Jun 20, 2014 - For Immediate Release: Sandpiper Pipeline Schedule Changes‏ by Honor the Earth

CONTACT: Alyssa Hoppe, Coordinator, Honor the Earth
June 20th, 2014
Phone:(612) 385-1557

The Enbridge Sandpiper Pipeline continues to move through the Public Utilities Commission process, but all of the initial timelines for regulatory oversight have been pushed back by a number of months. The extended comment period was due largely to citizen participation in the process, and interventions by the Native environmental organization, Honor the Earth, which is the only formal intervener in the proceedings. The line would put 375,000 barrels per day of fracked oil from North Dakota into a route which runs significantly north of previous pipeline routes.

On Thursday, June 12, the PUC approved the hotly contested Alberta Clipper Expansion of tar sands from Canada (Clearbrook to Duluth via Highway 2), adding another 440,000 barrels per day across the Leech Lake, Fond du Lac, Chippewa National Forest corridor. The Enbridge Company had secured this pipeline’s approval in 2001, but interventions by the Sierra Club, Minnesota350, the Indigenous Environmental Network, and Honor the Earth, as well as significant concerns expressed by the public, delayed the final approval.

The Sandpiper line has not been approved, however, the full commission voted to deny all three motions forwarded by Honor the Earth. The motions requested more public hearings, an extension for commenting and separation of the certificate of need from the pipeline routing permit process. Those were also the recommendations of the PUC staff, so it came as no surprise when the recommendations were adopted by the commission.” Frank Bibeau, attorney for Honor the Earth commented.

It should be remembered that the PUC also extended the comment period from the beginning of April until May 30th, despite the Enbridge Company’s opposition to the extension. The comment period on the route was very challenging for many local citizens, including the Friends of the Headwaters group.

Willis Mattison, technical expert for Friends of the Headwaters, explained concerns in testimony to the PUC, “The overall experience ….has ranged from frustration to befuddlement, to confusion, rejection, and exclusion. Having our state government department staffs perform in ways that have been outwardly defiant, defensive, obfuscating and off putting has created a deep sense of distrust, suspicion and at times utter outrage. Our members and organization representative’s attempts to fully participate in the decision-making process have been rebuffed on numerous occasions….This defiance of citizen’s right to be heard on the part of government agencies not only violates First Amendment rights but works to destroy the general public’s trust in fair and equal treatment under the laws that govern us as a people.”

Tribal governments have only participated minimally in the process, as several governments, including the White Earth government, question jurisdiction of the PUC. Comments, however, from Susan Klapel , Commissioner of Natural Resources for the Mille Lacs band of Ojibwe point out that Enbridge did not consult with tribal governments in the routing:

“It is not possible to identify, let alone to avoid sites of historic, archaeological and cultural significance, without…consulting with the…Tribal Historic Preservation Office… Not doing so, raises serious concerns about Enbridge ‘s ability…” Klapel concluded, “I ask you to not grant Enbridge (Sandpiper) permits through the proposed southern route.”

At last count, Enbridge needs 2000 easements and right of ways and a lot of permits for the Sandpiper. All of those can be difficult to get, denied or challenged. Besides that, the Sandpiper is proposed to cross 137 public lands, including Mississippi Headwaters State Forest, and 76 public waterways.

Alternative Route Hearings

The Public Utilities Commission will decide if it will consider alternative routes in mid July. The two alternative routes, proposed by Friends of the Headwaters and Honor the Earth go south of the Lakes area, and end up in pipelines near the Twin Cities. Enbridge has been opposed to this route, hoping to secure a pipeline to tanks in Superior, Wisconsin. From there, the now four million barrels of additional oil in Enbridge lines would be proposed to head into pipelines, and possibly more tankers on the Great Lakes.

Honor the Earth and the Friends of the Headwaters urge citizens to become aware of the alternative routes, and decide if they would like to participate in the process. As Bibeau explains, “After the commission determines what additional alternative routes will be considered, a comprehensive environmental assessment (CEA) will be prepared which will need to be completed before there are any public hearings later. Because two months were added in April and May to the comment period it is expected that the calendar for the routing permit process and certificate of need will also be adjusted into the future by at least two months.”

Honor the Earth and a number of lakes associations are planning to have some informational events over the course of this summer. Primary locations will be determined and coordinated with input from lake associations and other groups.

Meanwhile planned public hearings will not occur until after Thanksgiving, most likely in December and January. Commissioner Rothman did send a letter to the commission requesting that at least one hearing be held at White Earth Reservation, followed by an evidentiary hearing or trial possibly in February. Under this revised schedule, if adopted, the Administrative Law Judge, Eric Lipman, will have until May 2015 for his final decision on whether to grant the certificate of need for the pipeline route. That may or may not be the end of the process, as legal and legislative as well as federal questions have yet to be determined.

Alyssa Hoppe
Campaign Coordinator
Honor the Earth
(612) 385 – 1557

Last Real Indians