(Updated June 13, 2018)
Last week, Enbridge CEO Al Monaco announced two major new commitments the company is making as part of their desperate, last-minute attempt to push the PUC to approve the new Line 3 corridor.
First, Enbridge is now offering to remove the old Line 3 pipeline after it builds a new one, wherever landowners want it removed. In the announcement, Monaco did not indicate whether Enbridge has actually changed its mind after 3-4 years of insisting that removal is neither safe or economically feasible.
On June 7th, Enbridge filed a letter to the PUC formalizing this commitment and outlining an approximate timeline: first they will build the new Line 3, then they will have 90 days to purge the oil from the old Line 3, and 1 year to remove the pipe in places where the landowner formally requests it.
Second, Monaco announced that Enbridge will “encourage” the Line 3 contractors they hire to spend at least $100 million on American Indian subcontractors or employees. That represents 3.7% of the total cost of the Minnesota portion of the project ($2.7 billion). But Enbridge has made no formal commitment whatsoever and did not mention the issue at all in the letter to the PUC announcing willingness to remove the old pipe.
It is very unclear how exactly Enbridge proposes to negotiate with landowners to determine who wants the pipe removed, or which government bodies would have authority to regulate those negotiations or removal work in different jurisdictions. For example, will they be required to clean up any oil that they find under the pipe? If so, who will require it? Enbridge has a long, consistent track record of dishonesty and negligence in their landowner relations and it is safe to assume they will not be eager to spend money actually fulfilling their promise. They have estimated the cost of full removal to be $1.28 billion.
This announcement is part of Enbridge’s aggressive last-minute media campaign to try and sell Minnesotans a new pipeline. The desperation comes from the Administrative Law Judge’s Final Report, released in late April, which examined all the mountains of evidence and concluded that Minnesota should deny the new corridor and require Enbridge to remove the old pipeline and replace it “in-trench.” They have premium ads running incessantly on TV, radio, and social media, and have canvassed the entire state by phone and door-knocking multiple times. Last Sunday, they ran full page ads in the A section of every major newspaper in the state. And they’ve been hosting random free gas card giveaways at gas stations across the North. Again, it is safe to assume they are using all the tricks up their sleeve at this point, including any shady backroom deals or string-pulling they can pull off.
Meanwhile, opposition to the project continues to grow and escalate as well. Honor the Earth just opened its new cultural camp, Namewag Camp, along the proposed new pipeline corridor near the Mississippi Headwaters, and put up 2 billboards along the route to “Welcome Water Protectors” for the summer. Landowners along the existing and proposed new corridors are releasing powerful testimonial videos. An interfaith group of over 500 spiritual leaders recently submitted a letter to the PUC and Governor Mark Dayton asking them to reject Line 3 on moral grounds, due to the harm it would inflict upon Indigenous people. On June 6th, in response to Al Monaco’s big announcement, two banners were hung on the front doors of the Enbridge offices in Park Rapids, Minnesota, and on Tuesday, June 12, equipment at an Enbridge construction site for Line 3 on the Wisconsin/Minnesota border was vandalized - electrical lines and hoses were cut, and cement poured into the gas tanks.
Tension is building as both sides await the PUC’s final permit decision, scheduled for June 27th, the last day of a series of 4 public meetings in St. Paul (June 18, 19, 26, 27).