On Monday, May 15, 2017, the State of Minnesota released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Enbridge's proposed new Line 3 pipeline. You can view or download the entire DEIS here. This 5000+ page document is an attempt to analyze the potential impacts of the project on Minnesota's environment, public health, tribal resources, climate, etc, and to compare Enbridge's proposed route to several alternatives. The MN Public Utilities Commission is supposed to use it to decide whether or not to grant Enbridge permits for the project.
Public Meetings: The State of MN will hold 22 public meetings in June 2017, all over Minnesota, to gather public comment on the DEIS. In theory, they will use the public comments to make improvements before issuing the Final EIS later this year. Click here for the detailed schedule with times and venue addresses, a list of MN libraries that have hard copies of the DEIS available for the public, etc.
Send Written Comments: Anyone can submit written comments on the DEIS (even if you live outside the state). So even if you speak at a hearing, put it in writing too! The deadline is July 10, 2017. Make sure to include the docket numbers (CN-14-916 and PPL-15-137) on all comments. You can submit them 3 ways: email to Pipeline.Comments@state.mn.us, fax to 651-539-0109, or mail to: Jamie MacAlister, Environmental Review Manager Minnesota Department of Commerce, 85 7th Place East, Suite 280 St. Paul, MN 55101-2198.
Background: This Draft EIS is the result of several years of battle in the regulatory arena between Enbridge, the MN state agencies, and grassroots groups working to protect the water - battles that began with the Sandpiper pipeline. The State of MN tried its best to avoid doing an EIS for this project at all, but a grassroots-funded lawsuit by Friends of the Headwaters was successfully in overturning that decision. In September 2015, the MN Court of Appeals revoked the permit for the Sandpiper and ruled that the MN Public Utilities Commission was required by law to start over and prepare an EIS.
How to write good comments: The best comments point to specific sections or page numbers of the DEIS and explain precisely how and why they are inaccurate, incomplete, biased, based on unfair assumptions, etc. It is also good to reference credible sources of information that you think the State should take into account. Feel free to include personal stories or accounts of how the project will directly affect you, your rights, your community, the resources you depend on, etc. Comments such as "Please build the pipeline because I need a job" or "Water is Life, No Pipelines!" do not have much impact...but may be counted in an overall tally, so something is better than nothing! Download or print this Comment Guide to make it easy:
Highlights of the DEIS: The public was given 3 weeks to read and analyze a 5000+ page technical document before the public meetings begin on June 6. Check out our 4-page DEIS Highlight Reel below for our interpretation and comments so far. To make it easy to share with your community, you can download the PDF and print as many copies as you need!
The Line 3 DEIS Highlight Reel
The United Nations international standard for projects that impact Indigenous Peoples is Free, Prior and Informed consent. Tribal consultancy after the project is already proposed and designed is not free, prior, and informed consent.
Most of the issues specific to tribal people and tribal resources are confined to a separate chapter that attempts to provide “an American Indian perspective.” They are excluded from the main chapters that assess potential impacts. This allows the EIS to avoid drawing conclusions about the impacts on tribal people. (Chapter 9)
Chapter 9, “Tribal Resources,” states that ANY of the possible routes for Line 3 “would have a long-term detrimental effect on tribal members and tribal resources” that cannot be accurately categorized, quantified, or compared (9.6). It also acknowledges that “traditional resources are essential to the maintenance and realization of tribal lifeways, and their destruction or damage can have profound cultural consequences” (9.4.3). This does not acknowledge the treaty responsibilities the state of Minnesota has to the tribal members.
Chapter 11, “Environmental Justice,” acknowledges that pipeline impacts on tribal communities “are part of a larger pattern of structural racism” that tribal people face in Minnesota, which was well documented in a 2014 study by the MN Department of Health. It also concludes that “the impacts associated with the proposed Project and its alternatives would be an additional health stressor on tribal communities that already face overwhelming health disparities and inequities” (11.4.3).
The DEIS concludes that “disproportionate and adverse impacts would occur to American Indian populations in the vicinity of the proposed Project” (11.5) But it also states that this is NOT a reason to deny the project!
Chapter 6 states that Enbridge’s preferred route would impact more wild rice lakes and areas rich in biodiversity than any of the proposed alternative routes (Figure ES-10).
Most of the analysis of archaeological resources in the path of the pipeline rely on Enbridge’s surveys. For some reason, only 3 of their 8 surveys are available, and the 5 missing are the most recent! In those, Enbridge found 63 sites, but claims that only 3 are eligible for protection under the National Register of Historic Places. (220.127.116.11.1). Honor the Earth has had the studies we have been able to see reviewed, and there are numerous flaws in their methodology.
