Herald editorial board

The Enbridge Line 3 replacement project again will be delayed after Gov. Tim Walz opened the door for another appeal process.

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As so many Minnesotans push for the project to begin, it's unfortunate it comes to this. It's disheartening to the many who believe Line 3 is economically and ecologically necessary and who similarly believe the project will be a boon to the region.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved the pipeline replacement last summer, but then-Gov. Mark Dayton appealed the decision, putting the project in limbo as Dayton left office and Walz came in. Last month, Walz said he would review the appeal, telling reporters "the decision will stop with me, but it will be informed by all of the stakeholders involved."

That created an air of optimism for the project's backers. After all, the replacement went through ample scrutiny, including four years of review, before the delay.

Environmental groups and American Indian tribes have been critical of the PUC's approval, since the pipeline is expected to go through environmentally sensitive areas. Walz issued a statement Tuesday that said his goal is to "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," he continued. "Our administration has met with groups on all sides of this issue, and Minnesotans deserve clarity."

Well, yes, they do deserve clarity. But Minnesotans also deserve closure and they deserve to know the process - the PUC's approval - works. Businesses deserve an opportunity to move forward after successfully navigating that process. When properly conducted, commerce, like oil, must flow.

We acknowledge the Enbridge project is a sensitive one, and we realize oil infrastructure comes with no small amount of controversy. North Dakotans probably know it better than anyone.

But this pipeline is a replacement for one that already exists. It would be just a fraction of the thousands of miles of pipelines that already are pushing oil from point to point as this debate rages.

Opponents say Line 3 shouldn't be built due to ecological concerns. Ironically, many - including us - believe it should be built for ecological reasons. The current line is old, is corroding and is operating at only about half of its capacity. Enbridge says a new line will greatly improve safety. It also will help keep oil off rails and roads.

And at $2.6 billion, it's bound to be an economic windfall for the region and the thousands of workers needed to build it. Labor unions have voiced support for the project, lending weight to the argument.

Perhaps not all pipelines should be built, but ones that have been scrutinized, have received PUC approval and are replacing aging infrastructure probably should.