While I’d initially considered intervening, I decided to let go of the legal fight against the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Enbridge in the Contested Case Hearing for the proposed Line 3 project.
With everything involved, and with so little to gain – due to the VERY LIMITED SCOPE as defined by the MPCA… which denied a look at either 1) the effects of climate change or 2) the potential for a SPILL [which seem to be two things kinda important in evaluating a Tar Sands pipeline project one would think…], I decided my efforts could be better spent elsewhere. Thankfully, good Intervenors from our local Indigenous Tribes, White Earth & Red Lake, and folks at Friends of the Headwaters, Honor The Earth, and Sierra Club are taking on the challenge. So we’re providing some funding and support for their efforts.
However, still wanting to stay informed, I began reading the MPCA documents this past week.
I found the record incomplete and difficult from the very beginning. I’d already known about the Pre-Hearing miscommunications…
- The initial 6/8 NOTICE AND ORDER FOR PREHEARING CONFERENCE AND HEARING? It wasn’t sent to Honor The Earth’s Attorney Paul Blackburn. Miss #1.
- The 6/18 FIRST PREHEARING ORDER managed to include Paul… but concerned members of the public were out of the loop… unless they knew one of the attorneys or orgs and had insight to attend. [Luckily, I know people.]
The SCHEDULING ORDER came out 6/26 noting that the Hearing will commence 8/24 (through 8/28, as time is needed) following pre-filing of testimony and rebuttals and expert disclosures and a Final Pre-Hearing Conference 8/19/20 at 10 AM.
6/30 Parties get administrative notice of the files available online, including text searchable files. [Granted, this first letter, “Letter 1”, if you will, was simply about noticing the contacts… so, how could that go wrong? [You know, now that all the folks are being included. Though I note the addition of Mary Rock for Environmental Law & Policy Center on the next one, so maybe she was missed?]
The trouble really started with the 200708 L3 Farrell Production Ltr No. 2, issued 7/8. This letter included an email and prints for a “Sensitive Crossings” table from Melissa Kuskie at MPCA – tech lead for the Line 3 project.
I surely hope others received this document intact because the PDF doc online shows it to be a VERY POORLY PROVIDED PIECE OF INFORMATION. It seems when the MPCA got to the edge of the “paper” in “printing” the pdf, they apparently just printed the remaining columns of data on a bunch of separate pages, making it nearly impossible to connect the last few columns of data to the particular stream or river crossing you are reviewing…
[It really took me back to the 1900’s… surreal that a modern-day government organization can’t provide data in an easily readable form. And if you try zooming in on their docs online? Well, just try it… You’ll find it frustrating until you realize there is also a zoom and expand icon in the lower right hand of the screen.] When data is presented like this… it’s hard to connect rows to columns. If only they’d matched the LAST column header printout rows with the same number of rows printed on the FIRST column header printout, you might be able to page through and connect your stream data. But, as it is, you’ll be counting rows (hopefully without issue as there are a LOT OF THEM) to find the last few columns of data on your Stream or River of interest. THIS SHITTY INFO SHARE is NOT MAKING IT ACCESSIBLE TO THE PUBLIC… For Sure. I kept thinking, “Did they do this on purpose? To keep the public from comprehending the information and finding their stream data of interest?”
OK, to recap, we’re on Ltr No. 2, right? What’s next? 7/10 Farrell issues 200710 Farrell L3 Production Ltr No. 4!! Actually, it was worse than that, administratively. The Actual Next Doc was a pdf of the COPY of Ltr No. 4. Then Ltr No. 4 followed. Just another update on the MPCA providing docs “Bates-labeled MPCA0000001 to MPCA 0031605 in text searchable form”. [Not sure WHAT was in Ltr No. 3…]
Now, to the meat… The next 15 docs are all from 7/24, the deadline for Direct testimony. First up: Enbridge Energy, Limited Partnership – Bobby Hahn Direct testimony. Bobby is an Enbridge employee w/ a BS in Environmental Science from the University of New York – College of Environmental Science and Forestry and MS in Resource Mgmt & Admin from Antioch New England University, along with 16 years in oil and gas industry, including as a consultant and employee for Enbridge, acting as Technical Manager for Project Permitting at present. He oversees federal, Tribal, state and local environmental permits.
His testimony is basically related to Enbridge’s practices and protocols for wetland disturbances and how to assure they adhere to the permit requirements. I was especially interested in his testimony at lines 348-359.
Others also testifying for Enbridge include Barry (aka “Bobby”) Simonson and:
OK, you thought I was gonna skip Bobby… but I’m not! He has a BS Mechanical Eng’g from U of MN-TC and 19 years of experience in oil/gas pipeline engineering and construction management. If you think you don’t know this guy, you do. He’s the one who writes most of the propagandized Letters to the Editor for Enbridge as they try to persuade the public that they are not gonna screw us with their shitty pipeline project. His testimony runs 52 pages.
Ms. Essick (addressing water quality and trench methods) ran 23 pages, while Mr. Tersteeg (Certified Wetland Delineator since 2008 addressing issue #3) gave 19 and Dr. Arndt (Calcareous Fen Doc addressing issues #4 & #5) provided 27.
