Minnesota panel issues formal permit for disputed Enbridge pipeline

Line 3 construction is already underway in Canada. Image: Enbridge

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Minnesota regulators have issued a formal order approving a route permit for Enbridge Energy’s plan to replace its aging Line 3 crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.

The Public Utilities Commission approved the project in June. Its written order Friday followed one last month granting a certificate of need. If the commission denies petitions to reconsider those formal orders, opponents can ask the Minnesota Court of Appeals to overturn them.

Alberta-based Enbridge says it needs to replace Line 3, which was built in the 1960s, because it’s increasingly subject to corrosion and cracking.

But opponents say the new line, which would follow a partly different route, risks oil spills in the pristine Mississippi River headwaters region where Native Americans harvest wild rice, and that it would aggravate climate change.

PUC approves Line 3 route. Map by News Tribune on Oct 26, 2018

By Associated Press


Minnesota Regulators Postpone Line 3 Meeting After Protests

FILE: Protest against the Enbridge Line 3 replacement in Minnesota.

Enbridge Line 3 meetings postponed after protests erupt

Minnesota regulators postponed a meeting Tuesday on Enbridge Energy’s planned Line 3 replacement after pipeline opponents disrupted the meeting with a bullhorn and a boombox.

Protests erupted as the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission met to discuss whether Enbridge met conditions earlier imposed by the panel. The PUC approved the project in June, giving Enbridge a green light to replace its aging Line 3 crude oil pipeline across Minnesota.

Opponents in the back of the PUC hearing room took out a bullhorn and made speeches aimed at the commissioners, the Star Tribune reported.

“You should all be ashamed,” one protester said.

PUC Chairwoman Nancy Lange recessed the meeting but eventually canceled it when a protester playing music on a boombox refused to turn it off.

Several opponents sat with their backs facing the commissioners. Their shirts featured slogans such as “Enbridge lap dogs.”

In a statement, Enbridge said it was “unfortunate that a small group of people derailed” the meeting. The Canadian-based company said the conditions that were up for discussion were intended to “protect Minnesotans.”

“We acknowledge that the process has been long and difficult and raised many passionate interventions. But what happened today crossed the line,” Enbridge said.

State Rep. Dan Fabian, a Roseau Republican who chairs the Minnesota House Environment and Natural Resources Committee, also criticized the protesters.

“Minnesota is better than this nonsense,” Fabian said in a statement. He called on Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration, the PUC and local law enforcement “to do whatever necessary to prevent disruptions like this from happening in the future.”

Line 3 runs from Alberta, Canada, across North Dakota and Minnesota to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. Enbridge wants to replace the line, which it built in the 1960s and is running at only about half its original capacity. The replacement would restore its original capacity. But Native American and environmental activists contend the new line risks spills in fragile areas.

By The Associated Press


Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Approves Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Project

According to Enbridge, the multibillion-dollar Line 3 replacement represents the largest project in the company’s history. Here, contractors work near Superior, Wis. MPR News

Minnesota regulators have approved Enbridge’s proposal to replace its Line 3 pipeline across the northern part of the state.

According to media reports, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved the $9-billion Enbridge Line 3 replacement project on Thursday afternoon.

MPR News says the decision came with several conditions, including a decommissioning trust fund to ensure the new pipeline will be retired responsibly decades from now. Enbridge will also be required to follow through on a promise to landowners to remove portions of the old Line 3 upon request.

The Globe and Mail reports, a narrow 3-2 decision approved Enbridge’s preferred route for the pipeline, south of the existing corridor, with only slight modifications, meaning the company dodges the potential for lengthy delays and added costs of alternatives.

Indigenous tribes and environmental groups vowed immediately to appeal the decision and maintain their resistance to the project.

In a sign of potential clashes ahead, the commission was interrupted midway through Thursday’s deliberations in St. Paul, Minn., by shouts that it had “declared war on the Ojibwe.”

Native american activists and environmentalists oppose the project, saying it’s unnecessary and would risk spills in pristine areas of the state.

Line 3 also requires 29 additional permits from local, state and federal levels, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said in a statement. “Approvals are by no means assured,” he said.

Appeals of the commission’s decisions go to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

The Minnesota Legislature also could intervene when it reconvenes next year. Dayton vetoed a bill last session that would have let Enbridge bypass the commission and proceed with replacing Line 3. But voters will elect a new governor and a new Legislature in November.

The total length of the Line 3 replacement is 1,031-mile (1,660-km) from Alberta in western Canada to Wisconsin.

Appeals Court Allows ‘Necessity Defense’ for Pipeline Protesters in Minnesota

Climate activists Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein shut down Enbridge’s tar sands pipelines 4 and 67 in Minnesota on Oct. 11, 2016. Climate Direct Action

Enbridge pipeline protesters claim threat of climate change made civil disobedience necessary

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that four anti-pipeline activists facing criminal charges have a legit case to argue the “necessity defense” in court.

