State Agency Bows to Militant Activists Canceling Pipeline Hearings

State officials have abruptly cancelled two public hearings on the $2.6 billion Enbridge 3 pipeline construction project scheduled in St. Cloud today due to “logistical and safety issues.” The cancellation follows the contentious curtailment of a Duluth public hearing last week in which a mob of about 15 activists disrupted the proceedings before a stunned standing-room-only crowd.

American Experiment posted video of the confrontation in which police largely stood by as militant activists forced an early end to the Duluth hearing.

A group of about 15 militant activists hijacked the proceedings, trading turns shouting barbs at [Administrative Law Judge Ann] O’Reilly and the audience.

“Here’s the deal. If you don’t sit down, I’m going to have to have you removed. I don’t want to do it, it’s really unpleasant,” O’Reilly said matter-of-factly.

But it was an empty threat, only leading to more jeers and cat-calls from the clearly emboldened activists.

“You tell us we can’t speak while the good-old-boy, John Deere-driving, tobacco-chewing Enbridge people get to speak?” taunted one militant. “This is a racist hearing, racism exists here in Duluth. Shut this sh– down here. Shut it down.”

American Experiment contacted Administrative Law Judge O’Reilly yesterday to ask whether she had security concerns in advance of a public hearing that was held last night in Cross Lake.

I would like to know whether you were concerned for the safety of panelists, participants and yourself at any point, whether the police should have removed/arrested the protesters, whether the MPUC has taken steps to avoid a similar disruption and outcome tonight in Brainerd and any other concerns that have come up in the wake of that incident.

O’Reilly referred our email inquiry to Chief Administrative Law Judge Tammy Pust, who responded by email.

Mr. Steward:  Thank you for reaching out to the Office of Administrative Hearings.  All media inquiries are directed to me, so feel free to contact me directly.

Further, please note that the Office of Administrative Hearings does not comment on pending matters. The matter you reference will be pending until the Public Utilities Commission has issued a final order in the matter and, if applicable, any appellate process has been completed.

Tammy L. Pust

Chief Judge

I sent a similar list of questions to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission last Friday, but have yet to receive a response. Media reports indicate the state agency responded to the wishes of St. Cloud officials who were concerned over their ability to maintain order.

In a news release, the PUC says the city of St. Cloud advised the commission of “logistical and safety issues” related to many events being held Thursday at River’s Edge Convention Center.

The commission is reviewing options for rescheduling the two hearings in St. Cloud.

Yet for now, threats and intimidation by militant activists have won the day. It’s up to Gov. Dayton and his administration to send a strong signal that the rule of law prevails by rescheduling the remaining public hearings and providing adequate resources to assure public order.