Oil projects and their protests: secundum artem
Secundum artem is a Latin phrase meaning "standard practice," or "according to procedure." As we see protests continue to cause problems and costly delays for oil companies, it's difficult not to think of that phrase each time a line is proposed and met with loud and potentially violent reaction.
Enbridge is seeking permission to replace its Line 3, which runs from Canada to the Great Lakes through North Dakota and Minnesota. It's just a replacement, and not a new line altogether. We have backed replacing the line, but finding universal approval of any kind of oil infrastructure is difficult these days.
Today's landscape—in both the literal and figurative sense—makes it next to impossible for a pipeline project to proceed without delays, headlines and, in some cases, violence. Again, secundum artem.
About that landscape.
First, the literal: The Line 3 replacement is planned to go through delicate areas in northern Minnesota, near the headwaters of the Mississippi River. It dissects land covered in lakes, wetlands and streams.
And second, the political: After the unrest that boiled over with the Dakota Access Pipeline last year in North Dakota, protesters know they can generate great national attention with bold efforts. Since Line 3 slices through lands on which American Indians fish and gather wild rice, it's a hot issue.
Anyone who has watched the video of a recent public hearing in Duluth knows this won't be a peaceful process. Dozens of pipeline protesters disrupted the meeting when they rushed in amid pounding drums and chants. Several wore masks.
All of this is especially important as several Republican Minnesota lawmakers sent a letter asking Gov. Mark Dayton to consider lending Minnesota Public Safety Department help to local law-enforcement agencies. Forum News Service reported on this last week, noting that the letter told the governor that local law agencies "do not have the equipment or personnel to deal with the added burden of a large influx of protesters from outside the area."
North Dakota knows all about this, as the DAPL protest sapped public coffers and took officers—such as Highway Patrol troopers—away from their regular duties.
It is a valid concern, but Gov. Dayton dismissed the letter. A spokesman said "any letter which reaches the press before (Dayton) is just for show."
Dayton would be wise to heed this request from the concerned lawmakers. He shouldn't worry about the timing of the press receiving the letter. It's a petty response.
North Dakota learned how costly and disruptive protests can be. Minnesota should be paying attention and strongly considering its potential paths.
Why? Because with pipeline projects, loud protests and costly responses have become secundum artem—standard practice and in accordance to procedure.