The nine public hearings on the “Certificate Of Need” and “Route Permit” for Line 3 ended today. They are overseen by an administrative law judge and are also attended by witnesses provided by Enbridge that proposed the route for the pipeline. The public hearings are an opportunity for the public to speak against or for the project and its proposed route. The Public Utilities Commission is supposed to take all of the comments and testimony into account before issuing their final decision in the spring of 2018.
The public hearings started on September 26th and were supposed to continue until today. The second public hearing in St. Paul started with a march from the state capitol to the Intercontinental Hotel. The demonstration closed downtown streets and made headlines on major Twin Cities news pages. The march and rally had over several hundred in attendance with speeches from Tara Houska, Ta’Sina Sapa Win, Camp Makwa Initiative, and others. The public hearing began with many pro-pipeline supporters, all in matching bright green shirts, being asked to comment first. People opposed to the pipeline were not given an opportunity to speak until one of the opposers stood up and asked why their names weren’t being added to the comment box. The judge said they were late entries, although they argued that they had walked in and entered their names at the same time. Due to being overlooked in the beginning, water protectors were still being called by the judge near 11pm once half of the room had already left. This made many of the water protectors in the room tense, wondering if that had been done on purpose by the Public Utilities Commission and Enbridge so that a large majority of the voices being heard was the pro-pipeliners.
The Duluth public hearing took place on October 18, making it the seventh public hearing to take place. The hearing took place at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center and a rally was held during the afternoon break. Speakers at the rally included water protectors such as Tito Ybarra, Tania Aubid, Alyssa Beaulieu, and Sheila Lamb. The rally concluded into a march back to the convention center which was led by Indigenous peoples in prayer. Tensions were high as the rally reached the convention center. Labor unions made their presence known by parking their work trucks, semi trucks with pipes attached, and tractors across a large portion of the parking lot. The high energy from the rally continued into the convention center where Indigenous people made their presence known by singing and drumming. Law enforcement attempted to stop the drumming, which only increased the high tensions leading into the hearing. The confusion and tension led to a shutdown of the hearing.
The last hearing scheduled to be held in St. Cloud on October 26th was cancelled. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission stated the reason the hearing was cancelled was due to “logistical and safety issues related to the numerous events being held at the convention center that Thursday.” Indigenous organizers believe the cancellation of the hearing is a blatant sign of racism from the PUC, since many community members from the White Earth Reservation were scheduled to be bussed to the hearing. Although many Enbridge employees are bussed down for each of the hearings. Speculation leads to the idea that the hearing was cancelled due to the shutdown of the previous hearing in Duluth. The community members deserve to have their voices heard, they deserve to have that last public hearing, the PUC says that they are reviewing the options available for rescheduling the St. Cloud hearings for a later date.
However, it is not too late to submit a public comment. Here is the information on how:
Mail: Scott Ek, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, 121 7th Place East, Suite 350, St. Paul, MN 55101
Please include the Commission's Docket Numbers and OAH Docket Numbers in the subject line of all communications:
Certificate of Need: Commission Docket 14-916, and OAH Docket 65-2500-32764
Route: Commission Docket 15-137 and OAH Docket 65-2500-33377