Lawmaker's View: Replacing Line 3 remains the right path forward
Across northern Minnesota and throughout the state, Minnesotans are having a necessary conversation about what we need to do as we wrestle with a changing climate. How do we transition from traditional fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources, prot...
Across northern Minnesota and throughout the state, Minnesotans are having a necessary conversation about what we need to do as we wrestle with a changing climate. How do we transition from traditional fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources, protect our environment, and maintain our economy? These conversations are difficult, but having them is the only way we will find a balance that makes sense.
In my time at the Legislature, I have focused on setting effective and pragmatic state policy that will move Minnesota in the direction of a cleaner energy economy while also standing up for our friends in labor and their families who depend on these jobs. These policies are some of the biggest responsibilities my colleagues and I have, and they are ones I do not take lightly. When challenging decisions must be made, I have always endeavored to support and elevate our process above political discourse.
I renew this commitment as we address ongoing issues facing Enbridge Energy's Line 3 pipeline construction.
Over the past several years, Minnesota has faced the decision about what to do with the existing 282-mile pipeline that has been in service for 50 years. With the current line deteriorating and running well under capacity, Enbridge has proposed replacing the line with a new 337-mile segment that will cross our state and terminate in Superior. This proposal, worth $3 billion in private investment in northern Minnesota, already has been approved in Canada, North Dakota, and Wisconsin.
Under DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, the Public Utilities Commission, Minnesota's regulatory board responsible for pipelines, extensively reviewed the project for four years using the most rigorous and stringent standards. That review included multiple public hearings, outreach, and testimony. The commission's decision was unanimous: The line's replacement must move forward.
We now know a pending lawsuit filed against the decision will have zero impact on the timeline of the project permitting. We also know oil will continue to flow through the existing deteriorating line, increasing the chances of spills. Or it will be shipped by rail, exacerbating the risk to our communities as oil is transported through our towns. Both options are incredibly dangerous and threaten our environment and our communities.
We can't set Canada's energy policy. Our neighbors to the north have made it clear they will continue to extract oil from tar-sands deposits and send it to the international market.
Replacing Line 3 is not a decision to be taken lightly, but the alternative is much worse. The further we delay, the greater the risk to our environment and to the safety of our communities. While fully committed to a new era of clean-energy policy, it's imperative we ensure the transportation of this commodity in the safest responsible manner.
I know this decision will not make everyone happy, but it's the right path forward. Regardless of the naysayers, this is not about supporting the interests of corporations or being pro-oil; it is about the safety of our communities, protecting our environment, and standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in labor and the jobs on which they depend. Rest assured, I am fully committed to holding Enbridge responsible for any scenario related to environmental protection. That is my commitment.
Erik Simonson is Duluth's elected legislator in the Minnesota Senate. He serves on the Senate's Energy and Utilities Finance and Policy, Environment and Natural Resources Finance, and Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy committees.