State regulators fail to hold Enbridge accountable for Line 3 promises
Two sides of Gov. Walz have emerged in his approach to climate change and Line 3
April 6, 2021
Last week MinnPost published a piece outlining the multiple failures of state regulators to hold Enbridge accountable for its broken promises. Among the largest failures is Enbridge’s hiring practices. Barely a quarter of the workers currently working on the pipeline are from Minnesota, with the rest coming from places like Missouri and Texas. This large influx of transient labor is contributing to an increase in sex trafficking and abuse.
From the piece:
Enbridge, a Canadian oil giant, promised Line 3 would be a Minnesota job generator. Enbridge promised Line 3 would create 8,600 jobs, 75 percent of them local. That would include 4,200 union construction jobs, half to be filled locally. There would be a two-year construction season.
That was a big selling point with Minnesota regulators.
The pipeline being delivered will be finished within one construction season, meaning the temporary jobs got even more temporary. According to Enbridge’s initial jobs report, Minnesotans were only 33 percent of the Line 3 workforce during the last quarter of 2020, and they worked only 28 percent of total hours.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission didn’t build sanctions into Enbridge’s permits if it failed to meet its job promises, a big mistake. The PUC commissioners haven’t said a word publicly about whether the jobs data concerns them.
During Line 3 hearings, Enbridge dismissed fears expressed by Indigenous communities that pipeline construction would bring those drug and sex trafficking to the area.
Enbridge said it had a plan. The plan was weak. The PUC bought the promise.
We now know at least two of the seven men arrested last month in a northern Minnesota human trafficking sting worked on Line 3. One was charged with soliciting sex with a minor. We know that man learned about the sex-trolling website through on–the-job rumors, meaning this wasn’t an isolated incident.
We know from documents filed with the PUC that VIP, a women’s shelter in Thief River Falls, has experienced “an increase in calls and need for services,” since Line 3 construction began, including services to several victims who were assaulted by Line 3 workers.
VIP also has reported an increase in sexual harassment of women and girls in town.
The PUC didn’t require public reporting of any drug or sex-related crimes, so neither the commission nor the public know the extent of the problem. The PUC commissioners who approved the project have yet to speak publicly on the arrests.
Enbridge needs to be held accountable for its promises. With sex trafficking, lives are at stake.
A tale of two governors
Another piece was also recently published in the Duluth Reader looking at the two sides of Gov. Walz in the Line 3 debate. The commentary looks at the dichotomy of a governor who on the one hand made bold promises about tribal consultation and permitting of risky and unnecessary projects like Line 3 and on the other stood back and allowed the project to move forward. The piece notes:
One Gov. Walz makes bold promises. The other Gov. Waz stands by idly – like a powerless midlevel bureaucrat – when tough decisions are needed to live up to those promises. One Gov. Walz told Minnesotans that Line 3 needed not just a building permit, but a “social permit.” That sounded really, really good. The other Gov. Walz never really explained what the “social permit” meant. This Gov. Walz never used his bully pulpit to speak out about the social contract, let alone tell Minnesotans how he felt about the Line 3 project.
One Gov. Walz said addressing climate damage was a top priority. The other Gov. Walz was silent while Line 3 was approved – in spite of state estimates that said the pipeline would add $287 billion in global climate destruction over three decades. (Think more powerful storms, worse droughts, agricultural losses, and harm to human health.)
Line 3’s climate damage alone would more than offset Minnesota’s planned greenhouse gas reductions. Walz’s promise takes us one step forward, but his actions take us two steps back.
One Gov. Walz has made racial justice a top priority. He’s touted his 2019 executive order ensuring meaningful consultation with the state’s 11 tribal nations. He promised “true government-to-government relationships built on respect, understanding, and sovereignty.”
The opening statement of Walz’s executive order reads: "It is important to recognize that the United States and the State of Minnesota have a unique legal relationship with federally recognized Tribal Nations, as affirmed by the Constitution of the United States, treaties, statutes, and case law."
The other Gov. Walz did nothing when the Red Lake and White Earth nations appealed to him and his administration to help stop Line 3. The Walz administration didn’t even support their court request to delay Line 3 construction to give time for their lawsuits to be heard.