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Local View: Stand up for local economy at pipeline hearing Wednesday

Through the years, Duluth has earned its reputation as a key travel destination, with people from all over Minnesota and beyond taking in the views and enjoying major attractions.

Tamara LowneyFor those of us from northern Minnesota, this picturesque region is much more than a tourist hub, though. This region is our home. We live and raise families here. We hunt and fish here. We work and play here. Our families and communities are the ones who truly emulate this region's natural and cultural history.

Unfortunately, much of northern Minnesota is continuing to struggle economically post-Great Recession. With Enbridge's Line 3 Replacement Project we have an opportunity to create jobs and improve the economy and the livelihood of our local neighborhoods, not only in Duluth but across the counties of northern Minnesota that need it most.

Line 3 is a 1,097-mile crude oil pipeline from Alberta that stretches across northern Minnesota to a terminal in Superior. It is in need of replacement, a project that will bring thousands of construction jobs and millions in tax revenue to our region. Built in the 1960s, Line 3 needs to be replaced so it can operate again at full capacity, maintain the highest safety standards, and reduce future maintenance needs that would disrupt local landowners and businesses.

Derek PedersonThe Line 3 Replacement Project is expected to employ 6,500 people locally over two years. These jobs not only allow people to stay close to home and near their families; they provide life-sustaining wages that we don't always see in our region. Pipeline construction jobs are among the best-paying positions in the labor market, with paychecks going directly to the homes of our friends and families. These workers are highly skilled and are invested in doing the job right because they live here, too.

Installing the new infrastructure for the pipeline also will bring an increase in sales taxes from locally purchased materials and equipment. Enbridge will need to tap local vendors for engineered, building, and electrical materials. The company also will be hiring local contractors for services to support mainline and facilities construction, engineering, drilling, and inspection. Many of these are union jobs.

The Line 3 Replacement Project has the ability to provide significant long-term economic benefits for local counties that have a difficult time with business growth and development.

Enbridge is one of the largest taxpayers in the region, currently paying more than $30 million annually to the state of Minnesota. The replacement project is expected to increase property tax revenue in each county crossed by the pipeline, ultimately contributing an additional $19.5 million each year.

Enbridge has a long history of enabling responsible, safe energy transportation in Minnesota while also boosting the economy. A recent University of Minnesota Duluth study estimates Enbridge will spend $1.5 billion on the Line 3 Replacement Project, leading to a total economic impact of $2 billion in direct and spinoff spending that will pour directly into our local communities.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce has claimed the replacement of Line 3 is unnecessary. We disagree.

Public hearings currently are being held to help determine whether to grant the certificate of need and route permit for this project. On Wednesday, please join us at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center to make our voices heard in support of the replacement. Let's stand up for the future of the economy in northern Minnesota and the livelihoods of all of us who call this place home.

Tamara Lowney is a senior business developer for the Area Partnership for Economic Expansion, or APEX, in Duluth. Derek Pederson of Esko is a member of Laborers' International Union of North America, or LiUNA, Local 1091 and has worked on pipelines. Both are members of the grassroots industry-advocacy group Jobs for Minnesotans.

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