Still no answer on SOOOOO Many Questions around the Enbridge Line 3 Tar Sands Relocation and Expansion Pipeline Project. And today we’ll give a video explanation of what we’re seeing at the Aquifer Breach at the Enbridge Clearbrook Terminal that remains… Un-Resolved. So, as much as DNR has given another Resolution to Enbridge… we see no resolution of their many egregious damages along the Line 93 Corridor – as the Canadian Company has named their new pipeline.
When we moved to northern Minnesota back in 2016 we were pretty surprised to see so much animosity towards the Minnesota DNR. We’d moved to Minnesota for the abundant water and large trees we found in Clearwater County. We figured the hunting and fishing crowd would be real excited about what the DNR typically does – making trails into forests for ATVs, managing woodlands and wetlands (so we thought) for the citizenry, and generally assuring their Mission:
The mission of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is to work with Minnesotans to conserve and manage the state’s natural resources, to provide outdoor recreation opportunities, and to provide for commercial uses of natural resources in a way that creates a sustainable quality of life.“MN DNR Mission Statement
We’re getting it now…
After 7 years of work in trying to protect the clean waters within our landscape, we’ve watched the DNR work more towards destruction than anything. They’ve been helped along by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency but we’re focused on the DNR for today’s Emergency Blog.
Perhaps taking a look at the DNR’s explanation of their mission statement will give some clues…
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources works to integrate and sustain the interdependent values of a healthy environment, a sustainable economy, and livable communities. DNR’s integrated resource management strategy shares stewardship responsibility with Minnesotans and partners to manage for multiple interests. DNR protects the state’s natural heritage by conserving the diversity of natural lands, waters, and fish and wildlife that provide the foundation for Minnesota’s recreational and natural resource-based economy (M.S. 84, M.S. 97A). DNR manages natural lands such as forests, wetlands, and native prairies; maintains healthy populations of fish and wildlife; and protects rare plant and animal communities throughout the state. DNR manages the state’s water resources, sustaining healthy waterways and ground water resources. DNR provides access to enrich public outdoor recreational opportunities, such as hunting, fishing, wildlife-watching, camping, skiing, hiking, biking, motorized recreation, and conservation education through a state outdoor recreation system that includes parks, trails, wildlife management areas, scientific and natural areas, water trails, and other facilities (M.S. 86A). DNR supports natural resource-based economies, managing state forest lands for multiple forest values (M.S. 89), ensuring the maximum long-term economic return from school trust lands (M.S. 127A), and providing other economic opportunities in a manner consistent with sound natural resource conservation and management principles.”MN DNR Mission Statement (my emphasis)
So, it looks from here like MDNR is “managing” our natural resources for their “economic” value with their… “partners“. Yeah.
I once sat at lunch with Commissioner Strommen and asked her why it seemed the statutes for MDNR seemed mainly about overseeing the sales of natural resources and documenting to whom they sold them. She asked if I’d read the whole statute… but couldn’t tell me more about why they aren’t just about that. So I asked for her proudest achievement as Commissioner of the DNR. Now… granted, this was December 3, 2019… so maybe she hadn’t been in the job long enough to find a better one… still, her answer was pretty disappointing. She mentioned being super excited for a DNR public town hall that was REALLY well attended! I was nonplussed.
Today, we found another opportunity for a public gathering with the MN DNR and I’m betting she wasn’t NEARLY as excited about it. Let’s find out what happened!
The meeting was scheduled for 2 PM – ironically, at the same time many Environmental Groups opposed to Line 3 were ALSO meeting. Hmmm… No coincidence there? Divide and Conquer – that is the way of Empire.
I noted this comment pretty much summed up my opinion:
Gail Nosek, Communications Director for the MN DNR encouraged attendance with her re-tweet of the event:
So… I had to ask – afterwards:
Turns out, THIS was more the result of their “Office Hours” meeting:
What questions DID they hear? It seems the DNR was excited to tweet about that too! Though, as noted by the Minnesota Department of Snark, those didn’t include mine…
So, what was my question? I’m glad you asked!!! …though the MN DNR didn’t quite answer it.
My question is in regards understanding how the Minnesota DNR as land manager will adequately address climate change in Minnesota, especially as Commissioner Strommen mentioned the power of trees, and others spoke of water mgmt, both of which factor into my question.
In addition to other concerns in my past experience with MDNR, my recent reading of the Restoration and Replacement Order issued to Enbridge on their Line 3 project, troubled me as the DNR, following not just one or two but at LEAST SEVEN reports from the Independent Environmental Monitors, did nothing to intervene with expertise.
The February 2, 2021 report noted: “Due to excessive groundwater infiltration the site was backfilled and sheet piling was initiated. Despite backfill, groundwater has flowed to the surface.”
I’d ask WHY at that time NO ONE with MORE EXPERIENCE from the DNR came to review the situation. What did the Monitors think of this unrelenting groundwater flow? Why was this not seen as a situation that might require more expertise than theirs?
On February 20th, a Saturday, even the Environmental Resources Management group’s Technical Director “agreed that the turbidity was unusual for a well point dewatering”…
Mid-March (on the 13th, 15th, & 16th) provided several reports in close succession regarding fine clay sediments and included in the final report a notice that “Enbridge issued [itself] an unacceptable report for improper dewatering structure” yet there was STILL NO MENTION from Enbridge OF A DIVERSION FROM THEIR CONSTRUCTION PERMIT, which might have assisted in far earlier resolution than a full three months later, when on June 15th, the IEMs happened to be asked by DNR staff about the “uncontrolled flow at the Clearbrook Terminal” of which (reportedly) “DNR staff were not previously aware”.
How were the DNR staff unaware when there were at least 7 reports regarding this situation in Q1? This mid-June report also notes: “Though the condition generated an Enbridge-issued “unacceptable” report in March, Enbridge did not bring the issue to DNR’s attention at that point either.” Does Enbridge have to ASK THE DNR to READ THEIR REPORTS? Is ANYONE AT DNR Reading the reports? Or are you all just trusting Enbridge to do what is right and “let you know” when you might need to hold them accountable?
Mr. Doneen took action the next day demanding more information, and, the following day, informed Enbridge to stop construction at this location. Why not STOP CONSTRUCTION for ALL ENBRIDGE WORK finding such an egregious error that had gone WITHOUT RESOLUTION by ENBRIDGE for almost 6 months!?!?
A full month later, flow continued and, though a 7/7/21 email from Merjent, Enbridge’s consultant, noted Enbridge was not monitoring flow or volume since March 18th, AND the bore pit was found in excess of that allowed in DNR’s constructon permit, AND on July 8th it was reported that a SECOND emergence of UNCONTROLLED FLOW “likely a direct result of the initial breach of the aquifer confining layer”, NO FULL STOPPAGE OF PIPELINE CONSTRUCTION OCCURRED! HOW can the citizens of Minnesota TRUST that the DNR will do ANYTHING PROACTIVE to assist in Climate Change when this is how poorly they oversee a project which is known to bring an incredible amount of exacerbation to the climate chaos we are already experiencing?Jami Gaither question during the DNR’s 9/23/21 Office Hour
You decide for yourselves. But they also didn’t answer these other questions, also in the chat…
- I am not feeling you have understood my concern… that DNR is not ON SITE in a major way during construction of such a large project that impacts climate implies a “let corporations do as they will” mentality. How can we trust your stance is NOT for major corporations as the Legislature may not allow you to be more proactive?
- Will Enbridge be allowed to have tar sands flow through their new pipeline BEFORE the aquifer situation is remedied?
- At what point WOULD DNR pull a permit? If the company WILLFULLY VIOLATED their Construction Permit – and it remains able to build their project, that seems to indicate the Permit you issued has NO VALUE.
I wrapped up by noting these things:
It’s been a pretty rough week. Last Tuesday, we got notice that the Minnesota Court of Appeals sided with the PUC’s decision-making in denying the Red Lake and White Earth Bands’ request for a Stay on the Line 3 project. It’s hard to comprehend how we follow Treaty Law and make a decision like that. But from my experience in Minnesota courts to date, there does not seem to be an application of Treaty Law, local Judges seeing themselves only as arms of the State, not the Federal, government. I believe this is an error in judgment. But I’m not fully trained as a lawyer so… what do I know?
There were a whole host of other debacles this past week that have left me feeling beaten down. Hopeless in moments, disturbed in others, darkly sad and alone in many others. When it rains, it pours. So, overall, a pretty rough time.
It’s been a hard couple months but I haven’t felt so much like just walking away from it all in a while. Trouble is, how does one walk away from accountability to the land, the trees, the water, the animals? I truly don’t think we’ve got much chance remaining to really save ourselves as a species. Though I focus on helping and not harming as much as possible these days, in hopes of leaving more for those who remain after us. Some weeks are more successful than others.
