The Largest Inland Oil Spill in U.S. Happened in Minnesota
Tuesday, April 04 2017
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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enbridgeline3spill.jpgMost Minnesotans don’t realize that the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history was here. On  March 3, 1991, the Line 3 pipeline ruptured near Grand Rapids, spilling over 1.7 million gallons of oil into the Prairie River, after a delayed response by Lakehead Pipeline, Enbridge’s predecessor. The Prairie flows to the Mississippi. In 1991, there was 18 inches of ice on the river, or millions downstream would have had poisoned water. Thankfully, our territories were still frozen and snow-covered in March, before climate change had fully sunk its teeth in.

As a result, the cleanup was relatively quick and effective, so the spill received nowhere near as much media attention as Enbridge’s catastrophic Kalamazoo River spill of 2010. That spill took Enbridge 17 hours to close down. Enbridge has spent more than $1.2 billion dollars (and still counting) cleaning up the Kalamazoo mess, and they haven’t finished yet. It turns out that 1.1 million gallons of tar sands oil is not easily removed from riverbanks and sensitive wetlands. Minnesota, take heed.

Line 3 is now 56 years old, well past its intended lifespan. Enbridge’s Mainline Corridor has six pipelines in it – the old Lakehead lines 1, 2, 3, and 4, plus the new Alberta Clipper and its diluent companion, Line 13. Many governmental reports refer to Lines 3 and 4 as a single unit, because of the complicated ways they work in tandem. Together they are responsible for not only the 1991 Grand Rapids spill , but also the catastrophic 2002 spill near Cohasset, MN; the 2007 explosion in Clearbrook, MN, that killed two workers; a serious spill in Regina, Alberta in December 2014; and countless other ruptures and spills. Enbridge reports that since 1990, Line 3 has had at least fifteen large spills (more than fifty barrels each), but the number of small spills and leaks is anybody’s guess.   

Line 3 is crumbling. According to Enbridge’s own data, it has ten times as many corrosion anomalies per mile than any other pipeline in their Mainline System. They estimate over half a million structural anomalies in Line 3, or about 1 every 10 feet. Enbridge Integrity Supervisor Laura Kennett has testified, “I consider Line 3 to be in the deterioration stage … as external corrosion growth is increasing in an exponential fashion.”

The company has reduced the pressure to the bare minimum, and spends billions of dollars digging up and fixing pieces of it (they anticipate needing at least 12,000 integrity digs in the next decade). Line 3 is a ticking time bomb. They cite this as justification for building a new one. It should be shut it down and cleaned up.  

But Enbridge plans to abandon the pipeline in the ground, along with inevitable contamination, then walk away and build an entirely new Line 3 pipeline in a new corridor. The State of Minnesota, including the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), has the responsibility to regulate pipeline abandonment, but there is currently no plan. Because Line 3 is the first crude oil pipeline to be abandoned in our state, there is a risk that the PUC will avoid their responsibility.

The proposed “Line 3 Replacement” sets a dangerous precedent. It is not a replacement. It’s a new pipeline with larger diameter pipe. The new Line 3 could eventually carry over a million barrels daily of the dirtiest oil in the world.

It is time for Enbridge to clean up its old mess. Hire union workers, and protect us all. And it’s time for us all to move on. Enbridge has a $5 billion plus renewable energy portfolio. That’s what Minnesota deserves – the next and best technology, not 50 more years of risk to our water and future.  

Mille Lacs Band will run Native-focused addiction treatment center
Tuesday, March 14 2017
Written by andy steiner/minnpost,
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fourwindsbldg.jpgFor years, the State of Minnesota has run Four Winds, an addiction treatment center with a focus on traditional Native American healing and recovery. The Brainerd-based program is the only one of its kind in the state, and one of only a handful in the nation.

In March, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe will take over operation and management of Four Winds in a historic agreement negotiated between the band and the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

“I’m excited that we were able to work with the state of Minnesota to reach this agreement,” said  “From a tribal standpoint, it feels like a good move. We’ve wanted to add inpatient options to our tribal treatment services for a long time. We’re excited by this opportunity and ready to put together a program that is going to meet our tribe’s needs and our clients’ needs.”

Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Johnson Piper said she was pleased that the band was able to assume operation of Four Winds and further sharpen the program’s focus on Native culture and healing.

“The Mille Lacs Band has given a lot of consideration to how to operate Four Winds and how to improve it,” she said. “With Commissioner Moose’s leadership, the band is on good footing to make this program even better.”

The state and the band began formally discussing the transfer earlier this year after legislative funding changes meant that if the program were to remain state-operated, it could only serve clients who had been civilly committed for substance abuse treatment.

Moose explained that civil commitment is a form of involuntary commitment with restrictions on patient independence during treatment. Members of the Native community traditionally seek substance use help independently, he said, and many would object to the idea of forced or restricted treatment. Such limitations would defeat the purpose of the Four Winds program, Moose added.

“When the state gave us notice that they were looking at turning Four Winds into an involuntary treatment program,” he said, “we knew that wouldn’t be successful in our community.”

Piper said she understands that the policy change ran counter to Native recovery culture.

“When changes at the state level eliminated the ability to serve voluntary clients, this meant that Four Winds was no longer able to serve the facility’s clients the way they needed to be served,” she said. “We knew we had a willing partner in the Mille Lacs Band, a partner that wanted to transform the program to ensure that culturally specific treatment was still being provided at the facility. They understood that American Indians are best qualified to provide that type of treatment, and they stepped forward.”

Moose said that a partnership like this one is vital, especially now, when his community is in the midst of an opioid-addiction crisis. Working together to ensure that services provided by Four Winds continue to be a good match for his community is an essential step that averted what could have become a serious problem.

“I’m excited about the state and the tribe working together as governments to solve an issue that would’ve negatively impacted American Indians,” Moose said. “Because there is such a great need for American Indian substance abuse and mental health treatments, the tribe was disappointed when we heard about the state’s inability to keep Four Winds running in a workable way. The tribe and the state working together to solve these issues is an important first step.”

The transfer is scheduled to be complete on March 1. Initially, the management shift was expected to be seamless, but as the Mille Lacs Band assumes control of Four Winds, there may be a temporary reduction in services.

NoDapl in Photos
Monday, November 07 2016
Written by Rob Wilson,
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Rob Wilson is covering the Water Protectors at Standing Rock 24/7. To help him continue covering the struggle, see: .






























































Standing Rock, DAPL, loopholes and the law
Monday, November 07 2016
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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The Standing Rock Tribe is poised to consider the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in a set of regulatory hearings, very similar to the hearings undertaken in 2015 by the White Earth and Mille Lacs bands of Ojibwe. In the case of the Mille Lacs and White Earth Band, Tribal Administrative hearings were held on the proposed Enbridge Sandpiper line, after essentially Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission continued on with a process absent of any tribal regulation; and until ordered by the Minnesota Appeals court, had refused to do an environmental impact statement. The Standing Rock case is very similar; there has been no environmental impact statement or comprehensive review of the l600 mile Dakota Access Pipeline, despite a clear set of environmental impacts.

As the arrests increase (over 300 at last count), and what is a clear set of conflicting interests in North Dakota’s regulators, Senators and governor; it is clearly time for the Standing Rock Tribe to conduct environmental hearings. Those hearings will be held on Nov. 4 (Administrative Offices in Ft. Yates), November 9 and 21 (Prairie Knights Casino), and November 22 in South Dakota. The hearings will offer the public and expert witnesses the opportunity to testify as to the impact of federal decision making on the environment, and provide documentation which has not been used by the Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies to date, as the process has been circumvented.

Having spent four years in the Minnesota PUC hearings opposing the proposed Enbridge Sandpiper (640,000 barrel per day fracked oil) pipeline, I can say that I tried to work within the system.

Enbridge, the largest North American pipeline company, abandoned the pipeline, I assume, because a true environmental review would have made it unfeasible; or what’s called a no build option. Costs were high to do the right thing. When the system works it shows that, sometimes, despite how much money a corporation puts into the political system or how many politicians have hearty friendships with lobbyists, the project should not go ahead in the interests of the public. That’s how the law should work. But that process was clearly forced by the White Earth and Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, as well as citizens such as Friends of the Headwaters, who filed a lawsuit forcing the state to do an environmental impact statement (EIS).  

