve already RUSHED to their FIRST Fatality on the Project… Days ago now, yet no details have emerged. [As of Sunday evening.]

With a safety track record like theirs, is it any wonder they’ve already experience a fatality on the project?

And what of our own Minnesota DNR? I hear they were threatening newly-elected Minnesota Legislators with arrest this past weekend. Guess they’ll see how that threatening nature goes for them moving forward. [My money is on the Legislative Ladies! Bunch of STRONG VOICES willing to speak up for THE PEOPLE.]

#StayLine3 #DelayLine3 #Pause4Pandemic

Since it is Solstice time, I’m passing along the greetings we sent to the Relay for Our Water participants. It was the fun part of the last week… making this with good friends and allies.