The DEIS acknowledges that “The addition of a temporary, cash-rich workforce increases the likelihood that sex trafficking or sexual abuse will occur,” and that these challenges hit Native communities the hardest. But the DEIS dismisses this problem quickly, saying that “Enbridge can prepare and implement an education plan or awareness campaign around this issue” (11.4.1). What experience does Enbridge have planning and implementing an anti-sex trafficking program?
Big Picture Problems
Many of the environmental impacts and "plans" for minimizing them are drawn directly from Enbridge’s permit application (“Enbridge would do this” and “Enbridge would do that”) without any evidence of compliance or genuine consideration that maybe, just maybe, Enbridge won’t follow all the rules. History shows that they continually violate permit conditions - we are working on compiling an enormous record of these violations. The DEIS should analyze the likelihood of compliance.
The Alternatives chosen for comparison to the pipeline proposal are absurd -- for example, the only rail alternative assumes the construction of a new rail terminal at the US border, and thousands of new railcars to transport oil to Clearbrook and Superior. Enbridge would never do that. The only reasonable rail option would begin in Alberta. The truck alternatives are similarly unreasonable.
The “No Build” Alternative is not genuinely considered. It is framed as “Continued Use of Existing Line 3” (Chapters 3 and 4), but nowhere is the “Shut Line 3 Down” option considered. There is no discussion of renewable energy, conservation, or the rapid development of electric car infrastructure. There is no assessment of the decline in oil demand. The entire study assumes that society needs X amount of oil, simply because Enbridge says they can sell it. That assumption ignores the massive fossil fuel subsidies and debts that make Enbridge’s profits possible, and avoids the moral question of what is good for people and the planet. We know we must stop burning fossil fuels yesterday.
There is zero discussion of how all this extra oil will go once it leaves Superior, Wisconsin. With 370,000 bpd of additional capacity, Enbridge will need a new pipeline departing its terminal in Superior. We know that they plan to build Line 66 through Ojibwe territories in Wisconsin, but they continue to deny this. Why isn’t MN asking?
The DEIS contains no spill analysis for tributaries of the St. Louis River or Nemadji River, where spills could decimate Lake Superior and the harbors of the Twin Ports.
For calculations of impact, the lifespan of the new Line 3 is estimated at 30 years. But Lines 1-4 are 55-65 years old! And hasn’t the technology improved? The lifespan should be at least 50 years, a shorter lifespan is a clear indication that Enbridge themselves know that the fossil fuel era is coming to an end. In Honor the Earth’s analysis, we have attempted to predict the impacts of this pipeline on the next 7 generations.
This project is a further investment in a dying Tar Sands industry. Numerous international oil companies and financing institutions are divesting from the tar sands. Why should Minnesota invest in this industry? Why should our Nation be forced to deal with a bad idea in perpetuity.
The DEIS assumes that the Koch pipelines to MN refineries get all their oil from Line 3, but the current Line 3 does not supply enough capacity for this (390,000 barrels per day), and we know that some of it comes from Line 81, which brings oil from the Bakken in North Dakota.
The 7 sites chosen for spill modeling are not representative of the locations and resources put at risk along the entire corridor. A more thorough analysis of different locations is needed - for example, what about Lake Superior?
There is no analysis on Enbridge’s leak detection system, or their inability to respond quickly to major emergencies.
Enbridge’s response plans are highly guarded, and Honor the Earth’s attempts to receive and review these documents has been blocked. What we can infer is that Enbridge relies on local first responders for their emergencies. They attempt to use the money they donate to communities along their corridors as proof that they have an integrated emergency response program.
The DEIS estimates the annual probability of different kinds of spills on the proposed route in MN:
- Pinhole leak = 27%
Catastrophic = 1.1%
Small Spill = 107%, Medium = 7.6%, Large = 6.1%
So in 50 years, we can expect 14 pinhole leaks, 54 small spills, 4 medium, 3 large, and 1 catastrophic!
The risks of pipeline abandonment are not adequately assessed. For example, there is no discussion of landowner property values and the effect that an abandoned pipe could have on them, especially if there is indeed “legacy contamination” on people’s land.
Impacts on human and natural resources due to the abandoned Line 3 are anticipated to be minimal in the near term but could be significant in the longer term, absent effective monitoring, adaptive management, and the timely introduction of mitigation measures. There is not much information on what these mitigation and management plans are.
If there is a dearth of surrounding soil, or if the cover for the pipeline is relatively shallow, the pipeline bears more of the load and, all things being equal, is more likely to fail. We know from experience that there are numerous areas where the pipes are exposed and near the surface.
There is also no discussion of exposed pipe, how fast it will corrode, or how much currently buried pipe will become exposed once it is emptied. “When a pipe is empty, the weight of the liquid load that once contributed to buoyancy control is lost. As a result, the pipe could become buoyant and begin rising toward the surface at watercourse crossings, in wetlands, and in locations where soil density is low and the water table is high” (8.3.1).
