Enbridge threatens Lake Superior

All Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding. — Article VI, U.S. Constitution

This past summer, I lived at the Shell River Cultural Treaty camp near Park Rapids, Minnesota reporting for the Wisconsin Citizens Media Coop. We gathered at the invitation of 1855 Treaty people, including Winona LaDuke and the White Earth Tribal Council, who named Winona the guardian ad litem of the Shell River in 2018. They needed indigenous and non-native allies to help them uphold the treaties and protect the waters of northern Minnesota, including the Shell and the headwaters of the Mississippi, from Canadian corporation Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

Line 3 was routed out of Canada and into the water-rich 1855 Treaty Territory after Enbridge achieved what is known as “regulatory capture.” This is when government agencies charged with protecting people and resources become controlled by the industries they’re supposed to regulate. The captured agencies advance the interests of the industries rather than protecting the people and resources to ensure the public good. It’s a government failure that permits the industries to behave in ways injurious to the public, for which the public now has no recourse.

In this case, when Enbridge was granted permits and easements to build the pipeline, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA), Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and other agencies abandoned the public trust and prioritized the rights of a foreign corporation over protecting the rights of the people and the waters. The tar sands oil flowing through this pipeline does not benefit the U.S. It is processed in a refinery in Superior, Wisconsin, and then flows through northern Wisconsin and Michigan through Line 5, which sends the oil back to Canada at Sarnia, Ontario, where it is used by Canada and also shipped out to foreign markets.

Minnesota Tribes and water protectors went up against this regulatory capture throughout the permitting process of Line 5. Yet the pipeline was built through treaty lands without consultation.

Enbridge is currently operating illegally in northern Wisconsin and Michigan:

  • In 2017, Bad River didn’t renew Enbridge’s Line 5 easement through their reservation and are currently suing them to remove the pipeline. This October, the Tribal Council voted 5-0 to reject their request for a permit to jerry-rig the existing lines instead of removing them.
  • In November 2020, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and their DNR terminated the 1953 easement that allowed Enbridge to operate Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinaw. Enbridge had until May 12th to shut the line down; they refused. The issue went into mediation, with no resolution. Now Canada is suing Michigan, citing a treaty signed between the two countries in 1977, without any mention of Article VI or the many treaties with the indigenous that came long before 1977.
  • In the middle of one of the worst droughts in Minnesota history, the public was being asked to cut water consumption voluntarily. Still,  the Minnesota DNR granted Enbridge an increase in their water use, from 510 million gallons in the original permit to five billion, without any consultation with the Tribes, or consideration for Minnesota’s public needs.
  • On July 19th, 2021, I was arrested, along with Winona LaDuke and five other women, while praying on an easement on the Shell River. The Minnesota officers who arrested us were paid by the Enbridge-funded Northern Lights Task Force to put us in jail for three days for praying, while their Canadian corporate sponsor was openly allowed to break the law.
  • In August 2021, White Earth sued the Minnesota DNR in tribal court, asserting that the diversion of five billion gallons of water for an oil pipeline is interfering with both the rights of Manoomin (wild rice), as well as the rights of tribal members to hunt, fish, and gather that wild rice.
  • On September 19th, the Minnesota DNR fined Enbridge $3 million for piercing the aquifer near Clearwater back in January, leaking hundreds of thousands of gallons of water a day and not reporting it. The Minnesota DNR discovered the breach in June but waited until September (after they were sued) to do anything about it. According to the September 16th DNR press release,  Enbridge “did not follow the construction plans it had provided. Instead of constructing a trench 8-10 feet down, the company went as deep as 18 feet, with sheet piling inserted 28 feet into the ground.”
  •  On September 26th, independent water monitors documented drilling fluid rising on the easements near the Mississippi after heavy rains, turning them into a toxic quicksand. On September 28th, monitors witnessed a massive waste containment failure at Clearwater River crossing in what appears to be another aquifer breach with drill mud and groundwater rising from the drill pad and waste water being pumped into the woods. Enbridge was ordered to clean it up by October 15th, but the deadline has come and gone with no action taken by Enbridge.

These are only a few of the infractions that are not being monitored by regulatory agencies that Enbridge has captured. President Biden, Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE), Minnesota Governor Tim Walz (D), Jamie Pinkham of the ACOE, Minnesota PCA, Minnesota DNR: there is little to no oversight on the part of any government official or agency that has been charged to protect us. Enbridge has paid over $2.4M to have over 900 people arrested; some were tortured.

Meanwhile the infractions continue. No one knows yet how badly their horizontal directional drilling (HDD) mess is impacting those dependent on the watershed of the Mississippi. So far, it’s not looking good.

Line 5

Enbridge has applied for permits to build a new 42-mile pipeline through the Penokee Hills, south of Ashland. Instead of getting out of Bad River, they have submitted plans to build this new pipeline across every river in our watershed. Part of their plan includes mile-long HDD under one of the only Class-A trout streams in the area, and blasting apart the million-year-old asbestos-laden granite of the Penokee Hills to accommodate their pipeline.

While I appreciate being thanked for my service, I would much prefer to see an engaged community who are aware of these dangers and willing to take action to protect Lake Superior and the northern Wisconsin watershed. We need everyone on board doing everything they can to help make sure this foreign corporation isn’t allowed to capture our local, state and federal level governance.

Treaties of 1843 and 1854

Those of us who live in Wisconsin and love Lake Superior have a moral obligation to stand up and protect the water. Not just for human rights, the rights of nature, and of the water, but to uphold the Treaties of 1843 and 1854, which include Lake Superior. Treaties are the supreme law of the land. It our duty as a people who wish to uphold the law to honor the treaties and take action to help.

See who is funding Enbridge. Get your money out of there. Educate yourself on regulatory capture and the history of oil spills perpetrated by Enbridge. Call Gov. EversRep. Beth Meyers and Sen. Janet Bewley and demand protection from Enbridge. Take steps to move from fossil fuels to sustainable energy. Call me at 715.209.5471 and find out how to become engaged on a local level.

Last month there was a crippling oil spill off the coast of California due to a pipeline breaking. Imagine Lake Superior soaked in oil. Then please take action.