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Statewide View: Line 3 opponents put green alarmism above Minnesota's future

Lately we've heard and read a lot from green activists opposed to the replacement of an aging pipeline in northern Minnesota. The replacement project is generally referred to as "Enbridge Line 3," and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission just handed down a ruling approving the project.

At issue isn't whether to build a pipeline across northern Minnesota but whether to replace and upgrade a piece of energy infrastructure that's already in the ground and badly in need of replacement. As it currently exists, Line 3 is a 1,097-mile pipeline operated by Enbridge Energy that delivers crude oil from Edmonton, Alberta, to a terminal near Clearbrook, Minn., and then, ultimately, to Superior.

The pipeline is an economic lifeline for our state. Minnesota produces no petroleum yet annually consumes 54 million barrels of gasoline and 28 million barrels of distillate fuel such as diesel and heating oil.

Activists' concerns are unfounded. Line 3 is a safe, environmentally sound way to transport the oil Minnesotans need. The pipeline replacement also will fuel economic growth and create jobs across the state.

For decades, infrastructure like Enbridge's Line 3 has supplied Minnesota's refineries and power plants with the resources needed to power our state. In fact, Enbridge is responsible for 80 percent of the oil refined in Minnesota.

The project will replace an existing stretch of Line 3 with 337 miles of 36-inch diameter pipeline. It's part of a larger effort to upgrade the pipeline and make it more reliable and energy-efficient.

Predictably, radical environmental organizations have lined up in opposition to the revamp. Together with their fellow travelers, these activists argue that Line 3 will endanger the environment, especially the food and water supply of nearby areas.

They're mistaken. Pipelines are the safest way to transport oil. They're far safer than shuttling oil by rail, as we were reminded recently with the dramatic derailment of train cars shipping oil through Iowa. Petroleum transported by pipelines reaches its destination 99.999 percent of the time. Replacing a decades-old pipeline with the latest materials and technologies will make Minnesota's energy infrastructure even safer and more environmentally sound.

Unfortunately, environmentalists aren't the only ones standing in the way of the pipeline's replacement. A state administrative law judge recently recommended an alternative route for Line 3 that could disrupt Minnesota's energy supply by forcing the old pipeline to go offline while the replacement pipeline sections are installed. That recommendation could cause energy prices to soar and send shockwaves through the state's economy.

Enbridge's Line 3 route will significantly benefit Minnesota's economy. For starters, a reliable supply of crude oil would put downward pressure on energy prices, thus reducing costs for businesses and households throughout the state. Furthermore, replacing the aging pipeline with a more modern and technologically superior one would allow Enbridge to ship nearly twice as much crude oil through the pipeline to meet future demand. Finally, this $5.3 billion project — the largest in Enbridge's history — would bring much-needed jobs and prosperity to areas of northern Minnesota badly in need of jobs and opportunities.

The project also will increase Enbridge's already-substantial financial investment in our state. In 2017 alone, the company spent more than $180 million in Minnesota on everything from maintenance to equipment leases to employee salaries. It contributed another $65 million to our economy through its capital expenditures and paid over $73 million in state taxes.

By allowing Enbridge to move forward with the project, the Public Utilities Commission boosted our state's economy and prosperity in greater Minnesota and guarded our nation's energy supply.

Annette Meeks is CEO of the Minneapolis-based Freedom Foundation of Minnesota (freedomfoundation.publishpath.com).