I’ve only skimmed these and found this interesting from Mr. Tersteeg, in that he doesn’t mention characterizing any sensitive or endangered species… only “noxious and invasive species”. He’s here to testify whether Enbridge has undercounted for the full acreage of impact for the project.
Now to the MPCA testimony. First up is Doug Norris, retired Wetlands Program Coordinator for the MN DNR, another Certified Wetlands Delineator (2005) who will testify as to whether impacted wetlands have been undercounted. He gives us 23 pages.
Next is Kevin Molloy, Project Manager in the MPCA’s Section 401 Water Quality Certification program, who provides 29 pages on “whether the least degrading crossing method that is prudent and feasible has been identified for each stream crossing”. This guy grabbed my attention for lines 65 to 80:
All his testimony appears to assume NEED for the project, which the MPCA failed to determine, simply adhering to the contested decision by the PUC that the project is needed. [FFS. Epic Fail.] Lines 160-165 seemed to indicate the MPCA may require Enbridge to employ additional? independent third party monitors?
Next up is Mark Gernes, Research Scientist focused on quality and conditions of wetlands in Minnesta – primarily based on plant community indicators. I’m gonna read his 32 pages more closely, for sure.
Then we have Melissa Kuskie’s testimony… which initially said it wouldn’t have a preview and made me download it… as a preview appeared! She is the “manager of Certification, Environmental Review, and Rules Section” at the MPCA and will testify to an “overview of the MPCA’s 401 Water Quality Certification program… (and) address … whether the proposed use of trench methods… will have temporary or permanent impacts on water quality parameters of concern”. She does this in 37 pages.
MPCA’s final expert is Thomas Estabrooks, Project Manager in the Watershed Division of MPCA. In 17 pages, he will also “address … whether the proposed use of trench methods… will have temporary or permanent impacts on water quality parameters of concern”.
Now, the Concerned Citizenry. Testimony was combined for all the parties: Sierra Club, Friends of the Headwaters, Honor the Earth, The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, and The White Earth Band of Ojibwe. First up… MY GIRL!!!! CHRISTYYYYYY DOOOLLLPPPHHHH!!!!
Dr. Christy Dolph, research scientist in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the U of MN, holds a BS in Biology from Grinnell College and MS and PhD in Water Resources Science from U of MN. She’s been conducting field and academic research since 2004 and has been published broadly “on the impact of human land use on water quality, biophysical processes, and aquatic life in streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands”. Her 43 page testimony focuses on the importance of applying biological water quality standards to assess trench construction, identify potential impacts of said construction, summarize spatial analysis methods indicating Enbridge undercounted acreage of impact, and conclude that “1) pipeline construction will have both acute, short-term negative effects, as well as permanent harmful effects on aquatic life and aquatic habitat…, 2) Enbridge has therefore not identified the least degrading method for many stream crossings, and 3) Enbridge and MPCA undercounted the number of wetland acres potentially impacted by the project.” Yeah, Christy!
Dr. Joseph Magner follows. He’s research professor at the U of MN in the Dept of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering with 41 years of regulatory, research, and project management experience specific to environmental assessment, hydrology, earth science, and watershed mgmt. Widely published, he also co-authored the 4th edition of Hydrology and the Management of Watersheds. He also worked for 34 years at MPCA and has consulted widely. His testimony will offer information on water quality standards and stream crossings for the proposed Line 3 project that have been inadequately addressed by the MPCA. 50 pages of tech geek stuff.
Dr. Laura Triplett, associate professor in the Dept of Geology at Gustavus Adolphus College, testifies from a perspective of having spent a career studying how human activities on the landscape influence water quality in streams, rivers and lakes. In 37 pages, she will report that “Enbridge massively under-reported the acreage of wetlands that will be permanently impacted by this project” and that “Enbridge has not chosen the least damaging crossing method for many streams and wetlands.”
Dr. Marinus Otte – still wonder if I’m related to this dude – is next. He’s a Professor of Biological Sciences at NDSU and Editor-in Chief, WETLANDS. He’s studied wetlands around the world for more than 30 years and was recently awarded the title of Fulbright Specialist in water and wetlands. He addresses a full contingent of the issues in 54 pages.
Wrapup batter, Paul Stolen, testifies “on behalf of Friends of the Headwaters (FOH) for whom I have been an unpaid expert, volunteering by choice, because of my expertise; because of my concern and special knowledge of the Enbridge proposed route; and to encourage a scientifically based ecision on the 401 certifications.” Paul has a BS and MS in Wildlife Management from the U of MN. He worked for MT DNR&C as Project Mgr and Special Projects Coordinator responsible for environmental review (ER) for pipelines and other utility projects. He also consulted privately preparing ER docs and permit applications. He then worked for MN DNR (1990-2009) working on impact assessments, advising on approval/denial of permits, and coordinated with state, federal, and local agencies on issues of regulatory complexity. Paul’s testimony runs to 105 pages so I will be working on another blog to do into the details of his and other’s testimony. [Goddess willing.]
The last doc up until now is an OAH Order dated 7-13-20, granting the appearances of Moneen Nasmith and Sophia Jayanty, representing from New York, for Sierra Club.
OK, you’re as up to speed as I am for the moment. I’ll be reporting more here soon as I get news!