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Line 3: The time for delays and obstruction is over

Line 3 is important to our state because the project will put 4,200 people to work in construction jobs, and promises to deliver Minnesota safe and reliable petroleum infrastructure for the long term.

Pipelines running to Enbridge Inc.'s crude oil storage tanks at their tank farm in Cushing, Oklahoma.
Pipelines running to Enbridge Inc.'s crude oil storage tanks at their tank farm in Cushing, Oklahoma.
REUTERS/Nick Oxford

After nearly six years of lawsuits, regulatory reviews, and strong resistance from environmental groups, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency finally approved Enbridge’s Line 3 permit. This development will allow Enbridge to begin the $2.6 billion Line 3 replacement. Sadly, the approval process has been fraught with peril, and activists persist in trying to stop Line 3’s construction.

Line 3 is important to our state because the project will put 4,200 people to work in construction jobs, and promises to deliver Minnesota safe and reliable petroleum infrastructure for the long term. It will also better protect the state’s energy consumers from supply shortages and price shocks by providing them with steady access to energy resources.

The 1,097-mile pipeline extending from Edmonton, Alberta, to Superior, Wisconsin, was installed in the 1960s to bring Canadian crude oil to market. However, the original pipeline has outlived its useful life after more than 50 years of operation. In 2015, Enbridge began planning for a replacement pipeline that uses more modern and robust materials.

After years of legal wrangling and three separate failed attempts to stop the pipeline before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), opponents of the project pivoted their legal opposition to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. In August Gov. Tim Walz, through the state Commerce Department, joined the environmental and tribal groups opposed to the pipeline by asking for yet another review to the project.

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As a former Public Utilities commissioner, I was disappointed to hear that Walz’s administration is giving in to fringe activists and throwing up roadblocks with regard to this critical piece of energy infrastructure. The PUC is tasked with creating and maintaining a regulatory environment that ensures safe, adequate and efficient utility services. After six years of review, more than 70 public meetings, a 13,500-page environmental statement and three separate votes from the PUC in support of the pipeline, it is clear it is time to move this project forward. I hope that Walz will abstain from stymieing the process any further following the most recent approval.

Betsy Wergin
Betsy Wergin
Instead of trusting in our state’s expert regulators, the governor inexplicably keeps trying to find reasons to convince officials that this project is unnecessary. Unfortunately, this playbook of trying to score political points by appealing and litigating against infrastructure projects, and then trying again if unsuccessful, hurts tax revenues, jobs, and economic development in our state.

One in four Minnesotans along the Line 3 route are unemployed, and stopping the pipeline will only further disadvantage an area of our state that is already economically distressed. The state’s manufacturing output is also on a significant upward trajectory due to cheap and abundant energy, increasing 45% from 2009-2018. A recent poll, meanwhile, found that 80% of Minnesota voters rely on oil and natural gas for daily necessities and nine in 10 find personal value to them. Making energy resources more difficult to access will only result in higher energy prices for the state’s consumers.

Such general antipathy to energy infrastructure will also undermine grid reliability and make the transition to renewable power generation sources more difficult. Natural gas fired “peaking” plants have made it possible to include more wind and solar energy to the grid, as these plants can serve as a quick backstop when the wind doesn’t blow or sun doesn’t shine. In fact, this transition to natural gas has allowed Minnesota to lower its carbon dioxide emissions from power generation by 25% over the last decade, all the while maintaining a steady supply of electricity.

This continued opposition to the Line 3 pipeline flies in the face of the Minnesota common sense that has allowed our state to flourish. It will also send the wrong message to the state’s energy industry, which adds over $14 billion to state GDP every year. The time for delays and obstruction is over. We must get Minnesota’s energy future back on track.

Betsy Wergin is a former Minnesota Public Utilities commissioner and former state senator.

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