Perhaps one of the most heartbreaking pieces of the puzzle of dismay in the last week, was the sinking of a piece of Enbridge equipment in the LaSalle Creek Aquatic Management Area just south of us. We got word from a friend who’d seen the iNewzTV coverage. I was concerned about the person, in fact, so concerned that I’m surprised he was treated and released, one bit of good news in the last week. I was telling a friend Sunday, some things are so horrific, you are better off not recovering. Based on the reporting, it seemed this might be one of those cases. It reminded me of a friend I had who survived an explosion with pretty severe burns over a large portion of her body. She spoke of not wanting to survive. Dan too speaks to his own struggles in surviving his burns. While the physical pain was the driver in the beginning, in a society where trauma is not acknowledged and superficial beauty is so valued, pain is not the only concern as time passes. Some of those scars can last a lifetime.
Nonetheless, a bigger piece of my sad this week is for the beavers who were affected by this equipment failure. The pipeliner was trapped in the equipment and could not be freed. [Um, OSHA anyone? Perhaps some quick release latch on the plexiglass enclosures for emergency submerging situations? FFS has no one ever thought of this before?]
According to a report from iNewz.TV, the vehicle’s shatterproof plexiglass windows made it difficult for workers to free the victim, forcing them to break a nearby beaver dam in order to lower the water level inside the cab.”Line 3 pipeline worker rescued after being trapped underwater DECLAN DESMOND UPDATED: FEB 7, 2021 ORIGINAL: FEB 7, 2021
No mention in the coverage on how the beavers fared. And what was the effect on the surrounding environment? Was the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency or Department of Natural Resources on site to monitor the releases of oil into the water? Assure proper containment? We will see. My guess is no, based on how little they’ve done to protect Nature and how much they’ve done to accommodate industry in the years I’ve been civicly involved in Minnesota. And what I heard at the MPCA Rule Change meeting Thursday.
Dan and I went to see what we could document and found what appeared to be further work on trying to remove the equipment – at least that was our assessment.
A few years back a neighbor blew a beaver dam. I was shocked. It was early winter as I recall – snow on the ground. Those beavers were left homeless – or dead? – in a time when it would be harsh conditions to find new housing. As I said, perhaps some things are better off not surviving. And here again, we hear no plea for the beavers. No concern for their situation? Perhaps this is why we find ourselves in this mess.
Another Water Protector emailed her own dismay this weekend saying, “Sometimes I wish all the animals could rise up and defend themselves. All at once!” I replied:
I too wish the animals could defend against us. We’re too powerful and destructive. And they are not. That’s not how they live. Or how we should…
Regardless of how things go, we can be very proud of stopping so much of the Tar Sands these past half dozen years. That in itself has helped postpone the end of our species. Perhaps giving enough of us time to awaken, get serious, and listen to the Animals, Plant Nation, Nibi, and Aki.
These are the things that give me hope.
I will close with big thanks to all the lovely Water Protectors who have come to my aid this week in the struggle. We rely on each other in these times of darkness and I appreciate all who have given me support, strength, love, care, and hope. You help keep me sane as I make sense of all that is happening. And thanks also to all the others who brought me love, laughs, or perspective. And those who also are doing good… always an encouragement. I have some cards to make and send…
While I had another idea for the blog this week, with all the news around the changing of administrations here in the U.S., I felt a general update was more in order. So, here’s what’s happening from my perspective.
Enbridge continues to build their Tar Sands Pipeline in Northern Minnesota – while many in the state continue to be largely unaware that it’s happening. Or that it’s happening SO QUICKLY. I spoke with a local familiar with previous pipeline projects who noted that the SPEED of this project is “breakneck… much faster than when Koch was installing their pipeline”. What could go wrong? Stuff like this. And this:
On January 21st, we discovered Access Road 38B at the first of two proposed crossings of the Mississippi River. This is in the LaSalle Valley, which is depicted below in “Figure 15” with the proposed LaSalle Creek crossing.
While work at the second crossing is far more destructive thus far, it sure was horrible to see this as we’ve been happy to have quiet mostly since the State of Minnesota illegally approved this pipeline for construction.
The legal front is relatively quiet with the exception of Friends of the Headwaters submitting their challenge to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ 404 permit this week. Please donate to support their work as the cases are far from over… regardless of how quickly Enbridge rushes to build a pipeline before the Minnesota Court of Appeals can stop them! Others have filed as well. [Full disclosure: I’ve submitted a Declarant Statement on that filing.] And Enbridge has intervened. This photo, a part of the submitted documents, shows the worst place to put a Tar Sands pipeline per Paul Stolen of the DNR. This is what we are working to protect.
The game is now one of waiting and watching. And what are we seeing? So many stories. I will keep it to a brief few.
DNR began enforcing an area, at the second proposed Mississippi River crossing by this abominable project, initially in response to people being in the area expressing their first amendment rights. This sign was soon put up to create a Exclusion Zone – apparently by Enbridge, creating a No Trespassing Zone and gobbling up public space… which is illegal.
This zone DOUBLES the easement for Enbridge making it illegal for any “normal people” to get close enough to see what is going on and complain. Enbridge created a buffer zone against public scrutiny.
LATER the DNR sticker appeared on the sign. and LATER still “ENBRIDGE ENERGY LLC” was whited out.
We are also hearing of vehicles being hooked up to tow trucks WHILE PEOPLE ARE STILL INSIDE THEM. No notice, just… We’re gonna take you and your car away! WTF!?!?
And at an early gathering, Water Protectors dispersed after a warning by Aitkin County Sheriff Department. Some time later, and without a second dispersal order, DNR began rounding people up in the area, taking them to Aitkin County Jail where multiple problems were reported by Healing Minnesota Stories.
There are MANY and MORE DISTURBING stories to tell. And do you see Minnesota media covering these incidents? More on that at the end of the blog.
Meanwhile, the ugly face of the Minnesota Nice Deep North comes in the form of Representative Stauber in Washington, D.C. giving example of the audacity of white supremacy in a memo to his colleagues:
Tribes were quick to respond:
“(Y)our opposition to the first and only American Indian ever nominated to a cabinet position is likely to reverberate across Indian country,” said the letter to Stauber signed by Melanie Benjamin, Cathy Chavers, Robert F. Deschampe, Kevin R. Dupuis Sr., and Faron Jackson Sr. — tribal chairs representing, respectively, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.
“Most concerning is that you did not consult with us as the sovereign federally recognized tribal governments in your district in advance of initiating this effort that has such a direct impact on us as your American Indian constituents,” the letter added.Minnesota tribes blast Rep. Pete Stauber for opposing Interior nomination PR Enterprise 1-19-21
The U.S. Department of the Interior oversees management and conservation of most federal lands and natural resources.
A separate letter from the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes, based in Wisconsin, referred to Stauber’s efforts as “unprecedented,” and “a direct affront” to Indian Country. The alliance worked hard to advance Haaland’s nomination, it said, and asked Stauber to “step back” from leading the campaign against Haaland. It referenced Stauber’s position on the House Committee on Natural Resources.
“We are unaccustomed to any member of Congress serving in a leadership position on a committee or subcommittee with jurisdiction over Indian tribes taking such a public role in leading an attack that diametrically opposes the wishes of nearly all of Indian country,” it wrote.”Minnesota bands rip Pete Stauber for working to deny first Native American from joining US Cabinet Brady Slater | Jan 19th 2021
Well, Fuck Pete Stauber and his racist white supremacy agenda. Here’s hope for maybe saving the planet’s ability to maintain a habitat safe for humans? It sure looks and sounds like Biden is promising to do his best to make it so. Let’s hope that Haaland is appointed and… we have some good news already:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2021 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the appointment of Heather Dawn Thompson as Director of the Office of Tribal Relations (OTR) reporting to the Secretary of Agriculture. Thompson is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, a Harvard Law School graduate, and an expert in American Indian law, tribal sovereignty, and rural tribal economic development. With Thompson in place, USDA will return OTR directly under the Secretary, restoring the office’s important government-to-government role.U.S. Department of Agriculture Announces Heather Dawn Thompson as Director, Office of Tribal Relations
Meanwhile, Joe’s already starting to reverse the horrors of the last 4 years. Looks like his Executive Order on the Climate Crisis notes that the “heads of all agencies shall immediately review all existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions” that are inconsistent with Biden’s policy “to listen to the science; to improve public health and protect our environment; to ensure access to clean air and water; to limit exposure to dangerous chemicals and pesticides; to hold polluters accountable, including those who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities; to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; to bolster resilience to the impacts of climate change; to restore and expand our national treasures and monuments; and to prioritize both environmental justice and the creation of the well-paying union jobs necessary to deliver on these goals. ” This work will be done using the “best science” thus protecting the “integrity of the Federal decision-making”.
Within 30 days of the date of this order, heads of agencies shall submit to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a preliminary list of any actions being considered … that would be completed by December 31, 2021, and that would be subject to OMB review. Within 90 days of the date of this order, heads of agencies shall submit to the Director of OMB an updated list of any actions being considered … that would be completed by December 31, 2025, and that would be subject to OMB review.
