Northern Minnesota symbolizes the best of the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" with its hard-working people, abundant natural resources, and strong communities. But with unemployment rates that exceed the rest of the state, there's an urgent need for economic development and job growth.
Unfortunately, the administration of Gov. Mark Dayton repeatedly has thrown up roadblocks to major infrastructure projects and the jobs they bring to the region.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce and Minnesota Public Utilities Commission introduced delay after delay in considering the Sandpiper and other pipeline projects in recent years. It also was discovered that an employee of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency colluded with opponents to the Sandpiper project before it was canceled, in part thanks to endless delays in the permitting process. The Dayton administration's actions have cost Minnesota jobs from the now-canceled Sandpiper pipeline and new mining projects.
The Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Project appears to be Democrats' latest target. The aging pipeline was ordered replaced by the federal government during President Barack Obama's administration and has been subject to unprecedented public review and comment. The Line 3 Replacement Project will mean more than $3 billion in private investment, increase the safety of Minnesota's water, and create thousands of good-paying construction jobs along the route.
Despite all this, the Dayton administration recently claimed that, "Minnesota would be better off if Enbridge proposed to cease operations of the existing Line 3, without any new pipeline being built." This was a chilling statement from Minnesota's executive branch.
Eliminating this pipeline not only would hurt the communities that stand to benefit from private investment, significant property tax revenue, and thousands of good-paying jobs; it also would hurt Minnesota families throughout the state in the form of higher gas and energy prices.
Consumers rely on the product transported by Line 3 everyday - even those who don't drive cars. Right now there are more than 5 million registered motor vehicles in Minnesota. Fewer than 4,000 are pure electric vehicles. The U.S. Department of Energy projects that the vast majority of cars on the road will continue to be powered by gasoline-only for decades to come.
And yet Democrats oppose Line 3's replacement because they side with protesters and activists who are attempting to eliminate fossil-fuel use in the United States.
Area Democratic Reps. Jason Metsa of Virginia, Rob Ecklund of International Falls, and Julie Sandstede of Hibbing had a chance last session to stand up for their communities. Instead they stuck with their Minneapolis-St. Paul Democratic leaders and opposed an amendment to cut red tape and move the Line 3 project forward.
Quite frankly, Democrats' opposition to Line 3's replacement offers no new environmental protection. It does the opposite by keeping crude oil transportation in an aging pipeline that has been identified as in need of replacement for safety and environmental reasons.
Enbridge has been responsibly operating existing pipelines in Minnesota for decades. Its system safely moves more than 20 percent of the nation's oil and provides more than 80 percent of the oil used in area refineries. The company employs 400 in the state and 550 in the Duluth-Superior area. Minnesota and the rest of America need the resources Enbridge provides.
Let's stop trying to please extreme protesters who want to shut down the transport of any and all oil throughout the country. Rather than putting the environment at great risk by continuing to operate an aging pipeline that's already operating at reduced capacity, let's replace it and ensure the safe transport of oil for years to come. Most Minnesotans would agree this is the common-sense approach.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is taking public input on the Line 3 Replacement Project at its website (mn.gov/puc/line3/participate/#3) through Nov. 22 and at a number of public meetings, including next week, on Wednesday, in Duluth. I plan to testify in support of this critical project at a meeting today at the Civic Center in Grand Rapids, and I ask you to do the same in your community.
Let's show our support for this project and tell Democrats it's time to stop the sabotage of northern Minnesota's economy.
Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, is speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives.