Local View: Line 3 opponents continue their delay, delay, delay
In a move pandering to metro-area legislators and environmental zealots, tone-deaf Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Commerce appealed, for the second time, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s decision approving Enbridge’s $2.9 billion Line 3 Replacement Project. In a letter supporting Walz and Commerce, 16 metro-area DFL lawmakers said the decision was based upon a finding that oil demand “is not sufficient to justify a project that will contribute significantly to climate change, usurp Indigenous treaty rights, and imperil Minnesota’s waters.” Joining in the appeal to the courts were Honor the Earth, the Sierra Club, the Red Lake and White Earth bands of Ojibwe, Friends of the Headwaters, and Youth Climate Interveners.
The tactics being employed by Line 3 oil-pipeline opponents replicate those used to block PolyMet and Twin Metals, copper-nickel mining projects in Northeastern Minnesota. The tactics include contesting science-based findings, bringing lawsuits, appealing averse decisions, and delay, delay, delay.
In March 2018, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission first approved the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and granted a Certificate of Need for the Enbridge Line 3 replacement. The administration then of Gov. Mark Dayton appealed the approval. In February 2019, the state Commerce Department and Walz announced the current administration would continue the court challenge begun under the Dayton administration.
In response to Gov. Dayton’s appeal, the Star Tribune weighed in with its support for the replacement pipeline in a March 10, 2019, editorial: “For safety’s sake, let Enbridge build.” The arguments made by those opposing the pipeline, the newspaper noted, included the risk of pipeline spills and that the pipeline would wed the state even further to fossil fuels. Delay, the newspaper argued, would mean even higher rail shipments of oil that travels some of the most densely populated areas of the state, posing a potential environmental disaster should there be a derailment.
“Walz and the commerce Department should drop the court challenge and allow the project to proceed,” the newspaper editorialized.
In June 2019, the Minnesota Court of Appeals found that Enbridge’s Environmental Impact Statement was inadequate because it didn’t properly address the effect of an oil spill in the Lake Superior watershed. A new study was conducted, confirming that in the unlikely case of a spill, the Line 3 replacement segment would not introduce risk to Lake Superior.
In February 2020, the Public Utilities Commission approved Line 3 for a second time, the result of six years, 70 public hearings, and a 13,500-page Environmental Impact Statement.
Yet, in August, the governor and the Department of Commerce announced they would appeal the latest decision by the commission granting a Certificate of Need and approving Enbridge’s plan to replace its Line 3 pipeline.
In a post-election appearance in Mountain Iron last year, before a large audience of union officials and federal, state, and local elected officials, Gov. Walz spoke of his support for jobs and his conviction that, “We are one Minnesota.” Regrettably, the governor’s words are contrary to his post-election actions that speak louder than hollow campaign rhetoric.
Three projects are presently being proposed that would enormously benefit northern Minnesota.
One is Enbridge’s Line 3, a $2.9 billion project would generate 4,200 well-paying union jobs. It is estimated that Enbridge would pay an additional $20 million annually in property taxes to the 13 Minnesota counties it crosses, in addition to the millions it already pays annually on the existing pipeline.
The other two are PolyMet and Twin Metals. Amounting to $3 billion, these mines would create 1,760 union mining jobs and 2,000 spin-off jobs. Each project would pay millions of dollars in annual production taxes that would financially support the state’s 336 school districts. Yet Gov. Walz has failed to support these mining projects that would provide desperately needed jobs for our “one Minnesota.”
Once again, the governor has displayed contempt for rural Minnesota in deferring to metro-area special interests.
Our advice to Gov. Walz: Ask for the resignation of Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelly, and if he doesn’t resign he should be fired. Also, end your opposition to the Line 3 pipeline by withdrawing the appeal made to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
Gerald M. Tyler is chairman of Up North Jobs (upnorthjobs.org), an Ely-based nonprofit that promotes economic development and job growth in Northeastern Minnesota.