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Local View: No good reason for Walz's Line 3 delay

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz recently delayed a much-needed upgrade to the Line 3 crude oil pipeline that crosses the state ("Walz prolongs Line 3 appeal," Feb. 13).

Zak Radzak.jpg
Zak Radzak is president of Teamsters General Local Union 346 in Duluth.
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Minnesota Governor Tim Walz recently delayed a much-needed upgrade to the Line 3 crude oil pipeline that crosses the state (" Walz prolongs Line 3 appeal ," Feb. 13).

Upgrading Line 3 would make Minnesota's pipeline network safer, create jobs, and generate new revenue for local governments. There's no good reason to block the project.

Last year, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved Canadian energy company Enbridge's plans to replace 1,031 miles of existing Line 3 pipeline, 337 miles of which run through Minnesota. The reconstructed pipeline would run from Hardisty, Alberta, to Superior and funnel oil to Minnesota and other Midwestern states.

Just before he left office, former Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton instructed his Commerce Department to challenge the Public Utilities Commission's decision. A Minnesota Court of Appeals rejected that challenge. In response, Gov. Walz appealed the court's ruling in an apparent attempt to derail the project.

Gov. Walz, it seemed, wilted under heavy pressure from environmentalists who supported his campaign for governor and who apparently were eager to cash in their chits. Blocking the project is "really a bare minimum of what we should expect from a team that says they care about science, that they care about climate, that they care about these issues," said a representative from MN350, a radical environmental group.


But, ironically, the pipeline upgrade would actually benefit the environment. Here's why: Canada is going to produce oil regardless of whether Minnesota allows the new Line 3 to be built. The only question is how Canadian drillers transport that fuel to American refineries. Pipelines are the most environmentally sound option. Transmitting oil via pipelines emits up to 77 percent less greenhouse gas than transmitting it via trains, according to the University of Alberta. Pipelines transport oil safely to its destination more than 99.999 percent of the time. Fixing Line 3 would be safer and cleaner than transporting oil via trains or trucks.

Environmentalists have argued the project would infringe on the rights of Minnesota's Native American population. Protesters have called the project "highly toxic" and "a direct threat to the people." But many of Minnesota's Native peoples disagree. Native-owned companies are working with Enbridge to update essential pipeline infrastructure. One Enbridge contractor and member of the state's White Earth Ojibwe tribe called the Enbridge team "the safest and most meticulous company we have ever worked for."

Delaying the project isn't merely environmentally senseless, it also harms consumers. After a half century of use, Line 3 is worn out. The pipeline can only deliver about half of the 760,000 barrels of crude oil a year it was originally capable of moving. The diminished capacity has caused Enbridge, which supplies close to 80 percent of Minnesota's oil, to ration the amount of crude it delivers to refineries like Flint Hills Resources in Rosemount, Minn. Rationing, which could be entirely avoided with a new Line 3, makes it more expensive for Minnesotans to fill up their vehicles at the gas station.

Approving the pipeline upgrades also would reinvigorate Minnesota's economy. All told, the project promises to bring $2 billion to the state and increase annual property taxes by tens of millions of dollars. The Line 3 replacement would create around 6,500 jobs, including 2,100 construction jobs, for Minnesotans. Those workers would earn a combined $167 million in wages.

Unsurprisingly, Minnesotans are anxious for this project to get off the ground. In fact, almost 90 percent of state residents support energy infrastructure development, according to a Harris poll.

Contrary to radical activists' claims, the Line 3 Replacement Project would help the environment. It'd also bring more affordable energy and thousands of jobs to our state. It's time to end the delays.

Zak Radzak is president of Teamsters General Local Union 346 in Duluth.

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