Status #97749 Friends, In two weeks, the Public Utilities Commission will make a [...]

Maplewood, Minnesota
via Ubuntu - United States - Minneapolis, Minnesota…


In two weeks, the Public Utilities Commission will make a final decision on the Line 3 pipeline: whether to build it or not. It’s a little scary to write that. I’ve been fighting this pipeline for more than four years at the PUC, and even I don’t know what the outcome will be. But I know we never would have gotten this far without such an incredible movement of resistance.

First things first: Can you join us for the Line 3 final decision meetings?

The PUC is holding its decision meetings over four days -- June 18, 19, 26, and 27. The actual decision could come any of those days. These meetings are open to the public, but public testimony will not be allowed. Parties to the case, like the intervening tribes and the Youth Climate Intervenors, will have chances to talk and be questioned by the five PUC commissioners. On one of those four days, the commissioners will vote. At that point, Line 3 will either be officially approved (and given a route) or officially denied.

We expect intense public interest for these meetings. They will start at 9:30 a.m. each day and will run until 5 p.m. But if you want a seat, please plan to arrive by 7 a.m. Spaces in the PUC room are extremely limited, AND we know that the commissioners need to see us and know we’re watching as they decide. We also know from past experience that Enbridge is likely to send buses of their own staff to pack these meetings. We cannot save seats; showing up early is the ONLY way to get in.

Of course, if you can’t make it by 7 a.m., come whenever you’re free. But this is the big one: the last time we’ll be in front of the commissioners and the moment they actually need to choose. I want them to look us in the eyes as they do it.

Can you plan to be there? Pick a day (or all four) and let us know. RSVP on Facebook, too and share the event.

Second, I want to take a moment and look back at how we got here. So much has happened in this fight that’s remarkable.

Enbridge announced the Line 3 project on March 4, 2014. MN350 and several other groups started organizing against it that same day. I remember hearing about the proposal that day as I was driving along U.S. 2 near Bemidji, right where the current Line 3 pipeline runs. The new Line 3 was proposed as a twin of sorts to the Sandpiper pipeline, with which it would have shared the new corridor across the Mississippi headwaters.

We would go on to win against Sandpiper in a way that would also set the stage for the Line 3 fight: The all-volunteer organization Friends of the Headwaters led a legal battle to require each pipeline project in Minnesota to have a full environmental impact statement (which had not been required up to that point) and won, beating Enbridge and the Public Utilities Commission in a unanimous three-judge decision. Rather than waiting for this environmental study, Enbridge pulled the plug on Sandpiper in 2016. That left Line 3 as the company’s only active proposal in Minnesota and the biggest project in the its history.

Even though Line 3 was a Keystone XL-sized proposed tar sands pipeline, almost no one knew about it at first, and Enbridge seemed intent on keeping it low-profile. Over the years, MN350 and allies have held more public education / visibility events than I can count -- up north, in the Twin Cities, even along the line on horseback in the case of Honor the Earth’s incredible Love Water Not Oil rides. We’ve spoken in colleges and community centers and picnics and street festivals and county fairs. The response has been incredible -- turns out, when you tell Minnesotans that a Canadian company wants to put a tar sands pipeline across our northern lakes and through treaty territory, they mind that. Who knew?

We’ve had some really big events -- the Tar Sands Resistance March in St. Paul in 2015 with 5,000 people, packing more than 1,000 pipeline opponents into a basement ballroom for a marathon eight-hour public hearing in September 2017, the recent Block Line 3 Party at the PUC where we took over the entire block outside the Public Utilities Commission building for a 24-hour encampment and festival of resistance, and more. (Check out the great video from that event.)

An incredible team of political advocates, including our longtime campaign leader Kathy Hollander, kept bad pipeline bills at bay at the Legislature for years. In the past two sessions, bills were introduced that would have approved Line 3 outright. Many of us attended mass rallies and protests to help stop bad legislation, including a surprise visit to the governor’s mansion (where he brought cookies outside and chatted with folks), Water Action Day at the Capitol, and myriad hearings.

In the Line 3 docket, an unprecedented number of pipeline opponents sought and were granted legal standing as intervenors -- including five directly impacted tribal nations, Honor the Earth, Friends of the Headwaters, the Sierra Club, the Northern Water Alliance, landowner Don Dyrdal, and the Youth Climate Intervenors. MN350 helped to support these last three of these groups, which filed as non-lawyer “citizen intervenors” representing their own interests, one of the first times this has been done in a pipeline case in Minnesota.

Friends and allies set up camps along the proposed pipeline route. Since early 2017, there has been a consistent presence of resistance from native-led camps, including Camp Turtle Island on White Earth and the Makwa Initiative. This activity continues and is growing. Just this past weekend, Honor the Earth opened Namewag Camp near Park Rapids.

In September, the Minnesota Department of Commerce, in its role as the state’s primary advisor on pipelines, filed expert testimony. The DOC opposed the new Line 3 pipeline outright and recommended that the existing Line 3 be shut down. This was historic -- the first time the DOC has held a position like this. The DOC and intervenors laid out a detailed legal and technical case against the pipeline over three weeks of hearings in November, attended by hundreds of Minnesotans who came out to watch and support.

Two months ago, in April, Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly, tasked with advising the PUC commissioners on their final decision, made a long-awaited recommendation: O’Reilly concluded Enbridge’s plan was not viable as proposed. Unfortunately, she did recommend construction of the new line if it could be done in the same trench as the old line. Her filing both insulted and disregarded tribal nations whose reservation land would be crossed by the pipeline. Her recommendation also is inconsistent with the DOC’s view that the project should be stopped regardless of route. Given tribal opposition to Judge O’Reilly’s proposed route, along with other factors, her suggested route may be so bad that it would prove to be unbuildable even if approved.

At MN350, our pipeline resistance team has met every two weeks for nearly five years. This team has kept so much of the work going, and has demonstrated again and again what committed resistance looks like. We’re not backing down. Regardless of what five PUC commissioners in St. Paul decide over these next two weeks, we’ll continue to fight this pipeline. The threat to our climate, our water, and human rights is too great to do anything else.

In the climate justice movement, it often feels like we’re asking for things that are in that particular gray area between impossible and unlikely. Thinking back to that day in March four years ago, driving along U.S. 2 and hearing about Enbridge’s Line 3 proposal for the first time, stopping the pipeline felt nearly impossible. What has happened since has been nothing short of transformational -- turning the status quo on its head and seeing the momentum shift in our direction rather than Enbridge’s, to the point where the company is running scared into these final decision meetings and we’re walking in with hope.

We don’t know what the outcome will be. But we know we’d never have gotten here without all of you who have been a part of this movement -- your time, skill, presence, insight, contributions, advocacy, and everything else.

Thank you, and thanks for keeping the climate movement moving.

Andy Pearson, MN350

P.S. Remember to sign up to attend the final Line 3 hearing beginning next week in St. Paul.

2104 Stevens Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55404
United States

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