Local View Column: Line 3 project needs to be part of what comes after crisis
America, along with the rest of the world, is living through what feels like a real-time disaster movie, as we watch things sadly progress. The coronavirus is infecting millions of people, killing tens of thousands of others, and creating the threat of many more succumbing to the pandemic. Leaders around the world have demonstrated the ability to take hard, but necessary, actions to address this horrific situation.
What’s disappointing is how some want to conflate the impact of COVID-19 and the need to shut down the economy with what should be done to address other issues. Climate change is an important issue, but trying to connect it to what is happening now is wrong. Trying to use the current health crisis as a reason to oppose the Line 3 Replacement Project is insincere.
Christy Dolph and Andrew Butts, from Science for the People-Twin Cities, in their March 28 commentary in the News Tribune (“Reflect changing world, follow the science for Line 3”) claimed that, “The rapid response to the coronavirus proves that government leaders can take dramatic action to protect human health and well-being in a crisis. Climate change is another such crisis requiring government leadership and action.”
Minnesota’s and our nation’s response to the pandemic shows the harsh reality of what happens when dramatic changes are implemented without ways to transition our economy and help our communities adjust. Almost 240,000 Minnesotans have applied for unemployment benefits since March 16 — more applications than were filed in all of 2019, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. This shows the scale and impact of an economic full-stop.
In addition to public health, Minnesota now faces a second and equally pressing crisis: How do we bring our economy back to life as soon as possible?
Minnesota has spent over four years reviewing (and reviewing again) every element of the Line 3 project. There have been tens of thousands of comments, more than 70 public meetings, and the most exhaustive record of review ever for a pipeline project. Presenting this as “pushing a permitting timeline that puts corporate interests before stakeholder inclusion,” as Butts and Dolph did in their column, ignores the facts and the incredibly detailed public record.
Line 3 needed to be replaced well before COVID-19 brought disruption to our world. It makes sense to replace important things that are old with things that are new, better, and safer. Oil in a pipeline is better and safer for Minnesota and the environment than oil on a train car. It is an inconvenient truth to people who oppose Line 3, but Minnesota needs the jobs and economic stimulus the Line 3 project will bring. We needed it before COVID-19 and even more so now. Our communities’ economic futures depend on how fast we can bring people, customers, and activities back to cities.
It’s ironic that representatives from Science for the People-Twin Cities would be opposing Line 3 while proclaiming on its website (scienceforthepeople.org), regarding COVID-19: “We demand that transportation and supply workers be given adequate pay, benefits, and protection immediately, not only during the pandemic but permanently.” The only way to make sure transportation workers are given adequate pay, benefits, and protection now and permanently is to make sure they have the fuel to do their jobs. That only happens by rebuilding Line 3.
Approving Line 3 will not only better protect the environment, it will protect Minnesota’s economic future by immediately bringing jobs and investment at a time when we have never needed them more.
Becky Hall of Duluth is a former News Tribune Editorial Board member and is currently a candidate to be Minnesota’s Republican National Committee chairwoman. The election is to be held at the state convention May 16, if the convention isn’t canceled. She wrote this for the News Tribune.