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In Response: Instead of Line 3, make US global leader in green infrastructure

In his Oct. 1 opinion piece, Bob Schoneberger wrote in the News Tribune: "We all have heard the saying, 'You get what you deserve.' In mid-September, Minnesotans deserved much more than what they got from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and Minnesota Department of Commerce." His column (Local View: "Minnesota deserves better than actions of Line 3 protesters") was in response to a story Sept. 12, headlined, "Line 3 opponents stall PUC meeting."

I couldn't have agreed more. What Schoneberger and I disagree about is the nature of "more" in "deserved much more."

Throughout the Line 3 permitting process, we have seen both the Public Utilities Commission and Department of Commerce bend rules to suit Enbridge. During the Environmental Impact Statement process, the Department of Commerce did not do its due diligence and adequately consult tribal governments and communities. While it recently has done a better job at protecting Minnesota consumers by standing by its convictions that the project is not needed ("Commerce Department wants Line 3 reconsidered," Sept. 27), that Enbridge's proposed insurance would not adequately cover an oil spill ("Commerce: Enbridge's liability insurance won't cover oil spill," Sept. 5), and that Enbridge's decommissioning trust fund is not lawful ("Department of Commerce says Enbridge filing needs work," July 23), it still has not adequately altered its tribal-consultation process.

Commerce is not the only state agency that has spoken out about this project. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have expressed serious concerns about the project. After her review of the project, Administrative Law Judge Anne O'Reilly recommended against granting a route permit. During that process, more than 72,000 Minnesotans weighed in, nearly all of them in opposition — 68,244 of them, according to Minnesota Public Radio. So when the Public Utilities Commission made its June 28 decision to permit Line 3, it went against the recommendations of four state agencies and the Minnesota public.

Schoneberger wrote that: "It's important to know that professional protesters are coming here to try to bully, disrupt, and threaten — to do anything they can to stop a process because their agenda and backers disagree with the outcome. They do not represent who we are and what Minnesotans believe."

I would like to know who these "professional protesters" are. Are they the Minnesotans who turned their backs on the Public Utilities Commission? Or are they the Native "water protectors" standing up for their land and water?

Also interesting to me regarding this idea of "professional protestors" is that Schoneberger's group, Minnesotans for Line 3, reportedly has been busing people in, putting them up in hotels, buying them lunch, and paying them to attend meetings on Line 3. Each time these folks get up to speak, they have the same canned comments, it seems, clearly prepared for them ahead of time. Surely, these Minnesotans for Line 3 members are just passionate about fossil fuels and want to ensure Canada's economy does not collapse, right?

Surely, Schoneberger doesn't have an ulterior motive, such as being CEO of one of Enbridge's contractors, right? Wrong. Schoneberger's company, United Piping, could benefit greatly from this project. I am not saying a businessman cannot advocate for his company, but he should be truthful about it, not stand behind a sham organization.

Schoneberger claimed throughout his commentary that Minnesotans want this project and that "paid protestors" were inciting violence and ignoring processes they do not like. Again, this is not the truth. For years, a coalition of Minnesota groups has pushed for a better public process regarding pipeline permitting. The current process is deeply fragmented, ignores tribal rights, and seems designed for the benefit of corporations and not the public. Water protectors standing up against these injustices are not inciting violence or ignoring processes; they are doing what all free people must do. They are advocating for their rights and pushing for more just public processes. Democracy is not a spectator sport. It is an ever-evolving goal and must respond to the needs of the public to correct past injustices.

Native people in the United States and across the globe deserve processes that seek their free, prior, and informed consent on projects that impact their lives and lands. They don't deserve coerced agreements at the end of a gun.

I have been at many meetings with Schoneberger and his Minnesotans for Line 3 group. They seem to see Native people advocating for their rights as a threat to their own white, middle-class reality. But it doesn't have to be that way. United Piping and others that would be employed by the Line 3 project should be employed to instead improve our aging infrastructure and "make America great again" by making the U.S. global leaders in green infrastructure. This is what is best for Minnesota's future.

Nicolette Slagle of Callaway, Minn., is research and deputy director for Honor the Earth (honorearth.org), a Native American-led environmental group.

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