Above:  At a tactical response demonstration event, an Enbridge representative donates $750 to the Gegobic-Iron SWAT team on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Enbridge regularly makes contributions to law enforcement agencies.  Photo by Ironwoodinfo, Inc.

 

Even though no permits have yet been issued for Line 3, law enforcement agencies in Minnesota have already been tracking water protectors’ activities, sharing information, and making preparations to respond to heightened Line 3 resistance for a long time now.  Enbridge has agreed to pay for any costs they incur responding to social unrest during construction.

 

A Bottomless Tab

In May 2018, the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) wrote a letter to the MN Public Utilities Commission (PUC) asking them to come up with a way to reimburse local governments for law enforcement and emergency management costs related to resistance to the project.  The Star Tribune reported this inaccurately as a request to “force” Enbridge to cover the costs, and the AMC responded saying that they had been misunderstood - that they certainly did not want to “create the illusion of law enforcement working for the company.”  The AMC expressed worry that the limited resources of the small, rural, low-budget counties along the proposed pipeline route would be insufficient, especially since the costs of sharing resources between jurisdictions thru Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) agreements are not reimbursable.

For context, recall that North Dakota law enforcement and emergency management agencies spent $43 million during the historic siege at Standing Rock in 2016-2017.  They were reimbursed $15 million from pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners and $10 million from the federal government, and are now suing the feds for the remainder.  Through EMAC agreements, they brought in additional cops from 7 different states, which required the Governor to declare a State of Emergency because the EMAC is intended only for natural disaster relief.  The EMAC is how Minnesota’s very own Hennepin County sent 30 Special Operations forces to Standing Rock, where they proved to be some of the most brutal.

On June 28, 2018, when the PUC approved the permits for Line 3, they added a condition requiring Enbridge to cover all the law enforcement costs of responding to protests during construction.  Enbridge happily agreed. This means that once the permit is finalized and issued (perhaps next month), Minnesota law enforcement will have a bottomless tab open with a Canadian multinational corporation to cover any costs related to quelling resistance to the pipeline.  (Don’t worry, Enbridge will be fine - their oil-producing customers in the Alberta tar sands are the ones actually putting up the capital for the new Line 3, and they will pass much of those costs on to consumers at the pump.)

 

Will Enbridge also use dogs and paramilitary tactics?

The PUC also plans to ensure that any private security firms hired by Enbridge to respond to Line 3 resistance have permits to operate in Minnesota.  In a melodramatic performance, Commissioner John Tuma repeatedly interrupted and talked over PUC Chairperson Nancy Lange to insist on this condition as a way to try to prevent any “Pinkerton stuff” from happening this time around.  (Several of the private security firms and paramilitary groups hired by Energy Transfer Partners to lead counterintelligence and counterterrorism efforts at Standing Rock, attack water protectors with dogs, act as provocateurs and infiltrators in the camps, and coordinate law enforcement agencies that were in over their head, had no permits to operate in North Dakota and are now facing various wrist slaps.)

Enbridge says they have no plans to use private security during Line 3 construction, which is very interesting given the fact that they have consistently been accompanied by their hired private security firm, Raven Executive and Security Services, Inc., at public hearings across the state over the past year (Raven is licensed in Minnesota).  At the same time, Enbridge also said that "if a protest emerges, we are de-escalating...we are going to stop work and remove our people and our contractors from the site."  We’ll see about that.

 

What is law enforcement doing to prepare?

Surprisingly, the first jurisdiction to take major public action to prepare their law enforcement agencies for Line 3 battles may have been the City of Duluth.  In December 2017, a story broke that the Duluth Police Department was planning to purchase $125,000 of riot gear, to equip over 100 of its officers.  Puzzled as to what Duluth incident would ever require such equipment, the community erupted in opposition, and Indigenous water protectors from Camp Makwa demanded time at the next day’s City Council meeting to point out the thinly veiled racism in the plan.  Police Chief Mike Tuksen backed down, and the proposal has been on hold ever since.

Beltrami County, home to the City of Bemidji, made the next major move.  On February 20, 2018, months before the AMC wrote its letter or the PUC gave its green light, the Beltrami County Board entered into a mutual aid agreement with other MN counties in order to prepare for Line 3 protests that they considered “very likely.”  The agreement allows law enforcement agencies to share resources “in the event of a potential threat," in contrast to state law which requires the threat to actually happen first.  “Both northern districts of the (Minnesota) Sheriff's Association have been working on this for the last six to eight months," said Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp. "Think about what happened a few years ago with DAPL,” warned Hodapp.  Hodapp’s concerns are curious, given that the route for the new Line 3 does not even go through Beltrami County.

In fact, even though the pipeline route is outside their jurisdiction, it appears that Beltrami County has been taking the lead on law enforcement preparations for Line 3 for some time.  Information received through Data Practices Act requests from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension indicates that the Beltrami County Sheriff's Department is the agency coordinating efforts by Enbridge and at least 8 law enforcement agencies, from all levels of jurisdiction, to share information about water protectors.  This group was convened by the Minnesota Fusion Center in St. Paul, part of the network of fusion centers across the country established by the US Department of Homeland Security after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to create hubs of criminal and counter-terrorism intelligence gathering, analysis, and sharing between local, state, federal, and tribal law enforcement agencies.  

Stay tuned for our next article, which will describe this ongoing intelligence-sharing in more detail.