Six Ojibwe bands fighting Enbridge Energy's Line 3 oil pipeline project in northern Minnesota are launching their own environmental assessment of the plan, saying that the state's analysis of the proposal falls short. The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, along with the group Honor the Earth, plan to conduct their own "Anishinabe-centric" analysis of the contentious pipeline project.
The Red Lake, White Earth, Fond du Lac, Leech Lake, Nett Lake and Mille Lacs bands will begin their own public hearings on the project next week. These are separate from the hearings the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is currently holding around the state.
The Anishinabe Cumulative Impact Analysis is meant to correct the "blatant inadequacies" of the state's final Environmental Impact Statement released in August, said Joe Plumer, director of legal development for the White Earth Nation and general legal Counsel for the Red Lake Nation.
The 5,000-page document from the Minnesota Department of Commerce acknowledged that the pipeline would have disproportionate impacts on tribal communities.
"But we know that we have to put forward our Anishinabe-centric cumulative impact assessment to help inform the decision-making process, so they can see what the real impacts are, and why we probably shouldn't go forward in the big cost-benefit analysis," said Frank Bibeau, an attorney representing Honor the Earth.
• Sept. 26: Does Minnesota really need a new oil pipeline?
Enbridge has proposed replacing its original 50-year old Line 3 with a new line that could carry nearly twice as much oil. The pipeline would travel a different route, skirting around several Ojibwe reservations, but still crossing ceded treaty territory where many tribal members hunt, fish and gather wild rice. The Canadian company says the project is necessary to maintain the safety and integrity of the pipeline, and to relieve a congested pipeline system that transports nearly 3 million barrels of oil every day from Canada to refineries in Minnesota and around the Midwest.
The project is currently proceeding through a complex regulatory process. Administrative law judges are holding hearings on the need for the project and on the adequacy of the state environmental analysis of the project.
The tribes' process is separate from the state's. The bands are taking their own comments through Dec. 15; they will turn over their findings so they become part of the state's public record.
"They may say they will accept it and consider it, but I don't believe it will be given meaningful consideration," said Plumer, adding that he believes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will also sign off on the pipeline.
The state Public Utilities Commission is expected to make a final decision on the line in April.