Governor Mark Dayton said he would not take a position on the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted on the project. He wanted the process to run its course, he said. He opposed legislative efforts to meddle in the approval process, too.
The PUC voted 5-0 Thursday to approve Enbridge Line 3’s Certificate of Need, an extremely disappointing vote. The PUC voted 3-2 to approve Enbridge’s preferred route, with one exception. The approved route will jog around Big Sandy Lake, a sacred area to the Anishinaabe. (Star Tribune article here.)
It’s time for Governor Dayton to take a stand.
To add your voice to this call, attend a rally planned outside the Governor’s Mansion, 1006 Summit Ave., St. Paul, at 4 p.m. this Sunday, July 1. (Facebook event here. Check for updates.) Stop Line 3 is organizing the event, which is co-hosted by Honor the Earth, MN 350 and Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light.
In related news, water protectors held their first No Line 3 event following the PUC’s vote. The group assembled this morning at the Minnesota-Wisconsin border where the new Line 3 would cross, according to a news account in The Globe. The event was small but symbolic.
“This is the battle line right here,” said Winona LaDuke, executive director for Honor the Earth. “We just want them to know they’re not going to cross this border. We’re going to put down the black snake.”
LaDuke added that her group and others would use regulation, litigation and protesters to prevent and disrupt work along the roughly 340 miles of proposed Minnesota pipeline which would connect Alberta tar sands with the Husky oil refinery in Superior. Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa tribal member Jim Northrup III led the group of a dozen-plus protesters in prayer.
There are reasons to believe Dayton could take a stand on Line 3. He issued a statement shortly after the PUC vote saying Line 3 still needed to secure 29 state and federal permits and that approvals are “by no means assured.” He has made supportive statements about the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s analysis that said Enbridge had failed to make the case that Line 3 is needed.
While these statement are promising, they fall short of rejecting Line 3 out right. Dayton needs to speak out against a PUC vote that puts the needs of the international oil industry over the needs of ordinary Minnesotans. He needs to speak with a moral voice, too; the proposed Line 3 project does disproportionate harm to the state’s Anishinaabe community and adds significantly to global warming (to the tune of $287 billion over 30 years.)
Dayton’s statement says his agencies will scrutinize the project:
“Many people hold passionate views on this project. I urge everyone to express themselves peacefully. The PUC’s decision is not the final approval of this pipeline. Rather, it only allows Enbridge to begin to apply for at least 29 required federal, state, and local permits.
“Those regulatory reviews, which address numerous issues not considered by the PUC, will take several months. Approvals are by no means assured, and they would require any such project to meet Minnesota’s highest standards, protecting all our state’s earth, air, water, natural resources, and cultural heritage. I assure that state agencies will fully uphold those high standards, as they review these applications. Construction cannot and will not begin, unless Enbridge receives all required permit approvals.”
Construction on Line 3 isn’t imminent. The PUC will take a month or two to issue its final orders approving the project. Enbridge says it could start construction as early as November. If it gets the needed permits, Enbridge plans to have the new Line 3 operational by the second half of 2019. (Star Tribune article here.)
Line 3 opponents could ask the PUC to reconsider its vote and/or bring legal challenges, such as tribal challenges that Line 3 violates tribal rights to hunt, fish and gather along the pipeline’s route. These actions could affect construction timing.