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4-22-00

Dear Cree sympathizers:

We had a small victory and then a bitter defeat on Thursday. Bad news first, followed by the good news, with a suggestion of how you can expand on the victory and help the Cross Lake Crees.

Bad news: The Minnesota Environmental Quality Board finally ruled on the scope of the Duluth powerline hearing to resume soon in Duluth. The Board members all voted to narrowly limit testimony about the effects of the 12-mile powerline to Minnesota only. No effects or impacts that the powerline shall have outside Minnesota borders will be allowed at the hearing. However, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Karen Studders, did remind her fellow Board members that environmental effects do not stop at state borders. Why she went with the herd in voting to limit the powerline hearing testimony to only Minnesota effects is a puzzlement, then.

The powerline opponents from Wisconsin and Minnesota (except me) left the Board meeting in silent defeat when the vote was passed. The Board had announced at the beginning of the meeting that they refused to take any questions or to hear any comments from the audience regarding the 12-mile powerline. However, they did take testimony from Minnesota's Senator Bob Lessard who spoke against allowing testimony from Canadians on the powerline issue. (Senator Lessard is the key legislator responsible for preventing the Hydro Review Bill from even being heard for consideration in the Legislature this year. He decided to keep the bill from progressing because he had privately met with Canadian Indians and took their testimony into account.) Next, the Board took testimony from the lawyer for the Split Lake Crees. Split Lake Crees seem to express intense interest in getting dam-building jobs from Manitoba Hydro and are asking the Cross Lake Crees to give up their treaty rights--to simply accept a one-time cash settlement from Manitoba Hydro as they did.

I was able to get around the Board muzzle on audience testimony by waiting until the very end, after they finished all of their business. They had to allow me to speak because on my question card I had listed as my topic "MEQB Mission." I made them tell me what their purpose as an agency is. Then I told them that I as a Minnesotan represented the public interest of Minnesotans and of our environment. I told them--and several of them had left the meeting already, so not all of them heard my evaluation of their conduct--"You have made a grave mistake." I further told them that they would not allow a hazardous substance like heroin to be transported through our state, and by implication I was insuating that they had just let a hazardous substance to be transported through by their vote. Perhaps Commissioner Studders understood my meaning. I hope all of them thought keenly about the silent rebuke with which I confronted them on my wooden cutting board from my kitchen. On it I had taped a hand-lettered sign which said, "ENVIRONMENTAL QUASHING BOARD?" and I propped it up right in front of them for all to see.

So, now the hearing will be scheduled in Duluth about whether the 12-mile line should be required to furnish an Environmental Impact Assessment, or whether the utility can build it without first showing what the environmental and social effects will be. The hearing judge will now only allow testimony about the effects that will happen strictly within Minnesota borders. This is a defeat for environmental justice. But perhaps good witnesses can be found to prove that the powerline will be very bad for Minnesota--that could be a grand victory, if it happens, especially if it convinces the judge to declare that Minnesota Power must furnish an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Next, the GOOD NEWS! The Minneapolis Star Tribune printed two editorials which referred to the April 17 article about the Environmental Justice conference held April 15. Here are those letters:
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Energy and human rights

I truly appreciated Tom Meersman's April 17 article about the conference on energy and human rights issues. Those of us who enjoy the benefits of international trade, whether in goods or in energy, need to be informed about the real costs of what we consume. I am especially interested in the plight of the Cree Indians -- so near us, yet beyond that information curtain that all too often extends along the 49th parallel.

-- Rhoda R. Gilman, St. Paul.

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I agree with NSP's Jim Alders, who was quoted April 17 on the dispute over the failure of Manitoba Hydro to fulfill its 1977 contract with the Indians in Manitoba's Cross Lake community. "Alders said: 'We think that's an issue that needs to be resolved by those closest to it: the Canadian government, Manitoba Hydro and the first nations [Indian tribes].' ''

What I can't understand is why NSP would want to do business with a company that does not keep its legal contracts. Until that company gets around to keeping that contract -- or, treaty, if you will, NSP should steer clear [of] it. Otherwise, NSP will be guilty of environmental racism by collaborating with Manitoba Hydro.

In addition, NSP's eagerness to contract for more power from that Canadian utility calls into question its street smarts: how can NSP trust Manitoba Hydro won't pull a fast one?

NSP, drop Manitoba Hydro-electricity like a hot potato! Stolen goods might be cheap, but you've got to be crazy, or immoral, to knowingly buy them.

-- Diane J. Peterson, White Bear Lake.
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I have been informed that our two letters have been posted on the Internet discussion forum of people who currently and/or potentially are shareholders of the Duluth company wanting the powerline, Minnesota Power. You can observe, and possibly participate in, commentary on that forum by going to:

http://messages.yahoo.com/bbs?action=m&board=7083066&tid=mpl&sid=7083066&mid =496

The shareholders are having their annual meeting in Duluth on May 9, incidentally.

TAKE ACTION
I recommend that people write to the Minnesota PUC with your comments on the Star Tribune article and on the points raised in the two letters to the editor. If possible, get those clippings from the newspaper and include it with your letter. The PUC is about to decide whether it will allow NSP to get another contract with Manitoba Hydro. The Commissioners have not yet shown any indication that they mistrust Manitoba Hydro's reliability as a "renewable" energy source. Nor have the Commissioners proved that they are sympathetic enough to the environment to personally investigate the claims of the Cross Lake Crees. The Crees testified to the Commissioners in November 1999. Conscientious Commissioners would take that testimony seriously enough to go up themselves to Cross Lake, to discover the facts first-hand. Do they want to make Minnesota collaborators in the destruction of North American rivers and forests? Do they want to collaborate in a human rights abuse? Are they going to get away with seeing and hearing no evil just because they like NSP's preferences over those of concerned citizens of Minnesota? Is the PUC looking out for your interests? Isn't that their mandate? Tell them what you think in the most persuasive way you know how. Write to:

Gregory Scott
Chair
Minnesota Public Utilities Commission
121 7th Place East, Suite 350
St. Paul MN 55101-2147

I thank you for taking time out to stop the hydro-electric holocaust,

Diane J. Peterson
Member, Peace and Social Action Committee
Twin Cities Friends Meeting (Quakers)
St. Paul, Minnesota
(651) 653-4385
birch7@goldengate.net