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Local View: Minnesota deserves better than actions of Line 3 protesters

We all have heard the saying, "You get what you deserve." In mid-September, Minnesotans deserved much more than what they got from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and Minnesota Department of Commerce ("Line 3 opponents stall PUC meeting," Sept. 12).

It's important to know that professional protesters are coming here to try to bully, disrupt, and threaten — to do anything they can to stop a process because their agenda and backers disagree with the outcome. They do not represent who we are and what Minnesotans believe.

The Public Utilities Commission is responsible for holding and managing meetings for projects like Enbridge's Line 3 Replacement Project. These meetings are important and designed to let all parties work through details of things like the certificate of need. They give people a chance to share information and for commissioners to ask questions.

There are rules and a process Minnesota has created to make sure companies know what's expected of them and to let others raise concerns. Working through this is how Minnesotans work together, even when we disagree. Especially when we disagree.

Yet, in September, the PUC and DOC, for different reasons, clearly failed to do their job. They did not make good on their responsibility to serve Minnesotans. Their lack of planning and ignoring the well-established intensity of the Line 3 process allowed a small group of people, most not from Minnesota, to take over a meeting.

The "activists" were allowed to bring a boom box and a bullhorn into a public meeting. How does that happen? No one was screened; and while there was security in the room, no one did anything when the group verbally threatened the PUC commissioners and Line 3 supporters.

The PUC commissioners left the room. The professional activists declared victory when the rest of the meeting was canceled. The out-of-towners bragged about it on Facebook after they forced the meeting to be stopped.

DOC officials, on the other hand, knowing this meeting was scheduled, made a conscious choice not to review information and prepare for the meeting. They were on the agenda to talk about the certificate-of-need permit stipulations and Enbridge's responses to determine if the company had complied as ordered. By choosing not to review the information, DOC staff clearly failed to do their jobs.

Minnesota is clearly better than this and deserves better from people in charge.

The PUC's failure to make sure the process worked created national headlines, driven by bad acts from people not from Minnesota who clearly do not accept an outcome. Letting a small group get away with stopping this meeting was embarrassing and makes holding the next meeting a bigger challenge.

One other thing worth noting is that I, out of curiosity, attended the first public hearing for the Keystone XL pipeline project a couple years ago in York, Neb. This is a small town, and its leaders knew the Keystone project was contentious. At this meeting were security screenings for all attendees. No bags were left unchecked. Everyone was asked to walk through a metal detector. The meeting was held without any threats or disruptions because people there did their jobs.

For months, Honor the Earth and other pipeline opponents have threatened to bring Standing Rock to Minnesota. This past month, the people apparently behind the Standing Rock protests (numerous social media postings prove this) came to our state — people who use thuggish threats to stop a process. It worked for now but should also force us all to ask some important questions.

Honor the Earth's Winona LaDuke and others have claimed they don't want violence. Yet expert paid protestors have come here from across the country to oppose Line 3 and to ignore rules they don't like. Why do they continue to try to create an environment connected to the false premise that the end justifies the means, regardless of what happens or who gets hurt?

They seem to want to create the idea that Minnesota disapproves of Line 3. They are wrong. We will not and cannot let stand what happened at the PUC meeting as an acceptable standard of behavior or as any way to move forward.

I do understand and respect that people have strong reasons to oppose this project. I also hope that opponents understand why so many others support Line 3 and know it is the right thing for Minnesota.

Fear creates more fear. Threatening harm too often forces others to respond in an equal way. Not being ready to do your job when you play a key role in this process encourages others to continue to ignore rules as they spread hate.

Let's hope the PUC and DOC realize the impact of what happened and where they failed Minnesota. There will be more meetings and other situations where we need and depend on the process to move things forward. I believe together we can focus on the best of Minnesota and move forward together.

Bob Schoneberger works in Duluth and is a member of the group Minnesotans for Line 3 (minnesotansforline3.com).

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