Payment came from public safety escrow account, not Enbridge

On Oct. 5, The Guardian published a story about policing regarding Line 3 protests. Enbridge maintains the story includes a host of false, inaccurate statements and mischaracterizations. The company submitted a response that The Guardian has to date refused to publish. Read our response in its entirety below and view supporting documents.

Oct. 12, 2021

The Guardian likes to tout itself for “high-impact journalism” yet a recent story of yours traffics in gross misrepresentations, simply accepts information from critics without checking facts, and defames a company, Enbridge, which has followed every U.S. federal and state law and regulation in constructing its Line 3 replacement pipeline in Minnesota.

In short, this sensationalistic story (Oct. 5: “Revealed: pipeline company paid Minnesota police for arresting and surveilling protesters”) is one that reputable news organizations in the United States were not willing to write because it is blatantly false. It is also curious that your story is published literally days after the completion of the Line 3 replacement project and months after these charges were first forged by activists who are liberally quoted throughout your story. Indeed, these critics are quoted at least nine times in your story and an Enbridge spokesperson is quoted once.

The most egregious misrepresentation made in the article is in the headline and repeated multiple times throughout the story. PIPELINE COMPANY PAID MINNESOTA POLICE is brazenly false. Yet ten times throughout the article you deploy language such as “Enbridge reimbursed,” “Enbridge has paid,” “the Enbridge fund” and “the Enbridge account” even after paragraph seven states that “The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission…required Enbridge to set up an escrow account to reimburse police for responding to demonstrations.” That said, there are even subtleties in that paragraph that are misleading. 

  • One, the Public Utilities Commission required that Enbridge fund an escrow account NOT THAT ENBRIDGE MANAGE IT. The STATE’s public safety escrow account is managed by an independent public safety account manager overseen by the STATE not Enbridge. It should also be noted our funding of the escrow account was a pre-condition for obtaining the permit we needed to construct the replacement pipeline.
  • Two, neither the commission nor the company made any specific reference to your claim that this was “for responding to demonstrations.” Enbridge has no quibble with nor any desire to amend citizen rights to peaceful protest or demonstration.
  • Three, no one was paid “for arresting and surveilling protesters”. This clause, as well as another in paragraph six (“a foreign company has given public police forces an incentive to arrest demonstrators”), gives the impression that there was a bounty or incentive for each arrest or for surveillance conducted; again, nothing could be further from the truth. As we understand it, payments to local law enforcement were driven by time, travel and expenses not by numbers of people arrested or surveilled. I also was a bit offended to the reference to Enbridge as “a foreign company.” While, yes, Enbridge is headquartered in Canada, it has operated in the U.S. and in Minnesota for seven decades and as such this reference comes across as more than a bit xenophobic.

One of the other misrepresentations in the story is that Enbridge directed police activities. That’s not true. Another falsehood is that Enbridge was in constant contact with police telling them “when Enbridge wants protesters removed.” The reality is that there were times when sensitive equipment was at risk that could have caused harm to protesters and workers. There was even a bomb threat. The oddest fact of all that is not even mentioned or suggested in the article is that without protesters and activists doing or threatening harm, the costs would have been minimal. The biggest fact of all is that the protesters did not accept the decisions of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the water quality authority of one of the Indigenous communities along the right-of-way. They could not accept the fact that after more than 70 public hearings (which the activists participated), more than 13,500 pages of environmental impact statements (which they commented on), 320 route modifications in response to environmental and Indigenous concerns, four separate reviews by administrative law judges and several court challenges that their arguments were dismissed and viewed as outside the law. 

It is clear from the story that the reporter never visited the sites mentioned in the story nor spoke to the State Public Utility Commission, the contractors involved with the project, the local and Indigenous communities that the pipeline actually goes through or abuts, or the Indigenous and union laborers who worked on the pipeline. If that had happened, you would know that some of the fenced-in sites referenced in the story were overrun by protesters with ladders, poles and sticks. You also would have learned that hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage was done to contractor equipment and worksites.You would have learned that the leadership of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa was irate about how protesters were treating their community. And you would have learned that laborers, including hundreds of Indigenous workers, were harassed, threatened, taunted, pushed and spat on by protesters as they just tried to do their work. By these kinds of actions protestors turned into vandals and homeland terrorists. These are not actions protected by the right to assemble under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Unfortunately, we live in interesting times in the United States. Right-wing activists storm the U.S. Capitol because they do not want to accept the results of a lawful electoral process and left-wing activists storm pipeline worksites because they do not want to accept the results of state and federal regulatory processes and laws. Both right and left are wrong. Rather than storming the fences, we need to deescalate the rhetoric and temperature and better appreciate that we are ruled by laws, not mobs. More importantly, we need to be respectful of each other, even when we disagree. That was and is one of the strengths of this country.

Attached here are three documents that you might find interesting and have been in the public domain prior to your story. One document is a letter from the heads of three State of Minnesota departments to the Minnesota State Legislature, Members of Congress, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and the acting head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers addressing concerns raised by the activists who stimulated your article.It states very clearly on Page Four under the heading “Public Safety Costs and the Use of Force” that funds from the escrow account cannot be used for “tear gas, rubber bullets, or extrication equipment.” The second document is a February 23, 2021 news release from the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa criticizing the protests and a bomb scare that had taken place. The third document is a June 10, 2021 Minneapolis Star Tribune news story that documents the concerns of Indigenous contractors about protesters as they work on Line 3.

I share all of this because I am someone who used to enjoy reading The Guardian and, despite what you might assume of me, prior to working for various industries and agencies, I worked in U.S. Democratic politics. I prefer impact journalism to that which is lazy, libelous and defamatory. Happy to discuss further.


Mike Fernandez
Senior Vice-President