We need to retire fossil fuel infrastructure, not renew it

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Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

On Thursday, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) made the irresponsible – but ultimately unsurprising – decision to approve crucial water permits for Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement pipeline, moving it even closer to construction. If you’ve read our previous articles on the subject, you’ll know why approving this pipeline is a disaster for the climate, a threat to our waters, and a mockery of environmental justice, not to mention the risks of COVID-19 spread in northern Minnesota during construction and the pile of evidence linking pipeline construction to the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women.

MEP shared briefing materials with Governor Tim Walz and MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop last week on exactly how the Walz Administration could legally and scientifically justify denying these permits to Enbridge. Unfortunately, the agency seems to have chosen a business-as-usual course on these permits rather than fight against Enbridge — a company that profits from harming our climate, water, land and people.  A legal challenge to Line 3’s Certificate of Need by the Minnesota Department of Commerce continues.

This decision is in stark contrast to an exciting development this week in Michigan, where Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ordered Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline to be shut down. Line 5 runs underneath the Straits of Mackinac, which connect Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and Enbridge’s negligence has seriously endangered those waters. The pipeline has been a hazard for years, and revoking its ability to operate under Michigan law is a strong and much-needed decision.

Oil leaks out of pipelines, natural gas explodes, coal chokes cities, and all of them contribute to the greenhouse effect that is endangering our future. Yet Minnesota utilities are still betting on fossil fuels, with Xcel and Minnesota Power currently attempting to secure approval for gas power plants in Becker and the Twin Ports, respectively. Natural gas isn’t a “bridge” fuel – it may not have as high of a carbon impact as coal, but building gas plants won’t help us meet our climate goals in the critical next few years – they’ll put us on a more dangerous path.

In turning away from fossil fuels, we secure a safer future for future generations, but we need to make sure that communities that currently rely on those fuels aren’t left behind. Ensuring a transition that provides good jobs and healthy local economies for workers and residents is essential – but we need to make sure the transition fully happens.

The fight against Line 3 is not over – our community will carry on with legal challenges, protest, and advocacy. The fight against natural gas continues. And when new and returning elected leaders take office in January, we need them to take strong and science-driven action to convert our economy to carbon-free energy. No new gas plants, no new coal, no new pipelines. We can’t afford it.

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