Minnesota’s government should lead, not stand on sidelines, in Line 3 fight

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Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

The extreme weather and fire events of the past year have made it clearer than ever that climate change is here, and that we need to address it as quickly as we can.

There’s a lot that Minnesota can do to lead on climate change by reducing emissions and retiring fossil fuels. But the strongest, simplest action our state can take to fight climate change is to stop the Canadian pipeline company Enbridge from building its new and expanded Line 3 oil pipeline across our state. The yearly greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and operation of the new Line 3 is calculated to exceed that of Minnesota’s entire economy during its anticipated 30-year operation. It would be a catastrophe for the climate. 

While the current, aging Line 3 pipeline is a hazard to Minnesota waters, the environmentally beneficial solution is to shut that pipeline down, not build a new one. Construction of the new pipeline will destroy critical habitat and carbon sinks, threaten entirely new and vulnerable bodies of water, and inflict harm on the rights and safety of indigenous communities. (Our friends at Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate have released a video series that details exactly how the impact of this pipeline would harm Minnesotans.)

Unfortunately, state agencies have a mixed record at best when it comes from protecting Minnesota’s future from this pipeline’s harms.

On Wednesday, Governor Walz’s Climate Subcabinet held a joint, public meeting online with members of the Environmental Quality Board. Both entities include state agency commissioners who oversee various aspects of our environment, and both are chaired by Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Commissioner Laura Bishop. MEP staff attended this meeting, and heard about state agency’s actions to reduce emissions across the state. 

Through a live survey, members of the public were able to ask questions of the EQB and Subcabinet members, and many of the top-rated submissions asked various iterations of the question, “What can you do to protect us from Line 3?” Unfortunately, state leaders did not express opposition to the pipeline or commit to any step that would make permitting less likely. Several state permits have already been granted, and MPCA water permits are currently being considered. MEP has asked that these permits be denied with prejudice.

Earlier this year, the Walz Administration’s Commerce Department took the commendable step of refiling an appeal against Line 3’s Certificate of Need, an action which could block or at least delay the pipeline. This action was in line with the Commerce Department’s previous correct analysis that Enbridge has done nothing to demonstrate that Minnesota needs Line 3. The Minnesota Senate then voted to remove Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley from his post, with the appeal being one of the reasons highlighted in the debate.

It should concern Minnesotans who care about a healthy, livable planet that our state leaders are not speaking out forcefully on this issue. We have a rare opportunity to fight climate change – and the world’s addition to oil – proactively by blocking oil infrastructure that will lock in more use of some of the world’s dirtiest oil for decades. Leaders who genuinely look to lead on climate simply must use all their authority and creativity to stop Line 3 now. There will not be a second chance. This is it.

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