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LaDuke: Canadian justice comes to Minnesota

"There’s a pretty good argument to be made that Enbridge incentivized arresting people, including creating some new legal theories of theft. A half-dozen people were charged with felony theft for locking themselves to construction equipment, depriving Enbridge of its use. Hubbard County dismissed those charges."

Winona LaDuke.jpg
Winona LaDuke
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This month, I returned to the Wadena County Courthouse to join with six other women facing charges for opposing the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline on the Shell River.

Our crime: Sitting in lawn chairs with some logging chains on our waists on a boardwalk on state forest lands, which Enbridge claims to own. We are facing up to two years in jail for trespassing and obstruction of legal process. As I face these charges I, like many others, want to know why Enbridge — the corporation which took 5 billion gallons of water from a parched northern Minnesota, fracked 28 rivers and pierced three aquifers — is not facing any charges.

Maybe that’s what happens when Enbridge pays over $8.6 million to numerous jurisdictions of Minnesota, and the state looks the other way. Most ironically, the very agency charged with protecting the waters of Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources, received the most money from Enbridge: over $2.2 million for arresting and surveilling water protectors and Ojibwe people, like myself. For an additional $2 million, the DNR also let Enbridge run over endangered species.

All told, authorities made over 1,000 arrests. Most of us had been part of the 68,000 people testifying against the project (as opposed to 4,000 for the project). We tried. A federal case is still pending.

There’s a pretty good argument to be made that Enbridge incentivized arresting people, including creating some new legal theories of theft. A half-dozen people were charged with felony theft for locking themselves to construction equipment, depriving Enbridge of its use. Hubbard County dismissed those charges.


Another example of legal overcharging: Shani Matteson was nailed with “aiding and abetting trespass” for a speech, videotaped by police informants. Matteson, an artist and 40-year-old mother of two, was charged in Aitkin County. But on Thursday, July 14, District Court Judge Leslie May Metzen acquitted Matteson based on insufficient evidence.

“I have two young children. They knew that I was facing the possibility of up to a year in jail,” Shanai told Minnesota Public Radio. “My mother and father who live here in Aitkin, they have people ask them, ‘What’s going on with your daughter? We heard some things that she’s a criminal.’

“In a small town, those words are not forgotten. Some of us will be known as jailbirds for the rest of our days.”

In the meantime, after all this damage to Minnesota and our waters, Enbridge’s oil pipeline empire is not a long-term win. Mother Earth doesn’t appreciate dirty oil. That’s why the world is on fire.

Tar sands is the dirtiest oil in the world, and some of the most inefficient oil to extract. Here’s how it works: The expenditure needed to extract crude from the Canadian tar sands is higher than anywhere else in the world, according to a recent energy analysis in Bloomberg. The heavy viscous crude must be broken up with steam and chemicals to produce something liquid enough to be pumped to the surface. That’s an energy-intensive process. Whereas conventional methods produce oil containing about 20 gigajoules of energy for every gigajoule used in extracting it from the ground, tar sands oil gets just four or five gigajoules.

“When energy consultancies produce a rundown of the most competitive projects, it’s tar sands (along with still-more marginal ones such as coal-to-liquids or gas-to-liquids) that typically occupy the costliest bit of the curve. When prices dip, the producers at the top start losing money first,” the analysis concludes. That’s Enbridge’s precious tar sands.

Maybe it’s time to prosecute some real climate criminals in Minnesota, not a bunch of elder women who had more courage than the state of Minnesota to stand up to a Canadian corporation. Charge Enbridge. Then, let’s start talking about how they’re going to clean up their old dirty pipe through decommissioning. Removing the pipes will be worth $2 billion at least in just labor (those were estimates for Line 3). Minnesota should get serious about this before the Canadian tar sands market dries up and the corporation goes bankrupt. After all, all the corporate money is in Canada, but the liability is here in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

So, after all the police, all the frac-outs, all the clearcutting and prostituting of Minnesota’s regulatory and justice systems, we have a couple decades, maybe, of dirty oil. Let’s just hope their pipes don’t break.


Winona LaDuke is executive director, Honor the Earth, and an Ojibwe writer and economist on Minnesota’s White Earth Reservation. She is also owner of Winona's Hemp and a regular contributor to Forum News Service.

Related Topics: ENBRIDGE
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