Enbridge Energy’s controversial Line 3 project got a boost this week when Minnesota utility regulators gave approval of the pipeline that will snake through northwest Minnesota on its way to Lake Superior.
The project gained approval Monday for a certificate of need and route permit. The Public Utilities Commission gave the OK via 3-1 votes.
The hurdles – ranging from regulatory delays to protests and public-relations issues – have been numerous, but this is good news for the project. If built, it will carry oil in a pipe that will enter northwest Minnesota in Kittson County, head south and east past Crookston and then turn east toward Duluth.
Two issues have become sticking points. One is that the line is expected to pass through environmentally sensitive areas in the lakes country of north-central Minnesota, drawing criticism from American Indian tribes in the region and others. The other issue is the pipeline’s role – actually the role of all oil-related infrastructure – in climate change.
The former became a talking point Monday among PUC members, who initially gave approval in 2018 but have spent the last 18 months reconsidering the issue.
According to reporting from Minnesota Public Radio, Commissioner Matt Schuerger said he has changed his mind since the 2018 approval. The science of climate change, he said, has become clearer in the months since then.
“I do understand that there are actions being taken by jurisdictions around the world, around the country and especially in this state, to act and change the way we use energy,” he said in an MPR report. “It no longer makes sense to invest and build new infrastructure such as this project.”
There are no disagreements here with Schuerger’s concerns about climate change. It is becoming harder to dispute evidence that shows our planet – even this region – has increased its average temperature. These are troubling concerns.
But is it the PUC’s job to determine which energy project should proceed and which should fail based solely on climate concerns, and especially when stopping this single pipeline will hardly ease rising temperatures around the world?
Considering the number of pipelines already in the ground in the United States, it’s ridiculous to think stopping one will make much of a difference. It’s like a single ladle of water from a full well.
Add in environmental calamities in places like China and Line 3 is an eyedropper of water from that same well.
Further, Line 3 is simply a replacement project to fix an aged Enbridge line. That’s an important point.
Line 3 will bring jobs and dollars into northwestern and central Minnesota. County boards are behind it and so are many others in our region.
Any concern among regulators about climate change is noble, since we believe global warming exists. But nixing a single business project – and a replacement project to boot – via subjective reasoning is not a realistic way to battle climate change.
Hopefully, the PUC’s action this week can put Line 3 back on the road to reality, where it should be.