Minnesota fight against Big Oil continues on Line 3 front
Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership
On Wednesday, Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that his office has filed consumer protection litigation against oil giants ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute for their decades-long activities deceiving the public on climate change. The lawsuit points to evidence that the oil industry has known for seventy years that their products’ greenhouse gas emissions would contribute to a warming planet, calamitous weather pattern changes, and rising sea levels, and that they chose to deliberately obscure this information in the interest of profits.
The lawsuit aims to hold the oil industry accountable in two ways: through financial damages, and by forcing them to fund a public relations campaign that counters years of mistruths and misdirections in service of climate denial.
Why it’s the right move for Minnesota
Climate change is a global issue, but its impacts on Minnesota provide ample standing for the Attorney General to take a stand against the fossil fuel sector. Minnesota is among the fastest-warming states, and the effects of warming winters, changes in rainfall, and smoke from wildfires are ravaging our farms, cities, and natural spaces. And the impacts of climate change are exacerbating the Twin Cities’ already-large racial disparities: due to decades of segregation, Minneapolis neighborhoods that black residents were redlined into living in decades ago are about 11 degrees hotter than neighborhoods that racist policies reserved for white residents.
Big Oil firms knew that the world’s continued addiction to their products would warm the planet, and likely cause the kinds of harms that Minnesota is experiencing. As Sam Grant, Executive Director of MEP member MN350, said on Wednesday: “We have a choice between freedom to profit and freedom to breathe…it should be a no-brainer – we have to be able to breathe for anything else to happen.” ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and their allies chose profit, and now the planet is reaping what they sowed.
The local angle on oil
Meanwhile, Minnesota has been in the gradual process of falling victim to another oil industry long con: the case for the Line 3 replacement pipeline. Yesterday, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) refused to reconsider its approval of Line 3’s Certificate of Need, despite tribal and environmental advocates and the state Department of Commerce pointing out that the risks of the pipeline far outweigh any benefits.
Line 3 and the oil it would carry would be a climate catastrophe, with yearly emissions levels greater than that of Minnesota’s entire economy combined. We can’t call ourselves committed to climate action if our state isn’t willing to take the strongest step we can to move away from fossil fuels.
Moreover, there’s no reasonable argument for why Minnesota needs Line 3 or its oil. Oil demand in Minnesota has cratered and the Alberta oil industry – the source of Line 3’s oil – has tanked. With the rise in electrification of transportation, demand is on track to shrink, not grow or hold steady. But Enbridge is a pipeline company, and under current pro-pipeline regulatory structures, it will profit whether the oil is needed or not.
4 out of 5 of the Public Utilities Commissioners, however, remain locked in on the flawed rationale the Commission used two years ago to move the project forward, focusing on the state of the current, aging Line 3 pipeline that operates at half capacity. Indeed, the old pipeline should halt operation, but it should not be replaced – just removed.
The Line 3 fight is not over ‘till it’s over, and advocates around the state are keeping up the effort to protect Minnesota and the planet from this pipeline. We encourage our followers to check out Tuesday’s online event: Stronger Together to Stop Line 3: Briefing & Action Summit. This event will include updates on what’s happening with the Stop Line 3 effort, and opportunities for Minnesotans to continue taking action for the rest of the summer and fall.
The oil industry has been getting their way for decades, but through bold actions such as the Attorney General’s lawsuit, or by working together to stop Line 3, we can change the story and help secure our livable future.