Further Court Delays, Uncertainty Ahead for Enbridge Line 3

Why are farm/agricusiness groups supporting the pipeline?

The proposed Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline that would cross 340 miles of northern Minnesota and violate treaty rights is now tied up in legal knots, creating greater uncertainty and delays in the process.

A number of business interests are pressuring the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to expedite a fix to problems identified by litigation. Most bizarre, farm/agribusiness groups are supporting Line 3 in spite of the pipeline’s long-term negative affects on agriculture.

The PUC used a deeply flawed process to approve Line 3. Line 3 opponents have challenged its decision, filing three separate challenges with the Minnesota Court of Appeals: One challenges the validity of the Line 3 environmental impact statement; one challenges the PUC’s approval of Line 3’s Certificate of Need; one challenges the PUC’s approval of Line 3’s Route Permit.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled on the first case in early June, finding that the Line 3 environmental impact statement was inadequate. That tipped legal Dominos. Since Line 3’s Certificate of Need was based on the environmental impact statement, the Court’s decision invalidating the environmental impact statement also made the Certificate of Need invalid. The matter got sent back to the PUC for review. On June 28, the Court of Appeals put on hold the appeal of Line 3’s Certificate of Need until the environmental impact statement’s shortcomings are addressed.

That adds to delays, and pro Line 3 factions have peppered the PUC with letters pushing for a quick resolution to the environmental impact statement.

Not surprisingly, those submitting letters included the Minnesota Petroleum Marketers Association and the Minnesota Service Stations and Convenience Store Operators. They throw out buzz words, such as the Petroleum Marketing Association’s claim that this is a “safety driven project” to replace the old and failing Line 3. That fails to take into account the fact that the PUC has no jurisdiction over the old Line 3. It’s safety is Enbridge’s and federal regulators’ responsibility. The safety argument continues to be a red herring.

More surprising were the letters from farm and agribusiness groups. You wouldn’t necessarily expect an oil pipeline would be high on their priority list. One might think that farmers’ and agribusinesses’ concerns would focus on climate change and its long-term impacts on their land’s productivity.

Enbridge Line 3 will contribute to global climate damage to the tune of $287 billion over three decades, according to the environmental impact statement.  That reflects estimates of such things as more severe storms and droughts,

The U.S. Global Change Research Program produces a National Climate Assessment every four years. According to the 2014 assessment summarized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

The … disruptions to agricultural production due to climate change have been increasing and are projected to become more severe over the foreseeable future. After 2050, the negative impacts on agriculture of increased climate-induced stress are projected to increase, due to the incidence of weeds, diseases, and insect pests, affecting productivity of most crops and livestock in addition to weather-related stresses.

Regardless, the Minnesota Grain & Feed Association, “The Voice of Minnesota Country Elevators and Feed Mills,” asks the PUC to hurry and approve the pipeline. It’s letter provides little rationale about why. As close at it comes is to say:

Enbridge is a household name in our state. They have driven the statewide economy and contributed to our state’s success for decades.

Comment: Being a “household name: is no justification for a new pipeline. And the state’s already is moving away from fossil fuels; it’s old technology. For a counter narrative on Enbridge’s legacy, see Honor the Earth’s short video.

A letter from Dustin Perry of the West Polk Farm Bureau supporting Line 3 alludes to farmers’ energy needs, but he fails to argue that the new Line 3 will have any impact on gas supply or cost. Later in the letter, Perry writes:

Delays [in Line 3] are felt by local counties and townships even more when the expected $35 million of annual property taxes a new Line 3 would bring cannot be counted on any longer.

Comment: If a main argument for Line 3 is to increase property taxes for low-population, cash-strapped counties, it seems like there should be a better solution than building a dangerous pipeline.

A letter from Bennett Osmonson of the East Polk County Farm Bureau, makes a more immediate point:

In East Polk County, many landowners are also farmers and ranchers who have the existing Line 3 cross their properties. Every time there is a maintenance dig on their properties, their livelihoods are impacted. Either by their land be taken out of production or animals being displaced during the process.

Comment: That’s a legitimate concern, but again, the old Line 3’s integrity is not the PUC’s jurisdiction. And by approving the new Line 3, the cycle will just replay itself and put a burden on future farmers when the new Line 3 gets old and leaky and needs repairs.

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