Environmental Justice Advisory Group Resigns Following Line 3 Permitting Decision

On Monday, Nov. 16, the majority of the members of Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Environmental Justice Advisory Group resigned in protest of the MPCA's decision to provide a permit to Enbridge to expand their Line 3 pipeline. The MPCA is charged with protecting all the people of Minnesota from pollution -- yet they listen to big corporations over those most impacted -- Black, brown, Indigenous and poor communities. Read the EJAG letter of resignation below. 

"Environmental Justice requires a dedication towards shifting systems, changing culture, and empowering those most affected by harm. It is not enough to create advisory positions and titles by namesake only. You must also give those community members "teeth" to do the work, respect in the space you have facilitated, and trust that their words also equal agency in decision making," says Charles Frempong-Longdon, Sierra Club organizer and Environmental Justice Advisory Group (EJAG) member.

The Sierra Club North Star Chapter is proud of the bravery and leadership the EJAG members are showing. We call on the Walz administration to do the same.

In response to the Nov. 13 permitting decision, Sierra Club North Star Chapter Director Margaret Levin said, “The science is clear that Line 3 would threaten Minnesota’s clean water and set back our state’s progress on climate at a time when we can least afford it. Granting Enbridge the permits to build this tar sands pipeline through our state defies the science and defies the law. This decision is completely out of step with the Walz administration’s stated goals of protecting our environment and tackling the climate crisis. This fight isn’t over. We will not allow this reckless decision to go unchallenged.” Read our full press release on the Line 3 decision here.

Environmental Justice Advisory Group Letter of Resignation: 

November 16, 2020

Commissioner Laura Bishop,

In light of your recent decision to approve the Line 3 401 water crossings permit, several members of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) Environmental Justice Advisory Group (EJAG) are submitting our collective and public resignation. After much discussion, we cannot continue to legitimize and provide cover for the MPCA’s war on black and brown people.

The Line 3 pipeline will cross over 200 bodies of water, inevitably poisoning rivers, wetlands, and wild rice beds. It will emit as many greenhouse gases as running 50 new coal plants 24 hours a day. If we were to get every other sector in our state to carbon neutral, we wouldn’t be able to offset the added emissions this pipeline will bring. This pipeline threatens further spread of COVID-19 when we are experiencing peak cases and hospitalizations in our state. Line 3 will mean violated treaty rights, heightened risk of sexual trafficking and sexual violence, and an insult to the three tribal nations that strongly oppose its construction. Any perceived economic benefits are extremely short-term. When Michigan’s Governor is cancelling Enbridge’s Line 5, and oil and gas prices are dropping while the cost of carbon emissions is *quickly rising, it is obvious that Line 3 is a poor economic choice for Minnesota’s working and middle classes.

The decision to approve the permit sends a clear message that the Walz Administration and the MPCA hold no regard for the well-being of Minnesotans or our relatives around the world, who depend on us to dramatically, rapidly, and justly transition our economies away from fossil fuels.

This is the final straw after increasing disappointment in the MPCA’s failure to build on the hard work of dedicated EJAG members over the years. The transition to a new commissioner has set back the EJAG’s work, and the EJAG has since been excluded from important decisions that affect how the group is managed. EJAG members were not consulted on the hiring of an outside facilitator, nor on the divvying of group members into work groups. EJAG members have also experienced dismissal, being discouraged from sharing honest thoughts and opinions. This is not how an advisory group should be engaged to appropriately respect the wisdom being sought.

When discussing the Line 3 decision, Commissioner Bishop told an EJAG member to not make something “personal,” when Line 3 is personal in every way imaginable. How can precious water, indigenous dignity, and children’s futures not be personal? We are disappointed in the failure to honor the time that we all contribute. While we have seen small actions taken internally to improve understanding, measures, and culture in the agency, our communities demand action and this agency cannot claim to promote justice without results that improve our lives.

We demand that Commissioner Bishop and the Walz Administration reflect on the choices that were made. Your decision to side with a Canadian corporation over your own people is reprehensible and devastating. We ask that you do everything in your power to repair the damage you have done and seek a healing path to justice with the communities you have harmed.

Signed in Unity:

Maryan Abdinur

Erica Chung

Anita Urvina Davis

Lea Foushee

Charles Frempong-Longdon

Dania Marin Gavilan

Sarah Goodspeed

Magdalena Kaluza

Winona LaDuke

Zeke McKinney

Shirley Nordrum

Kaleigh Swift

* “Stranded Assets” Risk Rising with Climate Action and $40 Oil, bloomberg.com/Bloomberg Green