Not so out here in the heart of the Missouri River Basin – Lakota, Arikara, Mandan, and Hidatsa territory – today known as North and South Dakota. The Dakota Access Pipeline is an example of how the system doesm’t work. It is also a case study in Regulatory Capture, a cool name for when corporations write your public policy, or hijack it.  

In mid October, Honor the Earth, with the Sierra Club and the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), sent a letter to the US Army Corps of Engineers asking for a full environmental impact statement on the proposed DAPL. The 570,000 barrels per day of fracked oil pipeline which crosses wet lands, rivers, and plows through Native sacred sites and cemeteries, will put at risk the water of the poorest people in North Dakota, while sparing Bismarck. The organizations say DAPL cheated, and that under federal regulations, an EIS can be requested of the Army Corps of Engineers if there is new information, or information not reviewed previously by the Corps.

In the October 10 letter, the organizations noted, “The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) dictates that ‘agencies…shall prepare supplements to either draft or final environmental impact statements if… there are significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed action or its impacts.’” The organizations are asking for a full environmental impact statement, based on the new findings.    

It seems there’s a quick way to get a pipeline in these days, that’s when you use loopholes to get your way. Under the law (404 permit), the Army Corps of Engineers must provide “notice and an opportunity for public hearings” and evaluate the project’s impacts pursuant to the NEPA. (That’s the one that keeps, for instance, your drinking water clean and the poisons  out of  air of residential communities).

That didn’t happen. Instead the Army Corps used a regulation called the Nationwide Permit  process. The Clean Water Act’s general permit program was intended for projects with minimal environmental impacts or results in under a half acre loss of waters. This is for essentially boat ramps, mooring buoys, and recreational facilities. The letter notes, “The Corps avoided this transparent review process for DAPL by approving each of the thousands of water crossings along the pipeline route under the fast-track Nationwide Permit 12 process… the Corps has begun segmenting massive interstate pipelines like DAPL by artificially treating the thousands of water crossings as separate projects that each qualify separately under NWP 12. In this way, the Corps has approved the 1,168-mile DAPL crude oil pipeline under NWP 12 without any project specific 404 review process. The Sierra Club, with Honor the Earth and the IEN, suggest that this process was circumvented in the DAPL proceeding, and does not meet the requirements of the intent of the law.”

Then there’s the desecration. There are laws to protect historic and sacred sites. “…On Friday, September 2, the day before Labor Day weekend,  Standing Rock submitted to the court detailed findings of rare cultural sites, which include 27 graves, stone prayer rings, and other sacred artifacts directly in the path of the proposed pipeline. There are at least 380 archeological sites that face desecration along the entire pipeline route. NEPA actually prohibits the Corps from issuing the final permit/easement for… Lake Oahe if it determines that the company engaged in anticipatory demolition; that is, if DAPL intentionally destroyed or adversely affected potential historic sites along the pipeline’s path….. Early the next morning, DAPL responded by bringing in construction crews and bulldozing the specific areas described by Standing Rock in their filing. When protectors of the site entered the construction area, private security guards attacked them with dogs and pepper spray.”

“This demolition is devastating,” Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault II said. “These grounds are the resting places of our ancestors. The ancient cairns and stone prayer rings there cannot be replaced. In one day, our sacred land has been turned into hollow ground.”

Then there’s what’s fair. On August 18, the Bismarck Tribune reported that DAPL had routed the pipeline through Standing Rock’s ancestral lands and under its drinking water supply to avoid jeopardizing the drinking water supply of Bismarck, ND. The paper reported, “early in the planning process, Dakota Access  considered (crossing)… Missouri River about 10 miles north of Bismarck…; but rejected that option…due to the costs associated with the proximity to wellhead source water protection areas (of) municipal water supply wells.” Instead the pipeline went upstream from the main drinking water intake for the Lakota.

Additional concerns are the 250,000 metric tons daily of carbon this project would add and the clear lack of regulation by the state of North Dakota, which has resulted in, according to the National Sciences Foundation, “widespread groundwater contamination” from fracking.

