Friday, March 09, 2007

Minnesota pipeline update

Unfortunately, the main stream media outlets in Minnesota are deficient in covering the proposed pipeline that will cut through the heart of rural West/Central Minnesota.

Most of the weekly newspapers out in our area are simply not covering the story. Are the same strong arm tactics being used with the small local papers as they were with the farmers Koch Industries scammed for their land?

The Startribune covered the hearings behind the pipeline and the coercive tactics used by Koch Industries and their agents.
Jonathon Posusta, who grows 230 acres of corn and soybeans on a century-old
family farm near Lester Prairie, broke down several times as he testified that
agents representing the pipeline project threatened some of his neighbors,
telling them that they would force the pipeline across their land if they didn't
sign easement agreements.

Even an administrative law judge found the tactics shady to say the least.
An administrative law judge who recommended in November that the state approve
the pipeline agreed with Posusta that landowners were sometimes treated poorly
by the process. Judge Beverly Jones Heydinger, who oversaw a series of public
hearings last fall concerning the pipeline, said some landowners were not told
that the original pipeline route had changed, moving the planned path onto their
properties, despite initial assurances that it would not cross their land, she

The Pioneer Press reported that the offers from Koch Industries were insultingly low, even with the coercive tactics.

"The offers … are so ridiculously low, it's pitiful," said Joyce H. Osborn, a Burnsville real estate broker who owns 105 acres in Scott County. "It's a real mess."

The McLeod County Chronicle has been the only local media outlet to cover the story, for which, they deserve a Colbert like "Tip of the Hat".
"People's rights were violated, and they never got their due process. It's
wrong," said Ken Posusta. Posusta's brother, Jonathan, is a McLeod County
farmer, and is purchasing 230 acres owned by their parents. That property is
being affected by the pipeline."People's property is one of the most important
things to their livelihood," said Posusta. "They (the pipeline company) need to
be held to a higher ethical and moral standard."

So, just who is Koch Industries?

Let's just say their safety record is not as stellar as one would like a pipeline company to be.

Koch Industries indicted on 97 counts of violating federal clean air and hazardous waste laws.

"Companies that produce dangerous pollutants simply cannot focus on profit
and efficiency at the expense of a community's health," said Lois Shiffer,
Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department's Environment and
Natural Resources Division. "We will continue to find and prosecute those who
would flout our environmental laws."

More violations and fines paid out by Koch.

For Koch Industries, the amounts of money it can save by sabotaging environmental
rules make the sums diverted to the think tanks that do the dirty work pale in
comparison. The year 2000 was particularly rough for the Kochs. In January, Koch
Industries agreed to pay about $35 million for violations of the Clean Water Act
related to 310 oil spills in six states. Two months later, Koch admitted to
environmental violations at its oil refinery in Rosemount,Minnesota, and was
forced to cough up another $8 million in penalties. Then in July, it agreed not
only to spend about $80 million to cut emissions from its Rosemount facility and
from two other refineries in Texas, but also to pay a $1million fine for
air-pollution violations.

Company execs have given almost a half million dollars to Republican's and to President Bush.

During the 1990s, the company's leaky pipelines were responsible for more than
300 oil spills in five states, prompting a penalty of $30 million.In 1996, a
faulty pipeline caused an explosion outside of Dallas in which two teenagers were
killed. In a lawsuit related to the deaths, a trial court returned a judgement of
$376.69 million against the company.

Remember what happened in Little Falls this past summer where more than 134,000 gallons of oil spewed from the pipeline.

Check out Rep. Jim Oberstar's press release.

The contaminated soil ranged from 6 to 18 inches deep.

Speaking of the size of the landfill for the contaminated soil,

"It’s the fourth largest landfill in the state." He further pointed out that, to
receive the contaminated soil, a thick heavy plastic liner has been put down,
covered with dense clay. The restoration phase will follow the recovery phase.
This could take years and will include having fresh soil brought in. Studies
will also continue. The site is on property owned by Robert and Cindy Poppen.
Their complete 75 acres have since been purchased by the Minnesota Pipeline
Company, operators of the pipeline.

Koch Industries will also run the pipeline through our backyards. What would 134,000 gallons of oil do to fertile farmland in Central Minnesota?

Having spoken to Senator Dille and Representative's Urdahl and Shimanski, a legislative solution is less likely than ever, but not out of the question. All of these elected officials expressed concern over the "low balling" being done by Koch Industries. Implementing eminent domain is also a significant concern for all of these leaders.