According to EcoWatch, the so-called “Valve Turners” Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein were charged after shutting off the emergency valves on a pair of tar sands pipelines owned by Enbridge Energy.

The pipelines targeted were Enbridge line 4 and 67 in Leonard, Minnesota.

Johnston and Klapstein, and the two defendants who filmed them in October 2016, argue their actions to stop the flow of the polluting bitumen from Canadian tar sands fields to the U.S. were justified due to the threat of climate change and had no legal alternatives. They plan to call expert witnesses who will back them up.

Prosecutors had challenged the decision to allow the “necessity defense” arguing its inclusion would confuse a jury and be less likely to result in a conviction, but the Court ruled 2-1 against them. The state can ask the Supreme Court to take up the issue.

While District Judge Robert Tiffany allowed the necessity defense, he also warned in a ruling in October that the four must clear a high legal bar to succeed.

Another hurdle is that the jury will come from a sparsely populated county where Enbridge is a major employer and the largest property taxpayer.

Johnston and Klapstein face felony charges of criminal damage to critical public service facilities and other counts.

Attorneys expect the judge to set trial dates for sometime this summer in Clearwater County.

The necessity defense has worked for climate activists before.

Last month, a Massachusetts judge found 13 activists who were arrested for sitting in holes dug for a pipeline to block construction “not responsible by reason of necessity” because the action was taken to avoid serious climate damage.

US officials to hold meeting on Alberta Clipper Pipeline


Pipeline expansion spurs meeting in Bemidji

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Mar. 5, 2017 — State Department officials will come to Minnesota on Tuesday to hold the only public meeting on a draft environmental review for the final segment of Enbridge Energy’s project to boost capacity in its Alberta Clipper pipeline, which carries Canadian tar sands oil across northern Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin.

The State Department’s four-year review concluded that there would be no significant environmental impacts from completing the project, which requires a presidential permit because the last remaining segment crosses the U.S.-Canadian border in North Dakota. But environmentalists and some Native American tribes dispute that and are gearing up for the meeting in the northern Minnesota city of Bemidji.

Here’s a look at some issues involved:

The pipeline

Enbridge built the Alberta Clipper, also known as Line 67, in 2009 for $1 billion. Its capacity was 450,000 barrels per day. Enbridge later decided to nearly double that to 800,000 barrels; the Calgary, Alberta-based company did most of that by adding pumping stations along the route.

Enbridge needs a presidential permit for the 3-mile segment where the 1,000-mile pipeline crosses the border. Getting the permit is a lengthy process. The Keystone XL pipeline that would run from Canada’star sands oilto Nebraska, for example, was derailed when President Barack Obama rejected its permit. President Donald Trump has invited Keystone XL developer TransCanada to reapply.

Enbridge is operating the Alberta Clipper at full capacity with a temporary workaround. It built a detour to and from a parallel pipeline that crosses the border nearby and already has a permit. Opponents challenged the legality of that setup in court but lost.

Why Enbridge wants it

Enbridge spokeswoman Shannon Gustafson called the Alberta Clipper “a vital piece of energy infrastructure” that bolsters America’s energy security because it lessens the need for imports from unstable nations. Midwest refineries depend on the oil that Enbridge pipelines deliver, she said.

“Pipelines continue to be the safest, most reliable means of transporting crude oil that Minnesotans and Midwesterners rely on in their daily lives,” Gustafson said.

Other Enbridge projects in the works are a proposed replacement for its 1960s-era Line 3 that would follow part of the same corridor. In fact, the Alberta Clipper detour uses an upgraded section of Line 3 to cross the border. Line 3 is also drawing opposition from tribes and environmentalists.

The opposition

A coalition of environmental and tribal groups opposes the Alberta Clipper because it carries tar sands oil, which they consider a bigger environmental threat than regular crude. The pipeline crosses the lake country of northern Minnesota, including the Leech Lake and Fond du Lac Ojibwe reservations. Opponents say it threatens ecologically sensitive areas, as well as resources such as wild rice that are important to the Ojibwe bands.

Some of the leading opponents, including Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, were also active in the fight against the Dakota Access oil pipeline. LaDuke said protests that drew thousands to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota have spawned new “water protectors” to oppose Enbridge.

LaDuke is organizing a “Sustainability Summit” for Tuesday ahead of the State Department meeting. Her event will highlight clean energy alternatives. Participants will then march to the meeting and hold a rally that will include traditional Ojibwe drumming and dancing.

The meeting

The State Department is holding Tuesday’s meeting as part of the public comment period on the draft environmental review, which runs through March 27. The agency will consider those comments as it prepares the final version. The president must then determine whether issuing the permit is in the national interest.

