Walz decision on Line 3 feeds hope for stronger review of pipeline

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By Matt Doll – Minnesota Environmental Partnership

On Tuesday, Governor Tim Walz announced that he would allow the Department of Commerce’s appeal against the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approval of Line 3 to continue moving forward. Walz had previously said that he and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan would consider whether to continue the appeal of the pipeline decision, launched under the Dayton Administration, and an appellate judge’s decision had required the Department of Commerce to refile its legal action (subject to the  Governor’s decision). In his statement, Walz contended that the PUC had not adequately examined the “social impact” of the pipeline, and that this impact was worth further discussion for the benefit of Minnesotans.

The appeal was launched by the Minnesota Department of Commerce late last year, after the Department had previously stated that Line 3 is not needed by Minnesota, and that Enbridge Energy had failed to prove otherwise in its testimony to the PUC. This appeal – and other appeals filed by environmental organizations and tribal groups – seek to make the PUC reconsider its decision to give this pipeline project the green light.

The new line isn’t needed

MEP has previously detailed why Minnesota does not need – or stand to benefit from – the new replacement Line 3, which would transport double the oil of the current, aging Line 3 pipeline. The oil transported by the pipeline would largely not go to Minnesota consumers after reaching the terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. And even if that were its destination, sales of petroleum products in Minnesota are down and projected to decrease further as transportation modes become more efficient or move away from fossil fuels entirely.

Line 3 would, however, open up entirely new areas of Minnesota’s most pristine waters to the threat of pipeline spills. This would threaten unique ecosystems that are especially valuable to indigenous people in Minnesota, who retain treaty rights to harvest resources like wild rice and fish that depend on the water remaining clean. And it would have an extraordinarily negative climate impact, as the tar sands oil that Line 3 would carry is some of the most emissions-heavy oil on earth.

The Governor’s decision isn’t the end of the story

It’s certainly heartening to hear that the Walz Administration is committed to deeper review of this pipeline proposal and seeks to give further hearing to issues that the PUC didn’t adequately explore. This appeal may not itself change the PUC decision, and it’s far from the end of the Line 3 debate.

But the Walz Administration decision shows how much has changed in pipeline politics. In years past, approval for oil pipelines was virtually assured. Now, thanks to the commitment of Minnesotans and activists around the state and the country, more and more political leaders are hearing about and acting on climate and clean water, rather than rubber-stamping fossil fuel investments. We thank all those who have taken a stand against Line 3, and we urge Minnesotans to keep speaking up.

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