BEMIDJI, Minn.-Six of Minnesota's Chippewa bands will conduct their own regulatory process in response to Enbridge energy company's proposed Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project.
According to a news release Friday, Oct. 13, from environmental group Honor the Earth, tribes are dissatisfied with the existing, state-run process for determining whether there is a need for a new pipeline. The six bands will conduct an "Anishinaabe-centric" assessment-something Honor the Earth Executive Director Winona LaDuke said will include more information on the impact the project would have on Native communities.
"We have a much better understanding of what is up here than the state of Minnesota does," LaDuke said. "So in their (draft environmental impact statement) there's a lot of missing pieces that we have in ours."
The current Line 3, built in the 1960s, runs from Alberta, Canada, through northern Minnesota, to Superior, Wis. Enbridge hopes to decommission the aging line and built a new one; many environmental groups, including Honor the Earth, oppose the plan. Native activists in particular object to Enbridge's proposed route, as the replacement line would travel through ceded treaty lands and waters.
A draft environmental impact statement was released in May and outlined five potential pipeline routes. The release was followed by a series of public comment hearings and a final environmental review was made public in August.
A second round of public hearings kicked off Tuesday, Sept. 26, and will end on Thursday, Oct. 26. Two meetings are set for Bemidji, from 1 to 4 p.m. or 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 17, at the Sanford Center.
Once the public comment period is complete, the state Public Utilities Commission will decide whether to issue a certificate of need and route permit for the replacement pipeline.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce said in September that the Line 3 replacement was not needed, and that the existing Line 3 provides Minnesota refineries with "limited benefit."
LaDuke said the bands-Red Lake, White Earth, Fond du Lac, Leech Lake, Nett Lake and Mille Lacs-have spent a year gathering information on the proposed project. The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe has issued its own Tribal Cumulative Impact Assessment, which is available at www.mnchippewatribe.org/impact_assessment.html.
"We spent more time that the state did in preparing the DEIS," LaDuke said. "We're going to present it to different communities, we're going to have tribal natural resources people. We're taking testimony...we're conducting our own regulatory hearing."
The bands will hold public hearings starting Wednesday, Oct. 18, on the White Earth reservation. Other hearings will be conducted on Thursday, Oct. 19, in Red Lake and Leech Lake and Monday, Oct. 23, for the Mille Lacs Band and Fond du Lac band.
"The Line 3 Replacement is an environmentally sound maintenance project that restores the pipeline to its original capacity, optimizes pipeline safety through advanced construction methods and materials, and provides economic opportunities to Tribal and local communities," Enbridge said in a statement to the Pioneer. "From the onset of project planning, Enbridge has participated in a full regulatory review of the project. We are confident that when environmental best practices are applied, the merit and benefit of the replacement project are evident. We will review the Anishinaabe Cumulative Impact Assessment and remain committed to working with Tribal Nations to identify effective mitigation and maximize economic participation with tribal communities"
The comments gathered during the tribal process will become part of the public record, officials said. The Anishinaabe-centric process will also help the tribe determine what actions to take if Enbridge is allowed to go forward with the replacement.
"What we're really doing is we're building our own platform for assessing the risks to our environment...using our own tool," said Frank Bibeau, attorney for Honor the Earth. "That's because we don't want to rely on the state process."