By The Associated Press


AIM Co-Founder Seeking Assistance In Search For Missing Granddaughter

Dennis Banks, seen here with family friend Tracy Rector (left), Robert Upham, and an unidentified relative, stopped by the memorial gathering for Misty Upham.

Dennis Banks, seen here with family friend Tracy Rector (left), Robert Upham, and an unidentified relative, at a memorial gathering for Misty Upham.

By Red Power Media, Staff 

While another missing woman case in Minnesota turned deadly, the granddaughter of prominent AIM co-founder Dennis Banks, has been missing for more than a week.

The last solid lead of 31-year-old, Rose Downwind’s whereabouts is from an ex-boyfriend, who told police he saw Downwind leaving a home on Stoner Avenue in Bemidji on Oct. 21.

Police are asking for help locating Downwind

The Bemidji Police Department are seeking information about Downwind’s whereabouts. Police Chief Mike Mastin said his department is chasing down leads across the state but has yet to make a breakthrough in the case.

“Any time someone is missing for this period of time it’s a cause for concern,” Mastin said. “But we haven’t developed any leads that would suggest she’s anything but missing.”

Police originally centered the search around the Bemidji Target, where family members last saw Downwind. Since then, Mastin said Downwind’s ex-boyfriend provided new information placing her on Stoner Avenue two days later.

The ex-boyfriend, Mastin said, may have seen Downwind get into a blue car, but couldn’t describe the make and model.

Meanwhile, police are continuing to investigate the death of University of Minnesota Morris student Laura Ann Schwendemann, 18, whose body was found in a cornfield near Alexandria Monday by a farmer who was harvesting his corn. She had been missing since Oct. 14.

AIM co-founder seeking assistance in finding his Granddaughter

According to Native News Online, Downwind is the granddaughter of Dennis Banks, American Indian Movement (AIM) co-founder— and the daughter of Darla Banks.

Darla Banks said in the article that she would normally hear from her daughter almost daily, but has not heard from her in almost 11 days. Banks said her daughter was reportedly going to Saint Paul; however, no one in Saint Paul that she knows has seen her.

Dennis Banks told the online newspaper that he had recently talked to Duane Lee “Dog” Chapman, who has offered to help locate Downwind.

Dog specializes in finding bail jumpers and missing people.

“She is still missing and we hope there has been no foul play,” said Banks, who is seeking assistance through social media. “Besides the usual law enforcement agencies, I am calling on the regional members of the American Indian movement to assist by going door to door asking if anyone has seen her or knows of her whereabouts.”

Candlelight vigil 

A candlelight vigil will be held tonight for Rose Downwind.

The vigil will be held at 7 p.m. on the 100 block of Stoner Avenue, where Downwind, was last seen leaving a residence.

Downwind was wearing a blue sweater and black pants when she was last seen. Anyone with information about her disappearance is asked to call the Bemidji police department at 218-333-9111 or call the Rose Downhill Hot Line at 763-242-4242.

Any tip will be greatly appreciated.


Must-Watch Trailer: Documentary About Native Gangs Is a Hit at Berlin Festival


Indian Country Today

The Seventh Fire, a film that follows two gang members on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, premiered on February 7 at the Berlin Film Festival to critical praise.

The film came in to the fest boasting an impressive pedigree: It’s “presented by” revered director Terrence Malick (Days of Heaven,The New World,Tree of Life) and its roster of producers includes actress Natalie Portman and director Chris Eyre.

The Seventh Firelooks at two Native gang members at decidedly different stages of their lives and, so to speak, careers. Rob Brown, a gang kingpin in his 30s, has been sentenced to prison for a fifth time and feels some remorse for having inflicted gang and drug culture on his Ojibwe community. Meanwhile, Brown’s 17-year-old protege Kevin Fineday dreams of becoming a big-time gang leader — i.e., the next Rob Brown.

The Hollywood Reportersums up The Seventh Fire as “a fascinating and important documentary that takes some time to get going.”

The film has been a long time in the making, with origins that stretch back over a decade. In 2004, director Jack Pettibone Riccobono began visiting Ojibwe reservations to research a film about wild rice, “The Sacred Food,” which showed at the Berlin Film Festival in 2007. He later heard stories about Native gang culture, and decided to revisit White Earth to investigate. There he met Rob Brown, and decided to make the film that becameThe Seventh Fire.

Riccobono feels thatThe Seventh Firewill appeal to audiences as an important human story, but also as a piece of art. “This film is not just for that crowd that goes to see social issue documentaries,”he told Screen Daily. “We want someone to think, ‘If you like [Terrence] Malick, you might also respond to the aesthetic of this film.'” He adds that problems communities face with drugs and gangs “are American issues, not just Native American issues.”