Example, since January of 2016 over l,000,000 gallons of crude oil waste oil, bio solids, natural gas and brine have spilled into the waters of the region, along with about 50,000 gallons of slaked lime solids which slid into the Missouri River. North Dakota’s Industrial commission has been levying some fines, but not collecting them. In 2015 and 2016, the Commission proposed a total of  $4.5 million in penalties, and collected only $126,000 or so.

For more info on the hearings, contact Allyson Two Bears at the Standing Rock Environmental Office at: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Red Lake Nation holds first indigenous food summit
Tuesday, October 11 2016
Written by John Enger/MPRNews,
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redlakefood1.jpgHundreds of tribe members and others from around the region spent the weekend on the Red Lake Nation reservation in northern Minnesota learning how to grow and gather indigenous food.

The three-day event was the Red Lake Nation’s first Intertribal Food Summit which tribal leaders hope will spur the momentum of a movement among their people – a growing interest in returning to the food their ancestors grew, hunted and gathered.

As part of the event, Native chefs led cooking demonstrations, and there were classes on seed storage and grazing techniques. Foraging expert Kevin Finney took a group through the forest, looking for wild food.

The group of foragers headed for a piece of oak forest on the shores of Red Lake. On a cool day near the end of the growing season, Finney said he was not sure what they’d get.

“You might have wild onions that come out in the early spring and blueberries that come out mid-summer,” Finney said.

But the first crop they encountered wasn’t so hospitable. To reach the woods, the group had to hike across a vast field of poison ivy.

A few people turned back, but the majority, a few dozen students, pressed on. Finney was not concerned. He has a big beard and wore tall leather boots and a hat made out of bark. He said he’s immune to poison ivy.
Myles Lewis, a nutrition major at Bismarck’s United Tribes Technical College walked directly through the poison ivy in sneakers and gym shorts.

“I'll just go to the store, get some calamine lotion and Benadryl. I’ll be fine,” he said.

Five minutes later he broke off a stick from a tree and used it to scratch at the developing rash on his ankles.
The food summit also included a big meal catered by the Minneapolis-based chef Sean Sherman. Sherman is Oglala Lakota and is known as the Sioux Chef for his efforts to rebuild indigenous cuisines.
Brian Yazzie, who works for Sherman, calls himself the Sioux Chef’s sous chef.

redlakefood2.jpg“We have sumac right now. Staghorn sumac is in season right now. Wild rice. Walleye of course. That’s what I’ll be making for dinner,” he said. “That’s indigenous cuisine, everything we have right from our backyards.”

Sherman sent him to Red Lake a few days ahead of the summit to gather ingredients. The walleye and wild rice are from Red Lake. Yazzie planned to forage the seasonings, but his initial attempt did not yield much.

Foraging is hard work, Finney said. It would take a small group of people four hours a day, all year round to gather enough wild food to live.

“I would encourage you to look at it from a totally different perspective. How much of your time is it worth to go see your grandmother? Think about it in that sense. This is a relationship you have with the land.”

Red Lake economic development director Sam Strong said that’s not sustainable for most people on Red Lake. But eating processed foods isn’t sustainable either.

“Over the lifetime of humans we’ve been used to a more local organic type of food, and when we deviate off that path, you see a lot of the health problems that our people are encountering today – the diabetes, the higher rates of cancer,” he said.

Strong’s father and grandmother both struggled with diabetes. Strong battled cancer. He blames the illness on unhealthy processed food handed out by the government, and more recently, sold at the local grocery store.

Strong said it doesn’t have to be that way. Every year, the Red Lake tribal fishery pulls a million pounds of walleye from the lake. Tribal leaders recently started a large community garden and a seed library. They’re raising funds for a deep winter greenhouse to grow vegetables all year long.

Strong hopes to bring bison to the area and breed great herds of them.

“That’s the way you become food independent, and that’s true sovereignty. Food sovereignty, if you will,” he said.
Most food eaten on the reservation still comes from the Bemidji Walmart, but one day, Strong hopes Red Lake will feed its own people, without having to forage through fields of poison ivy.

Minnesota Public Radio News can be heard on MPR’s statewide radio network or online. 

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