… (d) The Attorney General may, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, provide notice of this order and any actions taken … to any court with jurisdiction over pending litigation related to those agency actions identified … and may, in his discretion, request that the court stay or otherwise dispose of litigation, or seek other appropriate relief consistent with this order, until the completion of the processes described in this order.
(e) In carrying out the actions directed in this section, heads of agencies shall seek input from the public and stakeholders, including State local, Tribal, and territorial officials, scientists, labor unions, environmental advocates, and environmental justice organizations.”Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis
And… looks like Big Oil continues to suffer losses.
The International Energy Agency on Tuesday cut its 2021 global oil demand forecast, citing soaring Covid-19 cases and renewed lockdown measures that will further limit mobility.”IEA cuts 2021 oil demand outlook as new Covid lockdowns weigh on fuel sales 1/19/21
Meanwhile, CBS Sunday Morning aired a piece on white middle-class climate refugees. Everyone can perhaps relate to the family from Paradise as each of us faces more potential for a climate disaster happening to us.
Sunday evening, the PBS Newshour spent most of their program on the TRUTH OF THE DANGERS of the Fossil Fuel industry. May Boeve from 350.org (6:20) gave REALLY good coverage of how Line 3 and DAPL are the SAME as KXL. You may recognize the “equivalent to 50 coal plant” reference – same as Line 3! Giving good credit to the Natives who started this work on KXL, and noting the alliance of folks across the board with that pipeline, just like we’re seeing here in Minnesota as more and more gather along the route to protest this bad idea. [10:40 is the focus on Line 3.] Governor Tim Walz is gonna have a hard time as Joe and his own state reps turn against his ongoing collusion with Enbridge to give them a new pipeline corridor through our lovely Indian country.
Later in the episode, it looks like Shell and BP are the places to buy gas? They pushed back on 45’s deregulation… [as they are DOING the improvements already? So those de-regs would favor the losers who weren’t? Thus boosting the part of the industry that is doing the LEAST for reducing GHG emissions.] Listen as the President of Shell gets honest. When Ari presses, Gretchen Watkins maintains. Great close for that show too – on the effect of the pandemic on a family.
“The reason the commission doesn’t authorize construction in the absence in a permit is that it makes no sense to enable a developer to begin digging up land and laying down the pipe when it may be that the subsequent permit is never obtained or it may be that the route of the project has to change because of the conditions associated with the subsequent permit,” Glick said.
Glick has been consistent on that point, but he was joined in opposing Mountain Valley’s request by a commissioner who was sworn in last month, Allison Clements. The commission’s newest member, Mark C. Christie, abstained from voting.”Federal commission slows Mountain Valley Pipeline Charleston Gazette-Mail 1-20-21
Let’s hope they feel that not-yet-recognized Treaty Rights are as important… in issuing an Injunction on the Line 3 project for the 404 Permit.
I want to close with a bit of a teaser. We got some really good insights today that may indicate we have an advantage over Enbridge in preventing their project from its most dangerous work. I will likely say more about this next week… or in an upcoming EMERGENCY Blog. For now, please keep hope. I know this is hard work and patience is wearing thin as we watch the destruction in our midst.
You know, I always wondered how Hilter happened and after 45, I can see how. I had also always wondered how the Homestead Strike was allowed to happen.
But that was in an era before we could all communicate immediately and widely.
Now it seems DNR, Aitkin County Sheriff Dan Guida, and his Deputies have allowed themselves to become Enbridge’s “Pinkerton” forces. Media has been used in this case as well with most Minnesota papers so beholden to Enbridge half-page ads that they cannot even bring themselves to go outside Enbridge terminology. They refer to this pipeline as a replacement. But this is NOT a RE-PLACEment – indicating in the SAME PLACE – but a RELOCATION of a pipeline. The goal is to secure a new corridor as the Leech Lake leases expire in just 8 years. And they have 6 pipelines to remove by then…
We’re not gonna let them.
The MEQB attempted to introduce Minnesotans to the newly appointed Governor’s Climate Change Subcabinet. And failed. Miserably. [@7:50 Laura Bishop (LB) really tells us how it is in MN government… with the “political, er public!” appointees.]
How badly did they fail? Well, they never even introduced the new Subcabinet appointees… AND they failed to get many answers for the questions posed by the public. Not a good showing, any way you slice it. And we will.
First, we should say where everyone was from:
[Wait, maybe first we should start with the lack of any land acknowledgement being shared? This is something I’ve grown to love hearing from the various groups with which I interact, a reminder of the Tribes’ long history with corrupt government.]
Do we give the MEQB a point for adding Western Minnesota quickly? [after a participant question] Or not? [because afterthought “Eastern” got no add] What exactly are the divisions about – to the MEQB. How is it ONE Minnesota if even the Metro suburbs are segregated out from urban proper? We all get the Metro/Rural divide [which I’ve written about before and which is ridiculous in this forum – I mean don’t we all drink water to live?], but what are these further divisions?
Northern, Central, Southern… Where are the boundaries? Is “Central” the I-94 corridor folks? Are “Southern” those poor folks whose water is already contaminated? “Northern” those pesky folks working to prevent Enbridge from destroying their clean watersheds? If we think these groups have some coalesced voice that requires grouping, what is it? [But, hey, gives you an idea of where people are paying attention to this rollout.]
The session opened, after this “ice-breaker” poll, with a welcome from Laura Bishop, Commissioner of the MPCA and Chair of the MEQB. She thanked Minnesotans for attending to learn more about what Minnesota government is doing to address climate change.
The size and scope of the climate crisis requires our swift action at every level to help protect our communities and ensure a sustainable future for all Minnesotans.
And we need and value your participation in these efforts.”Laura Bishop intro… We’ll see what they show us today in this vein. Note she also said, “Governor Walz has said, if Washington won’t lead on Climate Change, Minnesota will.” You tell me how confident you feel at the end of this blog about that.
Laura noted that we must work together… “This is the First One Minnesota Climate Forum!” [And she notes coordinating being done with the Tribes.]
Then we had a bit of Reflection guided by Mariah Levinson from the MN Department of Admin’s Office of Collaboration and Dispute Resolution – how apropos! 😀 [Using the Slido tool for dialogue – because why use a CHAT in the meeting when that would be easier? Either way, if you don’t have a computer, you’re shit outta luck for participation.] The Subcabinet and Board were encouraged to use their video to create the idea that we’re all in the same room together! This is the question for reflection (and my answer – one of MANY comments concerning Line 3):
At one point, three NoLine3 Comments were up top! [But we’re not gonna talk about Line 3 today!! Oh, yes we are, Laura Bishop.]
The Line 3 related question chosen was SURE to NOT mention Line 3. [Seriously, listen at 1:19:19]
We next moved on to introductions of the state agency reps where each spoke on “a potential climate solution” they are excited about. Lots about Clean Cars, EVs, and EV Infrastructure for BIG BENEFITS TO MN!
Grace Arnold, new Commissioner of Commerce reported after Commissioner Bishop, following on her lead, noting that getting pollution out of the air brings good health impacts. We spent about 20 minutes on these introductions for the MEQB. [And I have to say I CONTINUE to LOVE Jennifer Ho of Housing.] Nick Martin – newest MEQB member repping CD 4 – with background in electric, natural gas, transportation, ag, forestry sectors, spoke near the end. While I was a bit put off by his buzzword bingo, he made some interesting comments.
Ben Yawakie impressed with his comment:
… Loved what I’m hearing from everyone so I’ll just add something different and new. With respect to transitioning away from the use of fossil fuels, and also respecting tribal sovereignty and protecting water quality, by discontinuing any new projects such as Line 3. Thank you.Benjamin Yawakie, Citizen Board Member CD 3 No, Ben. Thank YOU!!!! ❤
Gerald Van Amberg reiterated getting “everyone on board” to address climate change. At about 45 minutes in, I was wondering how we were going to get to all the introductions for the 15 new Climate Change Subcabinet appointees. Well, no worry. We weren’t! Instead, we got some brief talks about ideas to see what MN is looking to do with the Subcabinet. About 50 minutes in you can see the additional structure of our government workers who will be solving the climate crisis here in Minnesota.
Faith Krogstad, Engagement Coordinator for the MEQB, talked about Climate Change Public Engagement Framework. [So we’ll continue to know our place?] She extended an invitation for us all to get involved and presented some slides from places where engagement IS HAPPENING, like Create – The Community Meal [Seitu Jones’ 2014 project – which is cool as shit so watch this video]. Lots of word salad about how they need to think about new ways to engage but sounds like it’s still a thing they aren’t sure how to do… She mentions a “different table” to get Minnesotans engaged, which includes an interesting approach but not one that seems very “new”. Same old system where individual inputs get buried by “Multilevel” players… Does this mean corporations and partnerships with monied interests?
