This guest column is by Lorraine Little, Director, Community Engagement at Enbridge in Duluth.
Winona LaDuke is known for her environmental advocacy. Unfortunately, as I read her latest commentary, what I found were half-truths that serve no one … especially not the protection of the environment ("An Enbridge inventory, so far," Forum News Service column).
“Cultural whitewashing”: LaDuke claims Enbridge is spending money to befriend tribal people while opposing them in court. The truth is that Enbridge has demonstrated ongoing respect for tribal sovereignty. As the result of our negotiations with tribal leadership, the Line 3 Replacement Project (L3RP) was routed outside of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe reservation, and through Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa land. The two tribes directly impacted by the pipeline have spoken and written repeatedly in support of the L3RP project.
Enbridge also made a commitment to invest $100 million in project dollars specifically with tribal nations, communities and contractors. When construction started in December, we had already invested $180 million. In addition, nearly 400 Native men and women were working on Line 3, comprising roughly 7% of the workforce, before we paused construction earlier this month.
The L3RP included a first-of-its kind Tribal Cultural Resource Survey led by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa who managed a review of the more than 330-mile route in Minnesota through the 1855, 1837 and 1863/1864 treaty areas. Fond du Lac employed tribal cultural experts who walked the full route, identifying and recording significant cultural resources to be avoided. The construction project is being built under the supervision of tribal monitors with authority to stop construction, therefore ensuring that important cultural resources are protected.
“Repression and brutality”: What is left out in this assertion is there would be no arrests if people did not break the law. Peaceful protest is one thing, but threatening workers and law enforcement, vandalizing equipment, throwing suspicious devices into construction zones to create chaos, and interfering with work on private property is not peaceful.
As a condition of receiving our permit to replace Line 3, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission required the creation of an escrow fund to help local law enforcement agencies pay for the increased policing costs associated with construction of the pipeline. To receive payment from the Public Safety Escrow Account, Local Government Units (LGUs) submit written, itemized requests to the Public Safety Escrow Account Manager, who was appointed by the Minnesota PUC. The Manager makes the determination on eligible expenses.
“Sex and pipelines”: Even before L3RP started, Enbridge was working to raise awareness of human trafficking by partnering with contractors, Tribes, local government officials and Truckers Against Trafficking, a group that exists to educate, equip, empower and mobilize members of the trucking and travel industry to combat human trafficking.
All L3RP workers are required to complete human trafficking awareness training. We have zero tolerance for employees and contractors who engage in human trafficking, or any illegal activity, and they will be fired if caught or arrested. And that’s exactly what happened to two contractors arrested in a trafficking sting. They were immediately fired by the contractor.
“Jobs”: The project is already providing significant economic benefits in Minnesota for counties, small businesses, Native American communities, and union members — including creating thousands of family-sustaining construction jobs, and millions of dollars in local spending and tax revenues.
During construction this winter, more than 4,400 union workers were employed on the project. The L3RP labor agreement stipulates that the contractor supplies 50% of the workforce and local union halls provide 50% of the workforce. In many cases local union halls include membership in neighboring states. Additionally, there were not enough Minnesota union workers to fill the available jobs, requiring use of union workers from other states.
“Blowing off governments”: We will have to agree to disagree on this point, but will correct the record on the Fort Atkinson, Wis., spill. We followed appropriate reporting protocols to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and federal regulators. The spill is contained close to the source. We completed initial cleanup efforts as well as a site assessment and are working with the DNR on a longer-term remediation plan.
“Taxes”: Enbridge paid $34 million in Minnesota property taxes in 2012 and our annual property tax bill has consistently gone up. In 2019, it was $55 million. Minnesota courts agreed with Enbridge that the Minnesota Department of Revenue (DOR) calculations in 2012 and subsequent years were too high.
The courts have made the same ruling for numerous other Minnesota utilities and companies who also sued DOR because of their extreme valuations.
What is most unfortunate is that local governments were caught in the middle of this dispute. Enbridge has pledged to work with each county on an amicable resolution to this issue.
In summary, Enbridge has lived up to its values of safety, integrity, respect and inclusion by engaging with tribal leaders, finding solutions to tough issues, and upholding its project permit conditions. We look forward to completing remaining L3RP construction later this year and to following through on our commitment to safely delivering the energy we all use every day.