It turns out that Minnesotans for Line 3 is actually the Enbridge Corp. A DeSmog research study released in June found that the Minnesotans for Line 3 group includes board members such as the late Bob Schoneberger, the founder of United Piping in Duluth. Sure, there are people who want this pipeline in Minnesota, but not nearly as many as you might have been led to believe.
Let me explain. The group participated in the regulatory process as grassroots organization with a lot of money. That campaign, including the $11 million spent by Enbridge on lobbying for Line 3, was dealt a major blow by the Minnesota Court of Appeals in early June, as the court rejected the Environmental Impact Statement submitted as a requirement in the law. Additionally, the state DNR and Pollution Control Agencies have determined that they will delay additional permitting until the required EIS is submitted.
To be clear, there are people who want this pipeline in Minnesota, but not nearly as many. A June 6 report released by DeSmog, an investigative journalist project, found that “Minnesotans for Line 3 presents itself as a grassroots organization consisting of “thousands of members.” But, behind the scenes, Enbridge made the plan. All told, Minnesotans for Line 3 was the 10th largest digital ad purchaser among interest groups between November 2018 and April 2019. “…And it allegedly engaged in more stealthy tactics as well: Dozens of young people wearing Minnesotans for Line 3 shirts occupied spots in a line at a state Public Utilities Commission hearing on the project at the expense of the project’s opponents -- only to disappear shortly after receiving the tickets.” For many tribal people who traveled from low-income communities to participate in the hearing process, this became pretty discouraging. Literally hundreds of people who are actually impacted by this proposal were not allowed to speak at hearings, because of Enbridge’s manipulations.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals decision against the Enbridge Line 3 sends the company and the state agencies back to the drawing board. The court determined that the Environmental Impact Statement was inadequate, primarily because there was no worst case spill scenario assessment for Lake Superior. Without an adequate environmental study, the project will not move forward. That’s been a deep concern to Enbridge, whose stocks dropped 4 percent the day of that decision, as the company struggles with challenges in a bust in Alberta’s tar sands industry.
Velocity, a public relations firm hired by Enbridge describes its service: “To garner favorable decisions by government agencies that would decide the fate of the project, Enbridge needed an exceptional and sustained show of statewide public support,” the now-deleted page says.
Minnesotans For Line 3 is not the first Enbridge front group involved in the battle over the pipeline replacement project, which was first proposed in 2014. In 2017, this group pushed out a University of Minnesota Duluth study that concluded the project will create 8,600 jobs. But as the watchdog group Public Accountability Initiative revealed, Enbridge provided the data inputs for the study and funded the entity that commissioned it from UMD. That study casts some major shadows on UMD’s academic credibility.
I know people say, “that’s how the system works,” but I will keep trying to make the system work, not just for rich Canadian corporations, but also for the little people and the birds, fish, wild rice and animals of Minnesota -- and future generations.