January 4, 2018 – On Tuesday, the 5 Ojibwe bands intervening in Minnesota’s Line 3 case joined forces on an assertive legal action for the first time in this 4+ year battle. They filed an appeal of the Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) recent decision to exclude the cultural resources survey from the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Their legal brief meticulously documents the State’s consistent disregard for tribal rights and tribal concerns throughout this process, and profound failure to assess impacts to historic and cultural properties and treaty-protected resources. The tribes asked the PUC to halt the process until a full survey of cultural resources is completed for the entire corridor and all alternative routes, with that data included in the EIS so that it can inform the PUC’s permit decisions.
“The state’s historic properties work on the Line 3 Replacement project to date has been so inadequate that it could be used as a ‘what not to do’ example in future guidance.”
– Joint Tribal Petition (Fond du Lac, Mille Lacs, Leech Lake, Red Lake, and White Earth Bands of Chippewa), 1/2/18
In early December, the PUC declared the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for Line 3 “inadequate” and asked the Department of Commerce to put some bandaids on it. One of those bandaids is a single sentence stating that if permits are granted, construction cannot begin until an ongoing survey of tribal cultural resources along a portion of the proposed route is complete. The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (FDL), with support from all the other tribal, environmental, and landowner intervenors, argued assertively that the EIS should not be finalized until the survey is complete and the data analyzed and included in the EIS. They also cautioned the State of Minnesota, with great passion, against repeating the profound cultural disrespect shown in the MN Department of Transportation’s archaeological debacle on the Fond du Lac Reservation last summer.
But the PUC decided that the survey data does not need to be included in the EIS, or even included in the public record before the PUC makes its decision about Line 3 permits! They simply want it complete before construction begins. This means they think the existence and locations of cultural resources are irrelevant to their decisions about whether or not to permit the pipeline, or which route to choose. The tribes are asking the PUC to show some respect, acknowledge the importance of our sacred places, and follow the law.