Rep Urdahl has done more on this issue than others though, and for that, I am grateful. He has met with the Public Utilities Commission, and with impacted land owners and farmers near Eden Valley.

Rep Shimanski though, is notably quiet. His weekly legislative updates talk about him going to trade shows in Hutchinson and other issues, nothing related to the MinnCan pipeline being forced down our throats.

So the question is what can we do about this. First of all, we are not done yet. The pipeline has a date with an appeals court in the future.

One thing I am pushing my elected leaders to do is to change the statutes around the "Buy the Farm Act (Minn.Stat 216E.12).

The statute provides land owners the option to force the builders of high power transmission lines (power lines) to have to purchase the entire land and not simply "low ball" an easement.

Check here for the specific language we can use to force this measure.

I'm anxiously awaiting word from Rep Urdahl on what he can do for changing this statute.


Anonymous said...

Scott, found this newsletter from the Army Corp of Engineers. Can they also be an array of hope for Minnesota? Lets continue contacting our Representatives requesting the "Buy the Farm - Property Act"

Regulatory > Notices
» Minnesota

» MinnCan Crude Oil Pipeline, Minnesota

MinnCan Crude Oil Pipeline,

Minnesota Location/Description
The proposed crude oil pipeline would begin at Clearbrook, in Clearwater County, and would end at the Flint Hills Refinery in Rosemount, in Dakota County, Minnesota. The 300-mile-long pipeline would cross approximately 51 miles of wetlands and 188 waterways in Clearwater, Hubbard, Wadena, Todd, Morrison, Stearns, Meeker, McLeod, Wright, Carver, Sibley, Scott, and Dakota Counties. Approximately 119 miles would parallel an existing pipeline; the other 181 miles are a new alignment. The proposed route crosses the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers and many tributaries of these navigable waters. It also crosses several tributaries of the Red River of the North. More than 700 acres of wetland may be affected temporarily. No permanent fill or destruction of wetlands is proposed. After construction, the disturbed areas would be backfilled and restored. Some wetland would be converted from wooded to emergent vegetation. Much of the affected area is farmland, although the pipeline passes near almost every conceivable land use.

The purpose of the pipeline is to increase the capacity of the existing crude oil pipeline system in Minnesota.
The project is undergoing review by the State Public Utility Commission (PUC) and Department of Commerce to determine the need and alignment. A final hearing is scheduled for February 13, and a PUC decision is scheduled for February 15, 2007. Previous State public hearings/meetings have been held. A State Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) was prepared and a notice was issued under a new procedure for utility lines. Most reviewers were unaware that it was available, and no State agencies commented on the EAW.

The Corps of Engineers distributed a public notice on November 9, 2006. Concerned individuals and reviewing agencies provided hundreds of pages of comment. Concerns included the alternatives analysis, impacts on wetlands and other surface waters, trout streams, ground water, migratory bird habitat, potentials for chronic and catastrophic leaks/spills, and property takings. Many commenters also questioned the adequacy of the State EAW and State review, and they complained about the use of eminent domain for a private, for-profit, non-rate-regulated utility. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommended denial of the permit until questions about the alternatives analysis, impacts on impaired waters, and compensatory mitigation are resolved.

Several commenters also requested a public hearing.

Corps staff met with representatives of the applicant on January 23, 2007, to discuss these comments. A response is expected soon.

As part of its regulatory responsibility, the Corps must determine if the project is contrary to the public interest, if the alternatives analysis is adequate, if the impacts are acceptable, and if compensatory mitigation or other special measures to protect the environment are necessary.

Authorizing the project would affect a 300-mile-long corridor through Minnesota and many landowners. The pipeline could result in substantial impacts if a major spill/leak occurred. Not authorizing the project could limit the flow of Canadian crude oil into the Minnesota and the United States.

Oil for this pipeline would be mined from an extensive oil sand area in Canada. This mining is expected to continue even if the pipeline is not constructed.
The pipeline involves fill and placement of a structure within navigable waters (the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers) regulated by the Corps of Engineers under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, plus fill in tributary waters of the United States and adjacent wetlands regulated under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

Point of contact for this page:
Joseph Yanta
(651) 290-5362 (651) 290-5330 (fax)

» Corps Permit FAQ - St. Paul District
» Corps Permit Staff - Minnesota Counties

marilyn said...

Thanks for your informed take on Minnesota's visitors from Kansas. Have you seen the latest Minncan Update that came out this weekend? The front page showed a big US flag in front of the flags of Minnesota and Canada. How patriotic. Is Minncan's communication staff a bunch of idiots or what?
Check out the Sierra Club March/April article on KOCH.