Gov. Tim Walz has decided to stay the course on the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline Replacement Project and continue an appeal process started by the Dayton Administration.
With the new governor's blessing, the Department of Commerce will petition the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to reconsider its decision to grant a certificate of need for the Line 3 project, allowing the appeal to move forward.
The $2.6 billion Line 3 oil pipeline route would hug the Becker County line and the Wadena County line through Hubbard County on its way to Superior, Wis.
The current Line 3 follows Highway 2, a route closed to the replacement pipeline by the Leech Lake Reservation, which opposes the project because of environmental concerns. The existing Line 3 is in need of replacement and can be operated at only about half capacity for safety reasons.
"When it comes to any project that impacts our environment and our economy, we must follow the process, the law, and the science," Walz said in a statement. "The Dayton Administration's appeal of the PUC's decision is now a part of this process. By continuing that process, our Administration will raise the Department of Commerce's concerns to the court in hopes of gaining further clarity for all involved. As I often say, projects like these don't only need a building permit to go forward, they also need a social permit. Our Administration has met with groups on all sides of this issue, and Minnesotans deserve clarity."
The decision to continue the Dayton Administration's appeal "will help ensure that Minnesota's permitting process is clear, thorough, and fair," said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, who has family ties to the White Earth Reservation.
As the process goes forward, she said, "our Administration will continue meeting with Minnesotans passionate about this issue and engaging in meaningful consultation with affected tribes."
"The Walz administration's decision to continue an appeal of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission's unanimous decision to approve the project's Certificate of Need is unfortunate," said Enbridge Communications specialist Juli Kellner. "The Commission's approval came at the end of a thorough review of the facts, spanning four years, thousands of hours of environmental and cultural study, and substantial public comments. Enbridge believes the Commission will deny petitions for reconsideration as they have in the past."
The company's focus is on actively working with the Walz administration and agencies to develop a clear sense of the schedule for the permits necessary to begin construction of the Line 3 Replacement project, she added.
The project will provide about 8,600 jobs over two years, many of them well-paying union jobs, with about three-quarters of them local.
Mike Zipko, spokesman for Minnesotans for Line 3, said the group strongly disagrees with the governor's decision.
"We are incredibly disappointed by the decision today because Minnesota desperately needs Line 3 and almost four years of review, analysis, and unanimous decisions by regulators have proved this again and again. Line 3 has clearly met the challenge of science, process and it has followed the letter of the law," he said. "The facts and data will not change, regardless of how many times they are reviewed."
"Gov. Walz assured us he would bring different parts and voices together to move our state forward in a way that benefits all of Minnesota, yet he has not met with people from communities along the route. Instead of ensuring "that Minnesota's permitting process is clear, thorough and fair," this appeal and the new addition of an undefined 'social permit' questions the credibility of the process when a company like Enbridge meets or exceeds what is required."
Honor the Earth, the Sierra Club, and MN 350, all environmental groups appealing the PUC's decision, supported Walz for letting Dayton's appeal go forward. The White Earth and Red Lake bands of Ojibwe also applauded Walz.
"The PUC decision was a rogue decision, contrary to all state agencies and tribal interests," said Winona LaDuke, head of Honor the Earth. "We are thankful that Gov. Walz is looking into the clear lack of need for this project in Minnesota."
State Rep. Steve Green, a Fosston Republican who represents most of Becker County in the Legislature, said that Walz failed his first big test as governor by challenging the PUC's decision on the Line 3 project.
"It is concerning that barely one month into office, Walz already has cuddled up with extreme environmentalists instead of doing what's right for our state," Green said. "Minnesotans want this project to be completed and the PUC gave it unanimous approval. Unfortunately, Walz has failed his first big test as governor and revealed to everyone that, even though he talked a big game, Twin Cities partisanship is winning out over statesmanship."