Then she tells us to take the survey… I covered this last week so please read there on how to get your input heard!
Of the presentations, the only one I really appreciated (as it was not simply word salad of imagined future worlds with no real indication on HOW to get there, as were most of the other presentations) was given by Mary Otto, Tribal Liaison from the Department of Commerce, on Government to Government interactions. Mary gives historical perspective and detailed information on the reciprocity expressed in Tribal Culture. She shows how the MN Tribal Environmental Committee (previously the MN Tribal Executive Committee?) and State Tribal Liaison Coordination Team (MDA, MDT, MPCA, MDOC) overlap in their work with MOTHER EARTH and FUTURE GENERATIONS. What a concept.
Next Mary Robinson, Info Officer from the MPCA leading Comms and Outreach, discussed the online tools (so not available for all Minnesotans?) and Willis must have been SO HAPPY to see them using the language of “framing”, even if not totally seeming to quite get it yet. While there was some recognition that climate change is already happening – and last month all 15 agencies in the subcabinet got a new toolkit!! – it still feels very much that these folks are truly clueless about the real needs for redressing our situation. You can take action on Local Impacts, State of MN Actions or Community Solutions! Plans are pending for further development! This problem is NOT TOO BIG OR TOO COMPLEX TO TACKLE! [You can also find the new appointments to the advisory council here… I think they believe that simply APPOINTING THE CABINET was a SOLUTION???] Mariah assured us that FUTURE MEETINGS would have opportunities for more engagement. [Promises, promises?]
Then we entered the Q&A section of the meeting! With reflections and responses from our Subcabinet and MEQB Board members? Um… Not so much.
You can see in the above photo of Mary Otto’s presentation, how I was questioning in the chat why MY question was not being approved… [Wondering now if I hadn’t asked, if it EVER would have been approved!]
I added a question at the same time as MEQB Citizen Board member Kristin Eide-Tollefson (1:50 PM), yet you can see that both Matt Doll – Minnesota Environmental Partnership and J Drake Hamilton – Executive Director of Fresh Energy were BOTH approved before mine. What does this say about the algorithm for approval? Who is making those decisions?
While members were encouraged to respond, I saw VERY LITTLE of that during the meeting. Our first question? About urban and community forests… and Shannon Lotthammer responded, noting the Emerald Ash Borer work from 2019… and other projects in progress but that there is more space for things to happen and they are looking for input.
When it came to the second question, Faith Krogstad noted:
Just want to acknowledge that we have a large number of Line 3 questions and that’s obviously a very important topic to a lot of people within the state here so what I would like to do is find (pause) I’m selecting one, um, that actually doesn’t specifically mention Line 3 but I would just ask that anyone responding to it keep Line 3 in mind, um, this one I’m highlighting now:Faith Krogstad 1:19:20 WTF!?!? Why they so scared of Line 3?
What effective steps can Minnesotans and policy makers take to turn back future natural gas power plants and oil pipelines that will bring more oil through our state. All of these will build in more fossil use and hence climate change? Without effective action now we are derelict in our duties.”
Laura Bishop, currently holding power to approve or deny needed permits for the project at the MPCA, responded.
I think, you know, our getting together as a Climate Subcabinet as well as um doing this outreach to our communities is that first step in really understanding across um our agencies a place that we can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. So that is what our intent is with lowering our GHG emissions in the state and the goals that we have in place and the intent to you know come together as a Climate Subcabinet is really getting at that.
With regard to specific to Line 3, what I will say is you know there are all different agencies that have different aspects and the Governor has really asked us to look at the process that is in place as well as follow the science and each agency has, you know, that uh those authorities to look at so, as you know, we have Commerce who has oversight, the Public Utilities Commission that has oversight, DNR has um some oversight for as it relates to different uh wetlands and water crossings, uh as does MPCA with the uh water permits and construction stormwater permits AND we have the Army Corps of Engineers as well that plays a role. So there are many different pieces that have to come together and um certainly a pipeline that does not have a um stated or demonstrated need for supply um is one that um is being looked at right now um so that it’s something the Department of Commerce is has asked for the company to really designate and state the need um for that supply that would be going through the state. Otherwise, what happens is really our duties, um are to look at uh the construction and uh how that comes through the state. So doesn’t really answer the full question, but um, I think it does get at uh what our intent is as a Subcabinet, which is to look at ways (to) mitigate and to decrease the use of these uh fossil fuels that are coming through our state and um certainly uh something that we intend to look at is ways to um bring down our greenhouse gasses through reducing that uh need.Laura Bishop 1:20:11 – 1:22:50 is of interest as the MPCA has a “duty” to determine Need as well, but they ignored that duty, relying on the “Need” determined by the PUC.
She asked for others on the Subcabinet to speak to this… but no one bit. She moved to a question asking “what can we do”, noting:
… the agencies are really looking at and what we can do and do we have any authority to stop the project. I think what the question here is is really for our agencies to raise those questions so with is there the need, is it protective of our waters with this construction, if the state doesn’t act what happens with the federal government and their role in taking this on and their protections uh with regard to the water uh protections and as well as um really looking at uh those pieces I know there’s been questions about tribal sovereignty and tribal lands and certainly that is something that the tribes have looked at as well um in areas of tribal crossings but we know that hunting, gathering areas are also places that um our tribes have those concerns so those type of dialogues have been happening consistently um with regard to uh interactions by the administration and I know also um the within the communities.Laura Bishop continues…ending 1:24:50
Which took us to the last question where Faith notes (after unmuting):
as I was saying, we’ve had a lot of questions on Line 3, um, and we really thank the audience members for submitting these important questions and for Commissioner Bishop responding to that. I’m gonna transition to another topic that’s popular here: ‘We often focus on mitigation and consider adaptation as an afterthought. Why aren’t adaptation efforts from and center, along with resilience.’Faith Krogstad
And I’ll leave you to listen to LB’s word salad at 1:25 and her toss to Frank for his work. All this lead me to add a final comment from the initial survey question:
Luckily we had many allies in attendance (among the 180 – the largest ever MEQB attendance?) as Dorie Reisenweber of Duluth asked to whom we could direct further questions and when comments would be closed. LB noted: This is not a formal comment period for the climate subcabinet but asked her folks if there is something on the climate change website. Or she said you can forward them to her as the Chair of the Subcommittee and that they will look at where we can gather comments. [Uh, if you’re presenting about engagement, think you’d know if there was a way for folks to leave input at the website? Maybe I’m too critical. They’re new, right? FFS.] Mary notes that there is a comment email on the website.
The last question was also pretty great – asking about capitalism and monetary incentives and how we drive policy to incentivize carbon-neutral practices. [Laura seriously mentioned permitting and how we can look at environmental justice committees in permitting work. Wow, like salt in the wound for all the Tribal members opposing Line 3 in the state? Pretty fucking harsh, LB… pretty fucking harsh.]
Meanwhile, Greta issued a response to the UK and their obtuse leaders who seem to ALSO not get the climate catastrophe we’re in and the urgent need for redress. The ask for no more fossil fuel infrastructure – especially for a tar sands pipeline of all fucking things – seems an easy place to start with a mitigation and adaptation decision.
Watch the blog for upcoming posts on Sasha Baron Cohen’s new film, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, which is generating lots of excitement as we see the underbelly of power in America exposed. I absolutely LOVE Maria Bakalova!!! She deserves an Oscar. Here’s the trailer.
Oh, and if you haven’t yet read Hank Green‘s new book (and the first one), you need to? Blogs on that too… as Water Protector work allows. As you can see, with an MEQB, MPCA, MDNR like the ones we have, it’s an uphill battle. Every day.
This is where we’re at, Minnesota. It’s time for a SOLID “NO” on Enbridge’s proposed Line 3.
Perhaps you watched on April 20th as oil hit a below-zero low at -$37.63/barrel? That’s a We’ll-Pay-You business model that just doesn’t work. And now, as many of the Supermajors are divesting of assets… those assets now include employees.
Shell is cutting up to 9000 jobs… just five months after cutting its dividend – “for the first time since World War Two.”
Other big oil firms are facing similar challenges. Rival BP has also cut its dividend and recently announced it was cutting 10,000 jobs out of its global workforce of 70,000.”
[That’s… almost 15% of its workforce.]~ Shell to cut up to 9,000 jobs as oil demand slumps BBC News 9/30/20
Like other refiners in the United States, Marathon Petroleum – the biggest – is idling refinery capacity and cutting jobs to cope with the losses stemming from the demand crash in the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Exxon faces losses for a third straight quarter as demand continues to stagnate.
For the second quarter, Exxon reported at the end of July its second consecutive quarterly loss, which was the worst loss for the U.S. supermajor in its modern history.
