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Here’s my latest missive to the MPCA.

Dear Ms. Kuskie,

I’m wondering if you can answer some of my questions regarding the continued concerns we have along the Enbridge Corridor.

While I’ve been reaching out to the MPCA’s reported Tribal Liaison, I’ve had no response.

As an abutter to the project, who’s been working with my friends, including many Native women leaders, for years now… to stop this project through Indian country, I was hopeful that my that my questions would matter to the MPCA and would get response.

Perhaps you can tell me what, if anything, is being done to address the frac-out conditions that appear to be still rising in the Mississippi Headwaters River Valley here?  The beavers have noted it and are working to mitigate.

11-10-21 Photo of Mizi-Ziibi with Miskwaabiimizh from Amik (Mississippi River with Red Willow from Beaver)

They, Amikwag, seem the only ones doing anything about our environmental concerns along Line 3, or Line 93, as Enbridge had dubbed their new project, as is evidence by the Red Willow (Miskwaabiimizh) being placed in the flow of Misi-ziibi just downstream of the pipeline crossing. 

Let me know if you have any answers regarding the ongoing disturbances to our flora and fauna along this project, which continues to gain attention… especially as Enbridge continues to be ever present in our neighborhoods up here in Clearwater County.

Just yesterday we saw a large Precision Pipeline semi trundling past the house mid-afternoon.

Maybe you can tell me what is happening in the forests and wetlands near my home?

Thanks for your consideration.

While prior to construction the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources was given less attention than the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (as the agency responsible for the 401 Clean Water Permit), it seems the DNR and MPCA have now switched places with the DNR getting most of the attention and the MPCA getting little.

Not that paying attention to the DNR construction permits would have made a difference… because Enbridge willfully violated those permits in their actions that burst open the Aquifer at the Clearbrook terminal.

But the lack of oversight was clear from both Agencies.

Both Agencies failed to stop this project when, by all rights, they should have.

Problem is… no Minnesota State Agency appears to have wanted to stop the Project.

The story most telling of their unwillingness to stop the Project goes way back to February 5th of last year, almost 2 years ago now.

A group of Minnesota scientists – including retirees from both MDNR & MPCA as well as Healthcare Professionals for Healthy Climate (HP4HC) and Science for the People – Twin Cities (SftP), joined Indigenous Leaders from RISE Coalition and Honor the Earth, along with state non-profit groups (Sierra Club & MN350), along with legal and spiritual representation, to FINALLY meet with MPCA staff to discuss how they could work to deny the 401 permit for the tar sands pipeline project – opposed by all these groups. 

Our membership included membership from White Earth Reservation, which continues to oppose the Line 3 project to this day, and is supporting multiple legal challenges from the 404 Permit issued by the US Army Corps of Engineers to the White Earth Tribal Court case where Manoomin is suing the state DNR for the Right to Life.

The arrival at the MPCA that morning was different from other times we’d visited the MPCA for meetings. While many of the representatives had traveled hours from Northern Minnesota, hoping to, as usual, gather in the cafeteria for refreshment and review prior to our meeting,  the desk staff refused us entry. The first members of our group were two young white men, one representing MN350 and one Honor the Earth. Others of us – still on the road – were contacted for help and we reached out to MPCA staff to determine what the problem might be. On arrival of my caravan, which included retired MPCA staff, two citizens who live along the Enbridge route, and a pastor (all white), and following some additional discussion, we were eventually led back to the cafeteria by an MPCA staffer.

To show the level of concern and fear of Minnesota Citizens in our Agencies, then-Commissioner Laura Bishop came personally to the cafeteria to explain, “they thought you might be protesters.”

She apologized and left us to our lunch. It was only in hindsight that we’d realize why they may have been so touchy… as they were readying a weapon that aimed to derail the public… and it was just about to launch.

On arrival to the MPCA conference room, we were welcomed and seated. And then came the moment of truth for me in this campaign, the moment that I realized how FUCKED we were when it came to the MPCA.

Commissioner Bishop came into the room as the meeting began and gleefully announced that, AS WE SPOKE [Oh, boy!], the MPCA had just issued a memo noting…

wait for it….

