On the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 12, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz took action to block the construction of an oil pipeline across the northern part of the state.

The new pipeline, proposed by Enbridge, a Canadian energy company, would replace a half century-old pipeline that transports crude oil from Canada to refineries throughout the Midwest.

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The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission greenlit the project. But the administration of former Gov. Mark Dayton sued to prevent construction. And Gov. Walz decided to allow the suit to move forward, a move that threatens to deprive Minnesotans of jobs and affordable energy.

Replacing the old pipeline is the safest, most environmentally friendly way to funnel needed fuel to Minnesotans. And the massive infrastructure project would create thousands of jobs and pump billions into the state economy.

The pipeline, "Line 3," runs 1,097 miles from Alberta to Wisconsin. It's a crucial source of fuel for Minnesota, which has no oil deposits of its own. However, due to a half century of use, the pipeline's effective capacity has declined. Today, it can only handle half the oil it used to.

This capacity shortfall has hamstrung some Minnesota refineries. Flint Hills Resources' Rosemount, Minn., refinery, for example, says it can't boost its production levels without more oil from the pipeline. Enbridge already has been forced to limit deliveries to several refineries. That rationing will only get worse in the years ahead.

To solve this, Enbridge wants to construct a new, structurally sound pipeline. Part of it would run along the original pipeline route while part of it would traverse new ground. The replacement would match Line 3's original capacity of 760,000 barrels of oil per day.

Opponents of the plan often cite safety concerns. But such worries are unfounded. Pipelines are by far the safest way to transport oil. Between 2012 and 2016, the amount of crude oil transported via pipeline increased 34 percent, yet environmental incidents dropped by nearly a quarter. Today, about 99.999 percent of oil delivered by pipelines reaches its destination safely.

Transporting oil via train, the most common alternative, is more than 4.5 times as likely to cause an accident, according to the Fraser Institute, a Canadian think tank. Pipelines also emit up to 77 percent less in greenhouse gases than trains, according to the University of Alberta.

Energy companies are going to ship oil from Canada to Midwestern refineries regardless of whether the new Line 3 pipeline is built. Blocking the project just forces those companies to transport the oil by train, which is worse for the environment and less safe.

Replacing Line 3 would bring immense economic benefits to our state. The new pipeline would inject $2 billion into Minnesota's economy. And it'd help fund schools and other key government functions. Enbridge already pays $30 million in Minnesota property taxes. The replacement project eventually would add more than $19 million to that figure.

Over two years, Line 3's replacement would create 8,600 jobs, including 4,200 construction jobs. And the project's workers would reap $334 million in wages.

Nearly 90 percent of Minnesota voters support energy infrastructure development, according to a recent Harris poll. Gov. Walz ought to listen to those folks and let the new Line 3 project move forward.

 

Bill Smith is president and CEO of Waterous, a fire protection equipment supplier in South St. Paul, Minn. Kelton Glewwe is vice president of Roadware Inc., a manufacturer of concrete repair products in South St. Paul. Both are former chairmen of the River Heights Chamber of Commerce in Inver Grove Heights, Minn. They wrote this for the News Tribune.