By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Yesterday, dozens of Minnesotans gathered at the Minnesota Senate Building for a rare event – the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) directly took public comments on the Line 3 oil pipeline proposal. As we wrote last week, the PUC is considering whether to reissue the Line 3 replacement a Certificate of Need and a Route Permit, after both were overturned by the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
This week, MN350 and allied organizations including MEP released “A Giant Step Backward,” a report on the colossal negative climate impact of the new Line 3. A key point includes the calculation that Line 3 and the oil it would transport over its operating life would have the equivalent impact of 50 new coal-fired power plants or 38 million vehicles to our roads. This level of carbon emissions is dangerous and entirely unacceptable if we are serious about combating climate change.
It was with these facts in mind that many people gathered at the Senate Building. Those speaking and listening spilled over into several overflow rooms. As usual, many attendees were bussed in by Enbridge, which for several years has spent more money on lobbying in Minnesota than any other company or organization. But climate and water advocates – youth, health professionals, political leaders, and scientists – attended in much greater numbers, some arriving by 3:30 in the morning or even earlier on a cold January night.
They spoke out about the health impacts of climate change, the threat of a spill to water, people and wildlife, and the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels. Because the PUC is legally barred from discussing its cases outside of the hearing room, this was one of the few times that they have been openly, formally confronted with the voices of Minnesotans who understand the devastating climate impacts of this pipeline.
The PUC may not change their minds on their previous decision to approve the pipeline. They may ignore the mounting scientific evidence that this pipeline threatens our critical climate action efforts. They may decide that Minnesota can abdicate its responsibility, since Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Canada already have stretches of the pipeline constructed. They may decide that their hands are tied by the existing Line 3 being old and vulnerable to leaks, and that their decision must be made narrowly.
But the Commissioners have a chance to make their choice based on science, on climate justice, and respect for future generations. We urge them not to miss the forest for the trees on Line 3. Minnesotans don’t need this pipeline. Our planet can’t afford Line 3.
In addition, the PUC will hold two more hearings on Line 3 next week on Tuesday and Wednesday. While they will not take public comment, showing up to demonstrate visually against Line 3 is helpful – check out the Facebook event to learn how.