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Newly elected legislators from Rochester, Duluth and Moorhead were among eight Minnesota lawmakers who spoke in opposition to the Line 3 tar sands pipeline Sunday near Palisade, where its construction would cross the Mississippi river. Winona LaDuke of Honor the Earth led the group, along with 50 water protectors and activists, around the site, stopping at a prayer lodge she and other Indigenous leaders built recently in the line of construction. LaDuke and the legislators discussed the catastrophic climate impacts of the pipeline, the health risks of bringing in out of state pipeline workers during a pandemic, and the need to respect Native American culture and treaty rights.
"The historic preservation officers are told that they can look at things which are dead. I said 'We're not dead.' The Anishinaabe people are a living culture," LaDuke said. "The state says they want to respect Indigenous knowledge. It would be good if they actually respected it. I told them, 'You all are looking for pot shards, but we're still here.' "
Legislators emphasized a duty to future generations. "It's not just about what we do right now. It's affecting the next generations," said Representative-elect Heather Keeler of District 4A in Moorhead. "I believe that when we leave it's our responsibility to hand down Mother Earth in the best form that we found her if not better."
Sen. John Marty of District 66 in Roseville said, "We have an obligation to our kids and grandkids and to our tribal neighbors, and their kids, and grandkids."
"We have a moral imperative to do our part of mitigating the damage of the climate crisis," said Senator-elect Jen McEwen from District 7 in Duluth, "If this happens right now while we are at the helm of these decisions, history will not look kindly on us."
Others urged Gov. Walz to heed the advice of climate scientists and health experts. Rep. Sydney Jordan from District 60A in Minneapolis spoke of her own relatives who were sick with COVID-19 but turned away from overflowing hospitals and about the health costs of fossil fuel emissions. "Gov. Walz has tried hard to make good decisions for people's health. I'm hoping Gov. Walz can be a real health leader and make the decision to stop this pipeline."
Senator-elect Erin Murphy of District 64 in St. Paul said, "We must invest as swiftly as possible in green energy and the technologies that will protect our climate and create skilled union jobs for Minnesotans. It's a fresh path that includes all of us."
Legislators also discussed that the majority of Line 3 jobs were going to out of state pipeline workers. "I think often people believe that if we're going to protect Mother Earth that means we don't care about jobs. The reality is we still very much care about jobs, just not jobs that are affecting us so negatively," said Senator-elect Mary Kunesh of District 41 in New Brighton.
Finally they emphasized the importance of their visit to the site. "I came up here to see the construction for myself, to bring that back to the Legislature and to fight for justice and protect the environment. It's about justice and fairness," Representative-elect Liz Boldon of District 25B in Rochester said. Senator-elect Lindsey Port of District 56 in Burnsville agreed: "It's our job to amplify the voices of you all here and take that back to St. Paul."
Established in 1990 within the United States, IEN was formed by grassroots Indigenous peoples and individuals to address environmental and economic justice issues (EJ). IEN's activities include building the capacity of Indigenous communities and tribal governments to develop mechanisms to protect our sacred sites, land, water, air, natural resources, health of both our people and all living things, and to build economically sustainable communities.
"We have sought and aspired to be an example, to uphold international law," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. "Instead the administration is making it effectively impossible to seek refuge at our border."
Arguing that the Biden administration's expansion of the Trump-era Title 42 anti-asylum policy is not only immoral but also illegal, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is leading nearly 80 of her fellow Democratic lawmakers in calling on President Joe Biden to instead keep his earlier promise to end the policy that's expelled more than 2.5 million migrants since 2020.
The New York Democrat joined Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) in spearheading a letter signed by a bicameral coalition of lawmakers to "applaud the creation of new legal pathways for Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans" that the Biden administration announced earlier this month, while expressing "great concern" over the restrictions that were paired with those pathways.