Exxon booked a loss of US$1.1 billion for the second quarter due to the global oversupply and COVID-related demand impacts. This compares with earnings of US$3.1 billion for the same period last year.”~ Exxon Set For Another Loss In Q3 by Tsvetana Paraskova 10/1/20 (my emphasis)
And… it seems not only has Big Oil been lying about Climate Change effects from their products for generations, but present-day oil gangsters are working to carefully prevent enough of us from realizing the sham as they work to hide the flaring of natural gas as they pull oil from the ground. Perhaps to prevent formation of a rebellion to stop them. [Spoiler alert: It’s too late.]
At a discussion convened last year by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, a group that represents energy companies, participants worried that producers were intentionally flaring, or burning off, far too much natural gas, threatening the industry’s image, according to a recording of the meeting reviewed by The New York Times.
“We’re just flaring a tremendous amount of gas,” said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, at the June 2019 gathering, held in Colorado Springs. “This pesky natural gas,” he said. “The value of it is very minimal,” particularly to companies drilling mainly for oil.
A well can produce both oil and natural gas, but oil commands far higher prices. Flaring it is an inexpensive way of getting rid of the gas.”
Yet the practice of burning it off, producing dramatic flares and attracting criticism, represented a “huge, huge threat” to the industry’s efforts to portray natural gas as a cleaner and more climate-friendly energy source, he said, and that was damaging the industry’s image, particularly among younger generations.~ A Secret Recording Reveals Oil Executives’ Private Views on Climate Change by Hiroko Tabuchi 9-12-20
Some ~ already awakening to the alignment of the regulatory agencies and the oil industry dismissing concerns from landowners and environmentalists ~ are now calling for reforms. As we’ve seen with Line 3 here in Minnesota with the PUC, MPCA, and DNR, every step of the way favors industry over residents. Industry meets regularly in board rooms with no opposition ideas provided any space. Meanwhile, citizens perhaps get a 3-minute public comment, which is summarily ignored and gets no response from government agencies, as I reported a few weeks back. A short 2-minute video is included at this link.
And Scott Russell at Healing Minnesota Stories also wrote recently about the MEQB’s dismissal of the public voice while presenting the Minnesota State 2020 Water Plan, echoing my concerns regarding Indigenous Treaty Rights.
After nine speakers and roughly 20 minutes testimony, Bishop cut off additional Line 3 comments. “We should stick to the Water Plan and not the individual actions and projects,” she said. Comments on Line 3 “seem to be a bit beyond the Water Plan itself.”
Which is the problem in a nutshell. The EQB apparently doesn’t see a connection between the Water Plan and project-specific decisions state agencies have to make, on such things as permits for Line 3 or large feed lots.
Bishop started to move towards a vote, when Nookomis (Deb Topping), an enrolled member at Fond du Lac, asked to speak. She wanted to know if the EQB had consulted with any of the state’s Native Nations in developing the Water Plan and if anyone on the board was familiar with the Winters Doctrine.
No one knew about the Winters Doctrine. …
The EQB approved the Water Plan on a vote of 11-1.”~ State’s new ‘Water Plan’ looks good on paper, critics say it lacks accountability by Scott Russell 10/2/20
The PolyMet issue has also revealed corruption at the MPCA as evidenced in a beautifully coherent LTE from Linda Herron.
Judge John Guthmann’s ruling in the evidentiary hearing in the case of the Environmental Protection Agency’s comments on the water pollution permit to mine for PolyMet issued by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency… showed that the MPCA attempted to delay the EPA from submitting comments critical of the PolyMet mining project until the public comment period had ended.
In a permitting case as risk-laden to the St. Louis River watershed and to Lake Superior as the PolyMet mine, such manipulation of public information is an extremely troubling failure of enforcement of regulatory protections. The public has a right to information pertinent to all regulatory enforcement. In this case, important EPA comments expressing grave concerns about the lack of water quality-based effluent limits were withheld.
Paula Maccabee, advocacy director and counsel for the nonprofit WaterLegacy, stated, “We didn’t learn about the EPA’s withheld comments through the MPCA’s permitting processes. These comments were revealed only due to confidential (whistleblower) sources and Freedom of Information Act lawsuits filed by WaterLegacy and settled by the federal government.”
The value of laws and safeguards rests on the trust of the people in their integrity and, just as importantly, their enforcement. Lapses or breaches of enforcement of environmental regulatory protections cannot be acceptable. Minnesotans demand a higher standard from all agencies entrusted with the care and protection of our natural resources for the sake of healthy communities across the state.”~ Local View: Enforcement is key to environmental protections by Linda Herron | Oct 2nd 2020
And perhaps the corruption will get worse as fossil fuel magnates try to squeeze every penny they can from the ground as We Have Entered the “End Game” for Oil—With “Permanent Demand Destruction” noted in late July?
Indeed, every day renewables gets cheaper and cheaper. A paper published in the scientific journal Nature this week examined the potential for offshore wind competitiveness without any government subsidies.
The research examined wind power for five countries in Europe and found that offshore wind is going to be so cheap that it will soon no longer need government subsidies to compete, and that significant savings could soon be potentially passed on to consumers.
The lead researcher Dr. Malte Jansen, from the Center for Environmental Policy at Imperial College in London, said: “Offshore wind power will soon be so cheap to produce that it will undercut fossil-fueled power stations and may be the cheapest form of energy for the UK…This is an astonishing development.”~ We Have Entered the “End Game” for Oil—With “Permanent Demand Destruction” by Andy Rowell 7/31/20
As the game gets desperate, will we see more desperados? Will Enbridge try to sneak in a bunch of workers from out of state as the election season distraction unfurls… thinking no one will notice?
We’re watching as it’s looking like they are planning just such a scheme. Word is that some areas along the proposed pipeline route are reporting local hotels booked solid as 2020 turns into 2021… Will Enbridge ignore the global calls to Keep Tar Sands in the Ground? Or will they bully their way through the wetlands of Minnesota, bringing their sludge pushing pipeline with them?
It’s been a bad year for Big Oil. A decade ago, a barrel of oil could fetch around $100. This year, prices briefly touched zero. With coronavirus lockdowns partially lifted, crude is now selling for $40 – $45. BP says demand for fossil fuels will drop 50% to 75% by 2050. On cue, Unilever just announced it will rid its cleaning products of fossil fuels by 2030, in the name of cutting carbon emissions.
Last year, after buying Anadarko, Occidental Petroleum Corporation was a $80 billion corporation. It’s now worth about $12 billion and selling off assets. U.S. shale celebrated its second acquisitions boom from 2016 to 2019; now, many of these deals won’t work. Lenders are shying away from fossil fuels, lest they get stuck with the stranded assets.
It’s worth noting that Salesforce.com, the company that just replaced ExxonMobil in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, produces carbon-tracking software so companies can disclose emissions data to shareholders. The writing is on the wall, boldface. …
Real Sustainability: Controlling Ourselves
Big Oil can’t go soon enough, but its replacements have to be used with care. Humans have already altered more than half of the Earth’s land surface. By August, just eight months into 2020, we used up the amount of resources it takes the planet a whole year to regenerate. A finite planet can’t take infinite growth—of our businesses or the Homo sapiens who run them.
We need to cut our energy use down. We need real plans to stop sprawl—especially now, as the remote work trend releases people from city living and allows them to head for the countryside.
If the pandemic can teach us to work without commuting, surely it can teach us to make peace with less extravagant lives. To shift from animal agribusiness to plant proteins. To stop binge flying. To hike locally, to more deeply appreciate the culture and beauty where we live. To wear condoms as well as masks. Eco-friendly ones, of course.~ Big Oil’s Belated Conversion Lee Hall 9-4-20
And, if they succeed, will we be better off than with their OLD Line 3?
A new tar sands pipeline is far more dangerous and costly than Enbridge would like us all to believe as they remind us every day of our budget shortfalls they can help remedy. And collusion with Enbridge comes at what cost to Minnesotans? Are we sacrificing our clean waters, our tourism, our own food production so that a Canadian corporation can transport the dirtiest of fossil fuels through our state to sell it globally?
It seems that Commissioner Laura Bishop at the MPCA is gearing up to permit Enbridge to decimate Northern Minnesota as they all (MPCA and Enbridge) pretend the fossil fuel industry has a future in tar sands infrastructure. I say the better path is to protect some of the cleanest NATURAL water infrastructure of Minnesota. It’s not only the path the public is urging the MPCA to take, it’s literally their mission.
Unfortunately, lots of marketing and cheerleading doesn’t protect the environment. And dreamy idealistic plans don’t equate with concrete goals and measurables that result in agency and corporate accountability. Perhaps this is why the water quality in Minnesota continues to degrade?
Hope the PUC, MPCA, DNR and other agencies will begin to listen.
Following the 9/9/20 Minnesota Environmental Quality Board meeting, I decided I needed to speak out about the travesty I witnessed.
Here’s what I have to say.
I find the MEQB’s lack of public engagement disturbing and sickening.