Future plans for The Seventh Fire include screenings at reservations.

Mille Lacs Band members protest planned autopsy

Mushkoob Aubid’s wife, Winnie LaPrairie (left), and his sister, Lala Shingode, are seen through a veil of smoke from a fire lit at dusk at UMD on Sunday. LaPrairie waited to claim her husband’s body in order to carry out traditional funeral services. Aubid, a spiritual leader for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, died after an automobile accident, and band members are protesting an autopsy planned for Tuesday, saying it would violate their spiritual beliefs. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Mushkoob Aubid’s wife, Winnie LaPrairie (left), and his sister, Lala Shingode, are seen through a veil of smoke from a fire lit at dusk at UMD on Sunday. LaPrairie waited to claim her husband’s body in order to carry out traditional funeral services. Aubid, a spiritual leader for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, died after an automobile accident, and band members are protesting an autopsy planned for Tuesday, saying it would violate their spiritual beliefs. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

More than a dozen members of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe gathered Sunday on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus, demanding the release of the body of a spiritual leader who died a day earlier and was scheduled to undergo an autopsy.

Mushkoob Aubid, 65, was involved in a serious car accident Friday and died Saturday at Cloquet Memorial Hospital. His body was taken to the medical school at UMD, where an autopsy is set for Tuesday.

His family pleaded Sunday with authorities to allow them to take the body back home to Aitkin County, saying an autopsy would violate their spiritual beliefs.

“We just want to prepare his body for his journey to the next world,” his widow, Winnie LaPrairie, said. “This is the way it’s been done for thousands of years.”

The family’s spiritual beliefs require that a body remain intact and that the mouth be sewed shut. The body also must be washed and properly dressed, they said.

In addition, family members also were seeking to have a ventilator removed from Aubid’s body, saying that rigor mortis likely would make it impossible to sew the mouth shut.

Aubid, a drumkeeper for the Mille Lacs Band and the brother of an elected tribal officer, was driving on Minnesota Highway 210 near Cromwell on Friday night when his car left the roadway and struck a utility pole, according to the Minnesota State Patrol. He died the next night at the Cloquet hospital.

Family members said he had a heart condition, and they suspect that was the cause of the crash. Despite their objections, they said they were told that an autopsy would have to be performed because Aubid did not die as a result of the crash itself.

Aubid’s death occurred in Carlton County, which contracts with the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office, operating at the medical school at UMD.

Dr. Thomas Uncini, the St. Louis County medical examiner, could not be reached for comment Sunday.

St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin, who provides legal representation for the office, said he was aware of the situation and was looking into it. He said he planned to speak with Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler today.

“If I can help in the whole situation, I’ll do what I can,” Rubin said.

Band administrators and attorneys said they believe a forced autopsy would violate the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. They said they would speak with Rubin and possibly file for an injunction today seeking to block an autopsy.

“We’re trying to do this peacefully and according to the law,” said Dan LaPrairie, Aubid’s son. “But our beliefs supercede those laws. Our father gave us explicit instructions for what to do when he passed, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

Family members said they initially were told that an autopsy would be performed at 3 p.m. Sunday, but the medical examiner’s office later postponed it until Tuesday.

The family, most of whom live in the McGregor area, followed the body as it was transported Sunday from Cloquet to UMD, where they said they were not allowed access.

Family members and band representatives were on campus all day Sunday. At about 5:30 p.m., they lit a fire outside the medical school, and several family members began to sing traditional songs.

Their cultural teachings dictate that the fire should have started much earlier, family members said said. Traditionally, a fire is lit the first four nights after the death, with tobacco and food offered as the spirit revisits everywhere it had been on Earth.

Tradition also requires that the men clean and dress the body, which is to be buried on the fifth day.

“The sooner they release the body and let my sons go and do what needs to be done, the happier I’ll be,” Winnie LaPrairie said, vowing to stay all night.

Family members said they faced similar circumstances about 25 years ago, when Mushkoob Aubid’s father, George Aubid, passed away in Aitkin County. The family said Mushkoob took the body from the hospital and faced the threat of prosecution, sparking national news coverage.

A quarter-century later, they say they’re disappointed that they’re dealing with a similar set of circumstances.

“We respect other people’s ways,” an emotional Winnie LaPrairie said. “Why can’t they respect ours?”

Iyawbance LaPrairie, the son of Mushkoob Aubid, holds sage, tobacco ties, and a traditional pipe with tobacco during a gathering at the University of Minnesota Duluth on Sunday. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Iyawbance LaPrairie, the son of Mushkoob Aubid, holds sage, tobacco ties, and a traditional pipe with tobacco during a gathering at the University of Minnesota Duluth on Sunday. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)