"Last year, we welcomed your administration's announcement that it would move to end Title 42, and we continue to support your efforts in the courts to ensure a timely end to the policy," wrote the lawmakers in the Thursday letter. "We are therefore distressed by the deeply inconsistent choice to expand restrictions on asylum-seekers after your administration determined it was no longer necessary for public health. Title 42 circumvents domestic law and international law."
"We urge the Biden administration to engage quickly and meaningfully with members of Congress to find ways to adequately address migration to our southern border that do not include violating asylum law and our international obligations."
The letter was sent three weeks after the administration announced that under Title 42—which was first used by former Republican President Donald Trump to refuse entry into the U.S. to migrants at the southern border during the Covid-19 pandemic, with Trump claiming the policy was needed to protect public health—30,000 migrants from Nicaragua, Cuba, and Haiti will be able to enter the country legally each month through a humanitarian parole program and U.S.-based financial sponsors.
If people from those countries try to enter the U.S. without going through an official port of entry, they will face immediate expulsion to Mexico, with the Mexican government committing to accept 30,000 deported refugees per month.
At a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez said by expanding the Title 42 program, Biden is violating human rights that are "enshrined in domestic and international law."
"We have sought and aspired to be an example, to uphold international law," said the congresswoman. "Instead the administration is making it effectively impossible to seek refuge at our border."
\u201cGreat to see @AOC highlight that Title 42 isn\u2019t just amoral, it\u2019s illegal.\n\n\u201cLast year Pres Biden promised to end Title 42. Instead he's now expanding restrictions on asylum. But the right to seek asylum is enshrined in domestic and international law.\u201d\u201d— Sawyer Hackett (@Sawyer Hackett) 1674781507
The lawmakers also raised alarm about a rulemaking process the Biden administration said it would begin to require migrants to first apply for asylum in a third "transit country" instead of exercising their legal right to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Trump's "third country transit ban" violated U.S. asylum laws which prohibit the government from turning people away if they are not "firmly resettled" in another country where they are safe.
"At the time of this ruling, countries across the Western Hemisphere were unable to meet such requirements," wrote the lawmakers. "There does not appear to be evidence to show that country conditions in transit countries have improved since the relevant appellate decision was rendered as to justify a new third country transit [ban]."
Title 42 was also struck down by a district court in November, but the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the policy to continue for the time being last month. The court is set to hear arguments on the case in February.
The Democrats called on the president to work closely with Congress, which passed the Refugee Act of 1980 and affirmed that people fleeing persecution on "account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion" are legally permitted to seek asylum in the United States.
"We urge the Biden administration to engage quickly and meaningfully with members of Congress to find ways to adequately address migration to our southern border that do not include violating asylum law and our international obligations," said the lawmakers. "When Congress established the right to asylum, it did so without such requirements on where people may have previously traveled through or other pathways available. It is, in fact, necessary that asylum must be maintained and strengthened to ensure that safety is within reach, particularly for the most vulnerable."
A new manifesto calls for building "a sustainable social pact for the 21st century" in which "our rights are guaranteed, not based on our ability to pay, or on whether a system produces profit, but on whether it enables all of us to live well together in peace and equality."
An international coalition made up of more than 200 trade unions and progressive advocacy groups on Thursday published the Santiago Declaration, a manifesto for "a complete overhaul of our global economic system."
The undeniably anti-neoliberal document proclaiming that "our future is public" is the product of a meeting held in Chile—the "laboratory of neoliberalism" where Milton Friedman and his University of Chicago acolytes' upwardly redistributive economic model was first imposed at gunpoint by Gen. Augusto Pinochet's military junta.
From November 29 to December 2, more than 1,000 organizers from over 100 countries gathered in Santiago and virtually to germinate a left-wing movement against "the dominant paradigm of growth, privatization, and commodification."
"Who owns our resources and our services is fundamental. A public future means ensuring that everything essential to dignified lives is out of private control."