Where was the accountability of the MEQB Citizen Board Members in assuring a public voice was heard on the 2020 Water Plan? As public appointees are they not beholden to assure the PUBLIC has a chance to share our concerns before a vote is made? Did they not see the raised hands in the WebEx? Did they feel no urgency to stop the vote so the public concerns could be addressed? In the end, only Ben Yawakie seemed to hear and heed the public outcry that day.
I have provided time stamps [h:mm:ss format] for referenced happenings in the partial MEQB recording of the meeting.
I will grant that the MEQB allowed public comment on the 2020 Water Plan. However, the meeting’s disabled Chat function allowed no interaction from the public. In fact, after my Raised Hand was ignored for some time, I emailed their tech guy – who I know – to ask for help with being able to comment. The derailing of the MEQB process during the meeting gave clear evidence to how little time and consideration was truly being offered by the MEQB for public input.
I’d like to highlight two speakers in particular from the day as they each raise issues pertinent to the way the process derailed in not allowing for true public engagement.
In the 2020 State Water Plan, you recognize treaties with the Anishinaabe people, stating ‘the ability to exercise those treaty rights depends on clean water and healthy ecosystems.’ What is omitted is how you are going to ensure the health of ecosystems and clean water.
As you acknowledge in the Water Plan, the Ojibwe word, ‘nibi’, means life-giving force. You follow that with, ‘This worldview contrasts with economic and political systems that value private property and often view land and water as commodities to buy, sell, and use.’ That is exactly what Enbridge is doing with Line 3–a climate change and water disaster that falls disproportionately on Indiginous people. How is it possible that this Water Plan talks about climate change but makes no mention of fossil fuel infrastructure, a major contributor to climate change and a threat to our water?
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, it is our time of awakening to the trifecta of race, pandemic and climate injustice. There is no denying the privilege that is represented in the, primarily white, EQB staff, appointees and agency leaders. No one gets a pass–we are all responsible for upholding treaties.
Have white courage, use your privilege! Take this opportunity to put treaties at the forefront and create a State Water Plan that is, like our water, a life-giving force to ensure healthy ecosystems and clean water for all!”Jaci Christenson (18:30)
Jaci was followed by Joe.
Commend all of your work on a bold vision… yet I feel the cognitive dissonance I think we all feel in this plan where we address half of the problem, where we want to prepare MN waters for climate change but not prevent Climate Change or interrupt the fossil fuel infrastructure that is causing climate change that means the end of wild rice as we know it.” [This is critical when it comes to later concerns raised.]
Joe couldn’t help but feel “…in writing this aspirational plan that we’re running out of time to defend the waters that we claim to protect. … With decisions like Line 3, Commissioner Bishop, I’d just just ask the simple question of, “What is your plan in Fall 2020 with the 401 permit for Line 3 to stand up with these aspirations, particularly as we just held a Contested Case Hearing that refused to look at climate change or Treaty rights, which are both so important to this Water Plan?”Joe Meinholz (21:54)
Chair Bishop: “Thank you.” [Note: To this point in the meeting, each speaker received a simple “thank you” from Chair Bishop after they spoke. No dialogue and certainly no response to the questions asked.]
Nine (9) additional speakers were to follow (mind you, some of us had still not been recognized for our wish to speak at that time). However, following the next speaker, Keegan Robinson, Commissioner Bishop noted:
We should stick to the Water Plan and not the individual actions and projects. But I appreciate the comments from everybody here, certainly understand and hear your concerns about protection of water and certainly that is the intention with the Water Plan is to outline ways to protect our waters and how we go forwards. So I appreciate all of you raising this but I do think that specific right now to a specific project and outlining that in the Water Report as well as the comments that we’re receiving on Line 3 seem to be a bit beyond the Water Plan itself as it is pertaining to a specific project.”MEQB Chair Laura Bishop (25:53)
She then asked Katie how to move forward noting, “With any of the public comments, I would like to keep it on the Water Plan itself.” Katie Pratt (MEQB Executive Director) noted “several other agenda items” and that “we have a clear message” (as her phone rings in the background – someone calling to get their voice heard?) and she finishes saying, “I think we could consider moving on to our next agenda items and leaving time at the end for additional public comment.” [Remember this promise…] (27:25) Chair Bishop agreed, noting the Board would do that “unless there is a comment beyond Line 3 that we’ve missed. I appreciate this is an opportunity to talk about water protection and certainly that is the intention of any permits that are reviewed by the agency, it is with the intention to protect water as well. I’d suggest that we move on to the next agenda item.”
[At this point we still have multiple people remaining to speak. I was unable to get access to speak because the Chat in the Webex was disabled. My Raised Hand in the WebEx went ignored, as did the Raised Hands of others online.]
Nookomis joins from the phone (27:57) asking to say a few words. Chair Bishop eventually (28:18) recognizes Nookomis for comment asking for a restatement of name for the record.
Before I go on, let’s be clear: Comments from the public recognized valid concerns ~ concerns that went unanswered, over and over, as Chair Bishop was asked about where the mitigation for the causes of climate change were captured, specifically with regard to fossil fuel infrastructure, in the 2020 Water Plan.
Minnesotans care deeply about their water as evidenced by the recent Statewide Resident Survey Report from the University of Minnesota. While that report focused on agricultural concerns, the strong opposition to major infrastructure projects like mining and pipelines has been expressed at the MEQB for many, many months now. Even later in this meeting, similar concerns were raised on the Silica Sand Mine in Fillmore County.
Many Minnesotans also value wild rice. And many of those Indigenous to this land rely on it, some for their very survival. Yet by mid-2018 the MPCA had “withdrawn its proposal to change the water quality standard designed to protect wild rice from adverse impacts due to sulfate pollution. The Timberjay reported 18 months ago that the Minnesota Legislature was taking back steps on protecting wild rice.
As Willis Mattison noted during the meeting, public comment is not engagement. Engagement entails dialogue. As was reported in previous work, public engagement is CRITICAL to reaching to effective solutions that protect environmental and human health.
Our asks continue to go unheeded. Year after year. As water quality continues to deteriorate. In fact, as the recent PUC Public Engagement Report from the Office of Legislative Auditor clarified, the agencies are not following the law in their work.
As Nookomis began (28:25), she introduced herself in Ojibwemowin first and then translated to English. Nookomis Debra Topping – an enrolled and recognized Fond du Lac Band Member ~ Fog Woman from Eagle Clan – called to hold the Board responsible for and accountable to their Treaty obligations. She first asked about the Winter’s Doctrine and if there is any Indigenous membership on the Board.
In Winters, the Supreme Court examined tribal rights to water associated with the Fort Belknap Reservation located in what would later become Montana. The Fort Belknap Reservation was created by an agreement in 1888 between tribal parties and the U.S. government. At the time, the government had a policy seeking to transform Native Americans from “a nomadic and uncivilized people … to become a pastoral and civilized people” by providing them lands to develop for such purposes.
By 1905, the area experienced water shortages that ultimately resulted in the Winters lawsuit being filed to enforce tribal rights to water against non-Indian water users who had been diverting water from the region. In announcing its decision, the Court explained that the lands provided under the agreement for the purpose of developing an agrarian society “were arid and, without irrigation, were practically valueless.” The Court also noted that ambiguities in the agreement, such as the status of the water rights related to the land, are to be “resolved from the standpoint of the Indians,” as a rule of interpretation. The Court held that:
The power of the Government to reserve the waters and exempt them from appropriation under the state laws is not denied, and could not be. That the Government did reserve them we have decided, and for a use which would be necessarily continued through the years.
The Court has continued to recognize the principle derived from Winters in both Indian and nonIndian contexts. In 1976, the Court noted that it “has long held that when the Federal Government withdraws its land from the public domain and reserves it for a federal purpose, the Government, by implication, reserves appurtenant water then unappropriated to the extent needed to accomplish the purpose of the reservation.”The Winters Doctrine of Reserved Water Rights
(29:58) Ben Yawakie, 3rd Congressional District Citizen Board Member, noted he is an enrolled citizen of the Pueblo Zuni and also a descendant of Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and he later clarified that he was not familiar with the Winter’s Doctrine.
Nookomis continued, inquiring if there had been any Tribal consultation, noting both MN Statutes 103B.151 Coordinating Water Resource Planning and 103A.43 as making no specific mention of Tribal Consultation. She asked if that meant it will not happen, even if it’s in the Plan. She said, “When you’re asking for the resolution to be approved, it does not say anywhere that you have to have Tribal consultation.” The third statute she noted – 103A.204 Groundwater Policy – gave her hope for Tribal consultation as it included a list of those specifically responsible for Groundwater Policy.
Maybe this is it! Maybe this is where we come in… number 4 is the Board of Water and Soil Resources, in there it says ‘local government officials’ so… maybe there’s where I come in at? … Nowhere does it say … that you have to do Tribal consultation. I understand that you have done it… it’s in the 2020 Water Plan. I do not see… anything in there about the Winter’s Doctrine.”Nookomis (31:30)
Nookomis ended asking if Mr. Yawakie knew about the Winter’s Doctrine. (33:35) Citizen Board Member Ben Yawakie, answered: “Nookomis… I personally do not.”
