If I told you that Minnesota had the opportunity to welcome a multibillion-dollar infrastructure project at no cost to the taxpayers, how would you feel?
Now, imagine that this project would provide over 4,000 jobs during one of the worst economic downturns in the history of our state.
No, I am not talking about another sports stadium or light-rail project, I am talking about the Line 3 pipeline. Yet, while it seems like a no-brainer, Gov. Tim Walz and radical environmental activists are inexplicably stonewalling this economic lifeline.
By way of background, Line 3, which carries oil from Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wis., has been in operation in northern Minnesota since the 1960s. After nearly six decades of wear and tear it was determined that the best way to ensure continued safety and reliability was to replace the old line with a new, modern pipe.
Applications to replace Line 3 were submitted to governing bodies in all relevant jurisdictions, including the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), back in 2015. By the following year, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Canada had approved their segments of the pipeline. But it took the Minnesota PUC until 2018 to approve the pipeline. Legal roadblocks were immediately thrown up, and in June 2019 the Minnesota Court of Appeals found the PUC’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to be inadequate.
After years of legal wrangling the PUC finally approved a revised Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in February of this year and provided Enbridge — the operator of the pipeline — with a necessary permit. It seemed like the project would finally move forward.
Instead, Walz has appealed the approval, despite his very own regulators on the PUC reaffirming their support for the project by a 4-1 margin. Three environmental groups and two Ojibwe bands also objected to the decision, requesting a contested hearing with an administrative law judge.
If you are exhausted by the back and forth, welcome to the life of businesses across Minnesota. Even when you do everything right, more obstacles are put in your way. The EIS that opponents said was inadequate had undergone six years of review, more than 70 public meetings and was over 13,000 pages long.
And just recently, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) ruled against the environmental groups and Ojibwe bands, finding that these challengers failed to prove that the pipeline would permanently impact water quality and wetlands. Now the MPCA has just a few weeks to decide if it will issue the final water-quality permits.
Given their role in recent lawsuits, the sovereign tribal nations in Minnesota, and the concessions and benefits they will receive related this project, are integral to this discussion. Enbridge worked with the two tribal nations directly impacted by Line 3 and created an alternate route to meet the needs of the Leech Lake reservation. There also was an agreement with the Fond du Lac Band for passage through their reservation. Additionally, $100 million has been earmarked to hire Native contractors and employees, provide job training programs and community sustainability.
Despite a mountain of evidence, the opponents of Line 3 continue to deny the fact that building the pipeline replacement is the safest way to transport oil across Minnesota. Instead, they live in another reality where if the replacement is not built it will lower capacity for oil transportation and then we will suddenly live in the green energy utopia they dream of.
While I, too, believe in renewable energy, we are nowhere close to a world that can operate without oil. While we work toward that goal, we must ensure that we protect our environment and safeguard our waters with the best technology and infrastructure for transporting oil. Northern Minnesota residents expect nothing less than the best stewardship of the land and water in their region. It is why they boast the cleanest waters in the state, even while being home to mining and pipeline jobs.
The Line 3 replacement will protect Minnesota’s environment, grow Minnesota’s economy, and put Minnesota laborers back to work. It is time to end the obstruction and continue moving toward Minnesota’s energy future.
Amy Koch is a former Republican majority leader of the Minnesota Senate, where she served on the energy and jobs and economic development committees. She is not related to the Kochs of Koch Industries.