Photo: Enbridge's Project Director for Line 3, Paul Eberth, Construction Manager Barry Simonson, and attorney Christina Brusven, at a public hearing in Hinkley, MN in 2017 (Rob Wilson Photography).
Yesterday, Friday, June 22, Enbridge submitted a document to the Line 3 docket outlining the 5 last-minute promises they’ve made recently in desperate attempts to push the PUC to approve their proposed new corridor. In that document, they propose a “Landowner Choice Program” to determine where to remove the old Line 3 pipeline. Their plan is to send each landowner a letter asking them if they want Line 3 removed from their property. That sounds reasonable enough. But deep in the document, Enbridge also says they plan to offer each landowner money to let them leave the corroded, leaky pipe in the ground:
“Where landowners choose decommissioning-in-place, they will be compensated (subject to the negotiation of a mutually acceptable compensation arrangement between Enbridge and the landowner).” - Attachment C, “Enbridge Landowner Commitment on Removal of Line 3”, Page 3
Faced with the costs of digging up and removing an old pipeline, along with the inevitable contamination they will find underneath, Enbridge will approach these landowner negotiations with very deep pockets. And these are some of the poorest areas in the state of Minnesota. That kind of power imbalance, especially in light of Enbridge's consistent track record of dishonesty and bullying, makes informed consent and “landowner choice” impossible. Enbridge even says in this document that they don’t expect to remove much pipe. This is not a proposal to remove the old line, it is a proposal to throw money at the problem, sweep it under the rug, and pass it on to future generations. Enbridge is giving the PUC the option to shirk their responsibility to regulate this mess and instead just throw each individual landowner to the dogs.
Landowners on the existing corridor have spoken out passionately against pipeline abandonment, and reminded Minnesota that their decision on Line 3 will set precedent for the 3 other ancient Enbridge pipelines in their Mainline System, as well as many others in the future. Landowners on the proposed new route have also spoken out against a new energy corridor through their communities.
In May, Enbridge CEO Al Monaco announced, after years of insisting that removal is neither safe or economically feasible, that Enbridge would now remove the old Line 3 wherever landowners want. He also 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). Yesterday’s written document includes lots of new words about this “target” but not much additional information about how they propose to achieve it, and certainly no binding commitment whatsoever.
Enbridge’s attorneys made the other 3 “new commitments” verbally at the first day of PUC meetings last week, and a bit more information about each is included in the document submitted yesterday:
- A financial guaranty from their parent company, to cover spill costs
Renewable energy credits to offset electricity used to operate the pipeline (not the oil inside)
Willing to participate in a trust for decommissioning future pipelines in Minnesota
During the first 2 days of final permit decision meetings in St. Paul on June 18th and 19th, the PUC Commissioners requested these commitments in writing. Several of them expressed skepticism and irritation at the sudden last-minute offers that have not been included in the past 5 years of analysis. With each of those promises, “there is considerable devil in the details,” said Commissioner John Tuma. “This is not about you coming in here, in the last minute, and yanking something out of the rabbit’s hat,” he warned.
So far, the PUC meetings have been a logistic nightmare, and many community members have had very negative experiences. But on Thursday, the PUC announced that their final decision deliberations, previously scheduled for the 26th and 27th, will also continue on June 28th and 29th if necessary.