Commissioner Bishop mentioned Erik Cedarleaf Dahl, an Indigenous MEQB staff member, as well, though he did not respond. Nookomis then asked if anyone on the Board knew of the Winter’s Doctrine, as knowing it would help them understand where they stand with her water on her reservation. She spoke also of the smell and taste of gas and oil in the rice from Sandy Lake. (34:50) At this point, Commissioner Bishop talked over Nookomis for a full twenty seconds, expressing thanks as Nookomis continued speaking in the background. Then Nookomis finished with thanks. [I was astonished at how humble Nookomis remained, after being so summarily and disrespectfully dismissed.]
There ensued a back and forth between Ms. Bishop and Ms. Pratt regarding the concerns Nookomis brought forth. Ms. Pratt mentioned both that the Water Plan is a “starting point, not ending point” and that Executive Order 19-24 directs state agencies to recognize and properly interact with the Sovereign Nations in MN. [However, this document makes no mention of the MEQB.] She also noted that the Water Plan actions are recommendations which will be implemented and that will include appropriate tribal engagement. [Recommendations implies no requirements for action? This is not making me feel confident at all…]
(37:00) Chair Bishop then noted some necessary minor adoptions on Goals 5 & 3 to wrap up the work on adopting the plan. … Fisheries mgmt clarification and inclusion of insurance in the role of risk mitigation for climate change, with staff discretion to make these corrections. Then (37:50) she asked for a motion to adopt with these changes, which was moved by Thom Peterson and seconded by Al Forsberg.
This is the point (38:38) at which Willis Mattison objected to the proceedings, asking to file a formal objection, pointing out the Staff and Board had obviously not allocated sufficient time for public participation during the last MEQB meeting or this meeting regarding the Plan and its deficiencies. He said he “understands expediency… nevertheless, the public is important.” He noted this appears to be a railroad job, disrespectful to the engagement policy when dialogue is not allowed. He filed a major objection. (40:08) Ms. Bishop allowed him to speak once he assured her his comments were not for Line 3 but the Plan.
NOTE: The fact that a formal public objection – to the Water Plan vote being taken – was simply dismissed by MEQB Chair Bishop – with NO Board discussion – was perhaps our second best indicator during the meeting that the public voice was not truly wanted.
The best indicator was when Chair Bishop entertained a motion to adjourn (2:35:47) at the end of the meeting, giving NO ALLOWANCE for those in the public who, earlier in the meeting, were promised a chance to speak at the end. [I was one of many who remained online awaiting a chance to be heard.]The MEQB is Badly Broken
Mr. Mattison, a retired ecologist from the MPCA, made an excellent point that the 2020 Water Plan, while it “had much to compliment in its ecological wisdom”, was clearly and simply another example, similar to previously passed aspirational plans, that lack metrics for true accountability, and which have gotten us to where we are today. Today, where we face a continued loss of quality waters and wetlands and where an insect apocalypse portends humanity’s own fragile state on the planet. These are things we citizens have discussed many times with the MEQB in recent years. Mr. Mattison notes that, without incorporation of these concerns, the Water Plan is “flawed and useless”. A strategic plan is worthless unless there are metrics for accountability to the achievements. He asked if the MEQB had willingness to expand plans where citizens can hold agencies accountable.
(45:40) Chair Bishop responded but allowed no dialogue, saying to Mr. Mattison, “Your three minutes is up.”
I was stunned by this dismissal of a retiree from Commissioner Bishop’s own department, the MPCA, a department that itself is under great scrutiny, including consideration for investigation this very year by the Office for Legislative Auditor. This was the detail on that suggested investigation:
While the Chair did allow for two additional comments (41:20) on the Water Plan after this additional urging that citizens be heard, I still awaited even recognition of my desire to speak. [I began to re-write my comments… which eventually led to this blog.]
(46:05) Lori Cox explained that the Water Plan’s words “ensure and manage mean something is going to be done. In agriculture we have a tough time saying that those things are going to be managed or ensured.” “We continually see the words “voluntary” in agriculture. And that has been used repeatedly… the stakeholders have been loud about that, however we still… with MPCA numbers and very great coordination and statistics by state agencies, have shown that we’re not really moving the line there.” She asked, noting these are almost promises using the words “manage and ensure about water quality”, that the Board take a look at the wording in Agriculture, and expressed concern that, if approved today, the plan would not bring change.
I’m not positive that there would be much more change, with all of the great recommendations, suggestions, programs that are already there and have been for years, that we’re really gonna move the needle.”Lori Cox (48:16)
(49:06) Gearhardt Robinson, recent U of MN grad with a BS in sustainable systems management with an emphasis on energy systems, expressed that there was very comprehensive information in the Plan. However, for the Plan to be meaningful, it must not only mitigate the effects of climate change, but target the root causes of it… something well within our capabilities and authorities to do. (51:28) He congratulated the work of Commissioner Kelley of the DOC in re-filing the Appeal for Line 3 and urged ALL Commissioners to do what they could to file suits, deny permits, and do all the things in their power to protect Minnesotans and our water quality.
“To me it seems this plan isn’t really much of a plan, it’s kind of just abstract goals that really don’t have tangible ways to achieve them.”Gearhardt Robinson (50:41)
(51:40) Gearhardt also noted that the use of the word “attack” [by Margaret Anderson Kelliher] in regard to the commenters asking for MPCA Commissioner Bishop to uphold her accountability to the public, was an interesting choice of words – one that implied some sort of violence. He noted that what the citizens speaking up today are doing is not “violent”, but simply “help you make the right decision that will prevent violence against Indigenous Peoples, against land, and against all future generations.”
52:05/52:12) Chair Bishop then cut him off saying, “Thank you. Mr. Robinson, I appreciate that and … you talk about climate resilience and we do have another inter-agency group, the Climate Subcabinet that is working on larger plans that address climate.” [To my knowledge, that Climate Subcabinet has yet to be populated with membership or take any actions. I’ve never been contacted on my own submission… though it looks like there are 231 applications now, so perhaps I’m on the list yet to be contacted?]
Each agenda item in the meeting – not only the 2020 Water Plan, but also the Minnesota Sands, LLC project and the 2020 State Agency Pollinator Report – showed that the MEQB and its agencies are NOT fulfilling their missions. This brought me deja vu to the May 1st, 2019 MEQB where Chuck Dayton, co-founder of this work, remonstrated that the original intentions for the MEQB were not being upheld these many decades later. He indicated that the MEQB needed to re-evaluate their work to figure out why they were failing. He noted a lack of effective Environmental Review, with very few EIS, and an apparent inability to connect scientific dots to make decisions to prevent water quality deterioration.
As we watch water quality deteriorate and agencies make decisions based on checksheets that do not represent the complexity of the decisions being made, we see our young people standing up more and more – screaming for those in power to heed their cries to save the planet. They are watching as groups like the MEQB make decisions that wipe away their futures.
So, rather than push the vote to the end of the meeting, when ALL Water Plan commenters could be heard, Chair Bishop pushed through the vote before hearing the full public voice, making no response to the questions asked, and then closing the meeting asking for a motion to adjourn before she returned to those still awaiting their chance to speak on the Water Plan. [Note: (2:36:10) Gerald Van Amberg, Board of Water and Soil Resources Chair, moved to adjourn and Kristen Eide-Tollefson seconded.]
The only Board member to speak to Nookomis’ concerns was Kristen Eide-Tollefson, 2nd Congressional District Citizen Board Member. She asked (53:11) if an addition could be made for Tribal consultation to the necessary discrete section. Erik Cedarleaf Dahl noted the section on Page 23 of the Plan which explained how the Tribal Consultation would occur. The fact that this Board is working on Minnesota issues but IGNORING their obligations to Federal Law, as explained by Nookomis in her questions on the Winter’s Doctrine, seemed a good reason to stop the vote… though it did not.
And how disturbing was that vote? Unanimous… save ONE LONE vote of NAY from Ben Yawakie, an Indigenous Member of the Board. The only response from the Board was to ask him to re-state his vote. [As if in disbelief that he’d voted “nay”?] A short silence followed as no one asked for more clarity from Ben on his vote and then… business moved on to the next agenda item. There has not been a more CLEAR example in all my MEQB experience of the Native voice being summarily ignored as I bore witness to in the 9/9/20 meeting.
The MEQB might want to ask themselves what the ramifications are for ignoring a US Supreme Court decision. I’ve often thought, this Line 3 fight ~ and perhaps Polymet too, could end up being quite costly for the state of Minnesota, as its agencies collude with foreign corporations to push unnecessary pipeline and mining projects throughout Northern Minnesota Indian Country, all in violation of Federal Law.
