It turns out that Minnesotans for Line 3 is actually paid for and governed by the Enbridge Corporation, according to a DeSmog investigative research study that broke June 6. Let me explain. The Minnesotans group participated in the regulatory process as a “grassroots organization” and continues to be part of an aggressive pro-pipeline media campaign, including $11 million spent by Enbridge on lobbying for Line 3.
The pipeline was recently dealt a major blow by the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The court rejected the Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, because there was no worst-case spill scenario assessment for Lake Superior. Without an adequate EIS, the project will not move forward.
Subsequently, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency have temporarily suspended their permitting process for the line. That has to be a deep concern to Enbridge, whose stocks dropped 4 percent the day of the court decision.
Meanwhile, the company struggles with other scenarios that look more and more like a bust in Alberta’s tar sands industry.
The DeSmog research 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.
DeSmog found that Minnesotans for Line 3 presents itself as a grassroots organization consisting of “thousands of members.” But the investigation found “that behind the scenes … Enbridge has provided the group with funding, public relations, and a variety of advocacy tactics.”
According to the study, Minnesotans for Line 3 spent a chunk on advertising to portray the “grassroots organization” as a legitimate interest group. 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 (PUC) hearing on the project at the expense of the project’s opponents — only to disappear shortly after receiving the tickets,” DeSmog reported.
For many tribal people who traveled from low-income communities to participate in the hearing process, this became pretty discouraging.
DeSmog detailed how the Minnesota regulatory process has been deeply influenced by Enbridge, working in concert with a St. Paul public relations firm called Velocity, which used a variety of tactics, including a phone program, direct mail, digital and content engagement, and canvassing "to create grassroots support."
That’s a lot like the 2017 Consumer Energy Alliance, an Enbridge-funded arm of the lobbying firm HBW Resources, which created a campaign titled “Modernizing America.” Eyes on the Ties reported in December 2017 that Consumer Energy Alliance ran ads supporting the pipeline and promoted a University of Minnesota Duluth study that concluded the project will create 8,600 jobs. However, the watchdog group Public Accountability Initiative revealed that Enbridge provided the data inputs for the study and funded the entity that commissioned it from UMD.
I know people say, “That’s how the system works,” but I have to say: I want democracy to work in Minnesota, like for the thousands of Minnesotans who oppose more Enbridge pipes and a new corridor. And, for the Anishinaabe. I for one 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 for future generations.
Winona LaDuke lives on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota. She has written six books on environmental and Native American issues and is executive director of Honor the Earth (honorearth.org), a national Native American environmental foundation.