Line 3 comment period extended, moved to conference calls

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Online comments open through April 10

By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Earlier this week, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) announced that in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, it would extend the online comment period on its permits for the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline by one week and shift from holding in-person hearings to telephone town halls. These 90-minute calls, taking place on April 2nd, 7th, and 9th, will allow Minnesotans to make comments of up to two minutes in length. Online comments can be submitted through April 10, and are the most effective way to get concerns on the record.

MEP and our partners had submitted a letter requesting that MPCA extend the comment period, and we’re glad to see the closing date was moved. Given that construction of the proposed Line 3 would be a climate nightmare, it is critical that citizens step forward now and in large numbers to oppose these permits.

The permits in question cover water protection, wastewater use, and air pollution. Enbridge has already re-secured its required Certificate of Need and route permit from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), leaving the MPCA permits and permitting from the Army Corps of Engineers as one of the last remaining checks on the pipeline.

MPCA extension of the comment period and the shift to phone participation will allow greater participation than the alternative of no public hearings. Minnesotans deserve adequate time to register concerns about this project. 

The previous hearing schedule included no hearings in the Twin Cities. While local land and pollution concerns in the northern Minnesota communities the pipeline would cross deserve full attention, the entire state should have ample opportunity to comment on Line 3’s impacts.

These impacts would be severe, and go far beyond the considerable danger of a spill in northern waters. Line 3 is a climate disaster and has been demonstrated by the State Department of Commerce to be an unnecessary project. MEP strenuously disagreed with the PUC’s finding that the new pipeline was needed by Minnesotans, and we applauded Commissioner Matt Schuerger for being the one dissenting voice in the PUC’s decision.

The oil carried by Line 3 and the energy used in its operation would have a yearly climate impact greater than the entire economy of Minnesota combined. At a time when the need to rapidly transition to a green economy is greater than ever, we can’t afford to build new fossil fuel infrastructure such as Line 3. 

Minnesota’s state agencies should consider the catastrophic climate impact in their decision on whether to approve this pipeline, but even if the MPCA limits itself to considering local air and water quality in its decision, it should still have ample reason to deny the pipeline. Climate change is the greatest threat to air and water quality, and construction of Line 3 and the threat of a tar sands oil spill would severely endanger the vulnerable resources and ecosystems of northern Minnesota. 

We ask that all concerned Minnesotans comment on these permits via web submission. If you need ideas for what to say, MEP partners have provided talking points to use.  This is no time to stay silent on the real and lasting dangers posed by the Line 3 pipeline.

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