"We are at a critical juncture," the manifesto begins. "At a time when the world faces a series of crises, from the environmental emergency to hunger and deepening inequalities, increasing armed conflicts, pandemics, rising extremism, and escalating inflation, a collective response is growing."
"Hundreds of organizations across socioeconomic justice and public services sectors—from education and health services, to care, energy, food, housing, water, transportation, and social protection—are coming together to address the harmful effects of commercializing public services, to reclaim democratic public control, and to reimagine a truly equal and human rights-oriented economy that works for people and the planet," reads the document. "We demand universal access to quality, gender-transformative, and equitable public services as the foundation of a fair and just society."
The Santiago Declaration continues:
The commercialization and privatization of public services and the commodification of all aspects of life have driven growing inequalities and entrenched power disparities, giving prominence to profit and corruption over people's rights and ecological and social well-being. It adversely affects workers, service users, and communities, with the costs and damages falling disproportionately on those who have historically been exploited.
The devaluation of public service workers' social status, the worsening of their working conditions, and attacks against their unions are some of the most worrying regressions of our times and a threat to our collective spaces. This is deeply linked with the patriarchal organization of society, where women as workers and carers are undervalued and absorb social and economic shocks. They are the first to suffer from public sector cuts, losing access to services and opportunities for decent work, and facing a rising burden of unpaid care work.
Austerity cuts in public sector budgets and wage bills are driven by an ideological mindset entrenched in the International Monetary Fund and many ministries of finance that serve the interests of corporations over people, perpetuating dependencies and unsustainable debts. Unfair tax rules, nationally and internationally, enable vast inequalities in the accumulation and concentration of income, wealth, and power within and between countries. The financialization of a wide range of public actions and decisions hands over power to shareholders and undermines democracy.
Against the heavily privatized status quo, "we commit to continue building an intersectional movement for a future that is public," the document says. "One where our rights are guaranteed, not based on our ability to pay, or on whether a system produces profit, but on whether it enables all of us to live well together in peace and equality: our buen vivir."
According to Global Justice Now, the Transnational Institute, and other signatories, the creation of an egalitarian and sustainable society hinges on ensuring universal access to life-sustaining public goods delivered by highly valued workers.
"We need to take back control of decision-making processes and institutions from the current forms of corporate capture to be able to decide for what, for whom, and how we provide."
"Who owns our resources and our services is fundamental," the manifesto argues. "A public future means ensuring that everything essential to dignified lives is out of private control, and under decolonial forms of collective, transparent, and democratic control."
\u201cThe Santiago Declaration calls us to build a public future - where quality education, health & other #PublicServices are guaranteed regardless of ability to pay & w/o commercial control.\n@Oxfam is proud to have supported this effort! https://t.co/OvqARJOy4E\n\n#OurFutureIsPublic\u201d— Oxfam International (@Oxfam International) 1674739224
As the Santiago Declaration explains:
A future that is public also means creating the conditions for enabling alternative production systems, including the prioritization of agroecology as an essential component of food sovereignty. To that end, we need to take back control of decision-making processes and institutions from the current forms of corporate capture to be able to decide for what, for whom, and how we provide, manage, and collectively own resources and public services.
The public future will not be possible without taking bold collective national action for ambitious, gender-transformative, and progressive fiscal and economic reforms, to massively expand financing of universal public services. These reforms must be complemented by major shifts in the international public finance architecture, including transformations in tax, debt, and trade governance.
Democratizing economic governance towards truly multilateral processes is critical to overhaul the power of dominant neoliberal organizations and reorient national and international financial institutions away from the racial, patriarchal, and colonial patterns of capitalism and towards socioeconomic justice, ecological sustainability, human rights, and public services. It is equally essential to enforce the climate and ecological debt of the Global North, to carry out an expedited reduction of energy and material resource use by wealthy economies, to hold big polluters liable for their generations-long infractions, to accelerate the phasing-out of fossil fuels, and to prioritize finance system change.