The MPCA had Issued a Draft APPROVAL for Enbridge’s draft 401 permit!

All I could think, as this bombshell exploded was:
Why. THE. FUCK. Are WE even HERE? 
If the decision had already been made by the Agency?

Just another in the short list of “let’s pretend we’re gonna listen to the Water Protectors” meetings that were never intended to truly hear us. Instead, we were left to work on how to make the public hearings as ROBUST for Public Comment as possible. [Though it would later become clear, that testimony would also be largely ignored by the MPCA.]

Peter Tester, who became Commissioner temporarily when Laura resigned the following summer (on the cusp of being fired by the Senate, and likely to assure she could be placed AGAIN in a position of influence, which dismissal by the Senate would preclude) made a couple big promises that day, neither of which were fulfilled.
1) To review and consider any documentation we could provide to show why the permit should not be granted.
2) To be accountable to us.

Since that meeting, one of the VERY FEW given to Minnesota citizens hoping to Stop the unnecessary Enbridge pipeline project, all that we’ve seen from the MPCA and DNR has been failure.

1) Failure to WATCH Enbridge as they worked on one of the largest infrastructure projects to not benefit Minnesota that has ever crossed the state.

2) Failure to pull permits when Enbridge violations were discovered.

There are many places the states agencies failed us and a few of the most egregious during construction were:

  1. Enbridge’s frac-out into the Mississippi River at the second crossing. 6000-9000 gallons of drilling mud frac-out into Misi-ziibi… DURING A PERIOD WHEN DRILLING WAS RESTRICTED FROM HAPPENING! [June 25th – violating the April 1- June 30 restriction period.] This was the first of frac-outs that occurring in Mississippi River. [MPCA FAILURE]
  2. July frac-outs into Misi-ziibi Headwaters at the first crossing, where frac-out materials were left in the wetlands and, to this day, continue to show presence in the River Valley. [MPCA FAILURE]
  3. Unbeknownst to citizens, until the mid-September notice, Enbridge willfully violated their construction permit, not informing the DNR of an aquifer breach for almost 5 months! Even though the DNR knew of the problems and it’s effects by early July, no notice was given to citizens for TWO MORE MONTHS… as Enbridge construction continued along the remainder of their corridor. [MDNR FAILURE]

I ask AGAIN:

And now we see:
1) A lack of work to remedy failures to the 401 permit on the frac-out concerns that remain.

2) Continued and apparently failing work by Enbridge to remedy the KNOWN Aquifer Breach in Clearbrook. TEN (10) full months since it happened now! LONGER THAN IT TOOK TO BUILD 337 MILES of Tar Sands Pipeline across our state… which was apparently the priority to remedying the aquifer breach threatening fragile calcareous fens. [FFS. If this doesn’t awaken people to the State’s priorities, will anything? (see more on that at the end of the blog…)]

3) No public transparency to the other two Breaches reportedly in existence per the DNR.

As we saw with COP26, our Agencies and “Leaders” are failing us. Not just here in Minnesota, but around the world, as they appear bound to helping their fossil fuel friends continue to destroy our planetary home.

Want to read more on the forest devastation being driven by our fossil fueled world? Check this out.

Want to read more on groups working to hold the Minnesota DNR accountable? Check out this recent blog post from Agate‘s Stephanie Hemphill.

Update: Received a response from Ms. Kuskie on 11/30/21 (after I re-requested a response):

Hi Jami,

Apologies for the delayed response, I was out of office last week. Though primary construction of the line is generally complete, the MPCA continues to review monitoring information and oversee ongoing work, and the independent environmental monitors are still active. HDD work, where pressurized drilling mud was in use, ended in early August, and the MPCA made available information on the “frac outs” reported to us around that time. I apologize for being unable to provide further detail at this time; Minn Stat 13.39 classifies as non-public data related to active investigations.

Thanks for reaching out last week and for sending me a nudge today.


Response – or should I say Non-response… from Ms. Kuskie 11/30/21 13:26

Apparently, the public doesn’t need to know anything.