We know that the abandonment of the existing line 3 is bad. But there is also no mention of the abandonment of the other 3 ancient pipelines in Enbridge’s existing mainline corridor (Lines 1, 2, and 4), which we expect Enbridge will very soon attempt to abandon. Nor is there any discussion of the abandonment of the NEW Line 3 in the future.
The DEIS states that it will be very risky to remove and clean up the existing Line 3 because the pipelines are very close together. “The distance between pipelines within this corridor varies, but they are generally 10 to 15 feet apart” (8.3.1). This is not consistent with our extensive observations and physical measurements on the land. Also, don’t they dig up pieces of pipe for maintenance purposes all the time? Why is it suddenly risky?
The DEIS simply states that “Enbridge has indicated that it would develop a contaminated sites management plan to identify, manage,and mitigate historically contaminated soils and waters” found during the abandonment or removal of the existing Line 3 (18.104.22.168.1). We want to see that plan.
Construction and Restoration
Chapter 2, “Project Description” states that Enbridge has requested a 750-foot route width (375 feet on each side of the Line 3 Replacement pipeline centerline). They claim only 50 of the 750 feet would remain a permanent right-of-way (2.1) All of this width should be included in an impact analysis because Enbridge’s environmental protection plan and record is abysmal.
Their “restoration” plans for restoring the landscape around the corridor after installation is laughable. Enbridge’s process for restoring wetlands includes dumping the now compacted (and probably de-watered) soil back in the trench, sowing some oats and “letting nature take it’s course”. This is not how you re-establish a wetland. Studies have shown that even with proper restoration practices, it can take decades to get back to the biological functioning it was at prior to disturbance. When Enbridge stores the soil, they will also be driving equipment over it- which compacts it, they also plan to compact the soil after refilling the trenches. This is not good for the soil.
Cathodic protection, which applies electric current to the pipeline in order to protect it from corrosion caused by nearby utility lines, will not be installed for up to 1 year after pipeline construction (22.214.171.124). Lack of cathodic protection is what caused many pinhole leaks in the Keystone pipeline, almost immediately after construction. The proposed route for Line 3 follows a utility corridor for much of its length - this is a recipe for disaster. Even the US Army Corps’s rubber-stamp approval of the Dakota Access pipeline required the cathodic protection system to be installed within 6 months!
Chapter 5, “Existing Conditions, Impacts, and Mitigation” states that Line 3 will create ZERO permanent jobs. Enbridge’s application states that “existing operations staff would be able to operate the [pipeline] and that few additional employees would be hired to assist the staff” (5.3.4).
Also in Chapter 5, the DOC assumes “all workers would re-locate to the area” and ZERO construction jobs will go to Minnesotans. The pipeline would have “no measureable impact on local employment, per capita household income, median household income, or unemployment” (5.3.4).
The DEIS does not acknowledge that when the existing Line 3 shuts down, Enbridge will stop paying taxes to the MN counties along the mainline corridor. For many of these poor counties in the north, revenue from Enbridge’s property tax makes up a significant portion of the county budget. There is also the issue that Enbridge is now in the process of appealing years of back taxes, burdening two of the poorest counties in Minnesota with over $10 million due.
The DEIS acknowledges that Line 3 would contribute to climate change. It analyses 3 different types of emissions - direct, indirect, and lifecycle. Direct emissions are those that the pipeline infrastructure itself emits, and these are very small. Indirect emissions are those created by the power plants that provide electricity for the pipeline’s pumping stations, and these are significant. Lifecycle emissions are those caused by the refinement and eventual use of the oil, and these are massive. Line 3’s direct and indirect emissions alone would be 453,000 tons of CO2 per year. Over a 50-year lifespan, that would cost society an estimated $1.1 billion. (Executive Summary p.18).
The lifecycle emissions of Line 3 would be 193 million tons of CO2 each year. Over a 50-year lifespan, that would cost society an estimated $478 billion (126.96.36.199)
The DEIS does not discuss the unprecedented challenges of human casualty, displacement, conflict, natural disaster, biodiversity loss, etc, that climate change is causing, or the consensus from the scientific community that we must leave fossil fuels in the ground. It also fails to acknowledge that across the planet, Indigenous people are disproportionately impacted.
The DEIS affirms that the MN PUC can only grant the permit if "the consequences to society of granting are more favorable than the consequences of denying the certificate." Regardless of whether or not Enbridge can find customers, the DEIS shows that the negative impacts far outweigh the benefits. So our position remains:
No Permit. Shut down Line 3 and develop renewable energy infrastructure.