The call to build "a sustainable social pact for the 21st century," the coalition observes, "follows years of growing mobilization around the world."
During Friday's opening session, former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis called for the establishment of a movement capable of dismantling "the existing, exploitative, catastrophically extractive imperialist international economic order so as to build a new one in its place... in which people and planet can breathe, live, and prosper together."
Climate groups said the legislation "advances a public land giveaway that could lock in at least a century of oil drilling."
House Republicans and a single Democrat—Rep. Jared Golden of Maine—passed legislation Friday that would require the federal government to lease a certain percentage of public lands and waters for fossil fuel extraction for every non-emergency drawdown of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a trade-off that climate advocates slammed as a huge gift to Big Oil.
"Fossil fuel companies are already swimming in record profits, but House Republicans are using one of their first legislative opportunities to auction off our public lands for more drilling," Martin Hayden, Earthjustice vice president of policy and legislation, said of the Strategic Production Response Act (H.R. 21), a bill led by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.).
Rodgers, the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was the top recipient of oil and gas PAC money in the House Republican caucus during the last election cycle.
"Ramping down fossil fuel extraction and transitioning to clean energy are our best opportunity to protect ourselves from the worst impacts of climate change, insulate families from volatile energy prices, and ensure that we reach our climate goals," Hayden added. "At a time when we're seeing the impacts of climate change every day, this bill would lock in decades of fossil fuel drilling that we simply cannot afford."
Republicans have accused Biden of abusing his authority to tap the nation's strategic reserve, a resource he drew on in a significant way last year in an effort to tamp down soaring gas prices by quickly increasing supply.
The White House has countered that it was operating well within its power to respond to major supply disruptions and warned the GOP bill would result in "more oil supply shortages in times of crisis and higher gasoline prices for Americans."
"Today, the SPR remains the largest strategic petroleum reserve in the world. And with our plans to refill it at... lower prices than what we sold at, the use of the SPR not only saved Americans money, but these releases will end up delivering a return for taxpayers," U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said during a
press briefing earlier this week. "So I'll be very clear: If Congress were to pass H.R. 21, the president would veto it."
"This bill advances a public land giveaway that could lock in at least a century of oil drilling in response to an SPR drawdown that is truly a drop in the bucket."
Explaining his lonely yes vote on the House GOP's legislation, Golden said in a statement that "it is in the best interest of hard-working Americans, who are facing rising prices at the pump, to require a comprehensive plan from any administration in power to replace our stockpile as they dip into it."
But climate groups warn the specific plan required under the bill—which passed hours after Chevron reported record-shattering annual profits for 2022—would approve a massive expansion of fossil fuel drilling at a time when climate scientists say such extraction must be urgently phased out.
"Enactment of this bill would have dire implications for federal public lands and waters," a coalition of nearly 40 environmental groups wrote in a letter to members of Congress earlier this week. "As written, the bill permits the leasing plan to include as much as 10% of the federal land and water estate—an unconscionable amount—when SPR drawdowns exceed 10% of reserves."
"The federal government presides over roughly 640 million acres onshore and over 2.5 billion acres in the Outer Continental shelf. Ten percent of that is 314 million acres—almost twice the size of Texas and six times the combined size of all U.S. national parks," the letter continued. "In other words, this bill advances a public land giveaway that could lock in at least a century of oil drilling in response to an SPR drawdown that is truly a drop in the bucket."
After the groups sent their letter, the House GOP approved an amendment offered by Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) that would authorize a leasing plan that could include up to 15% of federal lands and waters.
House Republicans rejected a number of amendments offered by Democrats, including one from Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) that would have made national parks, national wildlife refuges, and other public lands off-limits for drilling.
"Under this bill, if the president needed to act again to keep prices low, he'd first have to pay off Big Oil by opening up our public lands," Grijalva said in a floor speech on Thursday. "This bill does not protect the American people, and it certainly does not protect our climate or environment."