Perhaps Commissioner Kelley could have saved Minnesota taxpayers a lot of money in winning the case in State Court that there is No Need for Line 3… before the project goes on to Federal Court? Senate Republicans may end up regretting “executing” him – to use the Republican House Leader Daudt’s word – by not confirming him to his Commission at the Department of Commerce. I am hopeful the Department is strong enough to continue their good work, though they’ve experienced an unconscionable dismissal of their wonderfully effective and caring leader, something harder and harder to find these days.
As I indicated in my last note to MEQB Project Coordinator Giuseppe Tumminello, on their Environmental Review Data Mgmt Program, it seems that agencies and governments move too slow to keep pace with the changing planet. Gardhardt’s testimony at the meeting – that more of California was on fire than EVER in our recorded history – was alarming. And we’re only now at the start of the fire season. We have almost contiguous fire along the West Coast of our country from Canada to Mexico, but the MEQB, MPCA & MDNR seemed geared to go full steam ahead on their failing programs and plans that will dramatically increase climate effects in our state and for our planet as a whole.
If we are to have a hope to save our natural environment for continued human support, the MQEB and ALL Minnesota agencies, politicians, and citizens are gonna have to get a lot more serious about solutions.
And, as I have assured Giuseppe in recent emails, it may well be that, in the end, we resolve this with pitchforks. It seems to be the only way in America these days.
Interviewing Nookomis subsequent to the meetings about her testimony allowed me to better understand her points:
- There were 15 speakers at MEQB and all expressed concerns about theWater Plan.
- At one time there were 96 attendees in the meeting.
- The Board voted with only one vote heeding the speakers.
- Changes are being seen in the manoomin (wild rice), which is a product of its environment – like us all. Rice from Sandy Lake smells of gas and oil. Rice from Fond du Lac doesn’t smell or taste oily.
- Understanding the Winter’s Doctrine allows the MEQB to comprehend their MORAL AND LEGAL obligations to Fond du Lac reservation, its Members, and the waters that serve them. These are Federal obligations to assure water rights for the Indigenous, as upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States.
- If Manoomin (wild rice) is not protected, it will not thrive. Once Manoomin is gone, so is Anishinaabeg. THAT is the genocide ~ a systematic and purposeful elimination of a Culture and and a People.
What she said while Laura spoke over her was this:
What I wanted to say is that I’m done being invisible. I don’t care if you try to over talk me, I’m done being invisible! You can come here any time. You will hear me and you will see me for as long as I live. And you need to be able to say what I’m doing, seeing. Yes. I appreciate you listening. Thank you. Thank you very much.”
When asked of the discussion on personal “attack” during the meeting, Nookomis shared that these words resonated with her. These agencies and boards are responsible to protect the water. NOT protecting her WATER is a PERSONAL ATTACK! It is also a violation of Treaty Law, the highest law of the land. Nookomis said, “My legal rights are not dependent on your personal feelings. You are personally attacking me by poisoning my water.”
She wondered aloud how the schooling of these Commissioners had failed them as they seemed to not be able to comprehend simple concepts like water, soil, and food being connected to human health… let alone the larger connections to the climate of the planet as a whole.
Nookomis further expressed that “Commissioner Bishop is in over her head and does not understand all she needs to know, in order to do her job to PROTECT MINNESOTA’S WATER. THAT is her only job. Water quality indicates she is derelict in her duties. This is not just on the reservation but affects every single Minnesotan. 5.6 Million people. The 15 people on the call represented that concern. 300 written comments seemed acceptable to the MPCA. “That’s how many people I have in my immediate family!”, she said.
She also noted that there was no explanation of the 1837, 1854, & 1855 ceded territories in the Plan. She offered to walk the line (proposed route) with anyone, any time, any day. She said you might want to pack a big lunch!
She noted as well that there was no mention of Tribal Fisheries in the discussion of modifications needed. The list of things left unsaid was long, she lamented.
We have a long way to go to solutions, indeed. But Let’s Get to BETTER!*
* “Met” Chrysta Casteneda today at a talk that could help that MEQB comprehend what major issues they are not seeing… as the landscape on oil and gas becomes very fluid.
Looks like Tribes and Environmentalists lose again…
The federal Environmental Protection Agency this week approved dramatic changes in Minnesota’s water quality rules.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency worked on the revisions for ten years and formally proposed the changes last winter. But the federal approval has left environmental activists reeling.
Minnesota has a set of rules that apply to industries, wastewater treatment plants, anyone who discharges significant quantities of wastewater into a stream or lake. The rules are designed to protect water quality, and they typically set numeric limits on such things as salts, pH, calcium, magnesium, chloride and other elements. The new rules eliminate many of the numeric limits and instead call for a narrative description, which typically describes the general conditions desired in the water body.
Paula Maccabee, advocacy director for Water Legacy, a nonprofit watchdog that follows environmental issues, said she can’t understand the approval. The organization sent detailed comments to the MPCA as it was developing the rules and to the EPA as it was considering the rule changes. “I simply believe it is not only dangerous for Minnesota but a violation of the Clean Water Act,” she said. “And why neither of those facts were salient to the EPA, I can’t fathom.”MinnPost EPA signs off on major changes to Minnesota’s water quality rules 10-15-21
And Enbridge STILL hasn’t repaired the Clearbrook Terminal Aquifer Breach they created 1/21/21… though the deadline to avoid fines ended yesterday… same day as these rule changes. Hmmm. And we wonder why a child killed a government leader in the UK recently? A friends says, “Start killing politicians and they’ll figure out we’re serious.” Never have liked the idea… but feels like he’s more right every day. We’ll see what happens in the UK.
Good luck, Everbody.
Today is a short one. Mostly because the time I have for writing is being consumed by the work of activism. But there was some seemingly good news on the Line 3 front last week.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources issued a joint statement on Tuesday (6/18/19) to publicly state that the schedule had changed for their permitting work for Enbridge’s proposed Line 3.
While noting that they are committed to their work, they agreed that the Minnesota Court of Appeal’s decision declaring the current Line 3 Environmental Impact Statement inadequate means that they cannot release draft permits and the 401 water quality certification on July 1 as previously scheduled. They MUST wait for the additional PUC environmental analysis before the MPCA/MDNR can initiate their public comment process.
While the exact path of getting to an “adequate” Environmental Impact Statement was not made clear, and while my inquiry to the PUC revealed they do not yet have a plan from the Department of Commerce, the bottom line is that delay is good. The longer we delay, the more people will awaken to the fact that Fossil Fuels are killing the planet. We MUST TRANSITION FROM THEM NOW and continue our progress toward a clean energy economy.
My favorite paragraph in the public notice was this:
“More generally, both agencies will fully review any additional information that becomes available through the PUC’s EIS revision process, including public input to the PUC, prior to making decisions on the pending applications. Neither agency will take final action on the Line 3 Replacement license and permit applications until there is an approved EIS.”MPCA/DNR Joint Statement on Line 3 Decision, my emphasis added
What this seems to indicate to the PUC is that their process must be robust, “including public input to the PUC”, which means that we should again have space to comment on the EIS proposed changes. We will again be able to state if We the People have determined that the supplemental information does indeed make the EIS adequate. Based on past performance, I am not sure this will be as quick or easy a process as Enbridge and their cronies keep saying in the news coverage. I’m pretty sure this one may be the delay that causes Enbridge financiers to perhaps realize their investment in Line 3 is NEVER going to pay off.
Not sure why they haven’t yet determined this. It seems clearer to me each day that the “ole boy” way of doing things, with lots of bribes and payoffs and public deception, is no longer working. There are too many of us watching, waiting to see what happens. Too many digging into the hidden memos, too many researching the science to refute the findings of the corporation, too many sending in public comments that reveal the shortcomings of the work done in collusion with corporations. We are waiting with pens poised to write to the Governor, the Attorney General, our Senators and Representatives, our Facebook Followers, our Blog Readers. Yes, the public has revitalized the idea of civic engagement. And our Young People are once again realizing the only way to make government work for you is to be in its face when it isn’t doing things that actually help YOU. The Tide is Turning.
And there are front line camps waiting too, watching the pre-construction efforts and live streaming their work to assure the public can see what is happening in “Indian Country” – largely where this work is happening now. They will show you a group of a half dozen water protectors holding protest against the Line 3 pre-work. And they will show you the law enforcement that engages them in full riot gear. The visual gives a peek into the astoundingly excessive reaction of law enforcement to citizens in this arena.
This is a war. But it is not to protect We the People. It’s to protect the Corporate interests. And you, dear Taxpayer, are supporting this work.
It’s time to speak up against our law enforcement being used against our fellow citizens who are working to prevent environmental destruction. They are protecting a future for ALL of our children. Please support the citizens standing for climate justice if you can. Click below to learn more.
Anti-colonial Land Defense, Friends of the Headwaters, Ginew, Indigenous Action Media, MN350, Northfield Against Line 3, Sierra Club North Star Chapter, Stop Line 3, and anyone you see taking a stand for our Water.
You want to be on the right side when the tide turns…