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Honor the Earth looks to stall pipeline

Michael Dahl, one of the traditional speakers for Honor the Earth. (Frank Bibeau /For the Enterprise0

By Sarah Smith

Native Americans, who many believe hold the key to stalling or scuttling the Enbridge pipeline through Hubbard County, are optimistic after a meeting last week with the Public Utilities Commission.

According to Frank Bibeau, an attorney for the Honor the Earth coalition, the meeting was over “whether the PUC has unilateral authority to grant the Sandpiper pipeline route across the Chippewa ceded territories where tribal members have federally created and recognized, individual, usufructuary property rights, as well as within the original reservation boundaries and other federally-created, wild rice reserves.”

During the three-hour hearing May 7, Enbridge argued, according to Bibeau “that the rights to hunt fish and gather were given up in 1855.”

Bibeau disagreed. “Contrary to the Mille Lacs Supreme Court case, no one would’ve given up the right to hunt, fish and gather in 1855” and then made more treaties over the next decade where no Chippewa would be allowed to hunt fish and gather leaving no way to survive or to earn a modest living.”

According to Bibeau, “Prior to the hearing, Honor the Earth held a press conference outside the Public Utilities Commission in St. Paul. Winona LaDuke told everyone ‘Manoomin and the water it grows from are sacred gifts from the Creator. Our opposition to fossil fuel extraction and transportation is to honor those before us, to empower those among us, and to secure these gifts for those yet to come.’”

The administrative law judge Eric L. Lipman, issued an order, in part, that read, “upon the tribunals own initiative… and based upon the materials filed” that “there is a substantial possibility that the commission will grant some or all Honor the Earth’s request for relief.”

Lipman ordered that Honor the Earth’s motions separate the certificate of need and routing proceedings, as well as the related request to set new deadlines for receipt of alternative routes and establish additional public hearings beyond those now provided, are all certified to the commission” to decide.

The PUC issued an extention to the public comment period after pressure from local residents that summer residents had not been here to participate in the route hearing in March. The deadline was extended to May 30, 2014.

Bibeau said Native American read Lipman’s order as allowing an indefinite extension on the comment period. PUC officials did not return a phone call to the Enterprise by press time Tuesday morning.

And 19 Minnesota representatives sent a letter of concern to the PUC about the permitting process, maintaining the pipeline would do permanent harm to the lakes environment and the importance of the wild rice economy to the region.


Michael Dahl, one of the traditional speakers for Honor the Earth at the Sandpiper rally educates the public about the dangers and risks of the pipelines and Bakken oil, between hand-drumming and singing honor songs.

Photo by Frank Bibeau, Honor the Earth

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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