Governor envy

Michigan’s Whitmer nixes crude oil pipeline under the Great Lakes while Minnesota’s Walz administration greenlights crude oil pipeline that threatens state lakes and streams

It’s a tale of two states, Michigan and Minnesota.

In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced today that the state was revoking and terminating Enbridge’s easement to operate crude oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac.

They cited Enbridge’s bad-faith efforts to protect the environment and Enbridge Line 5’s threat to the Great Lakes.

In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota DNR announced this week they would allow Enbridge to build a crude oil pipeline trenching through 355 miles of northern Minnesota, threatening climate, clean waters and treaty rights.

They ignored Enbridge’s track record and Line 3’s threat to the Mississippi River and more than 200 other water bodies in the state.

In Michigan, the state filed a lawsuit asking the court “to recognize the validity of this action, citing violation of the public trust doctrine, given the unreasonable risk that continued operation of the dual pipelines poses to the Great Lakes,” The Detroit Free Press reported.

The article quotes Mike Shriberg, regional executive director of the environmental nonprofit National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center, who praised Whitmer’s action.

“Line 5 should have never been built in the first place,” he said. “Gov. Whitmer is now bravely, and correctly, standing up for the Great Lakes.

“This is a legacy-defining action by the governor. She is standing on the side not only of clean water, but clean energy and the jobs that go along with the transition to a renewable energy economy.”

In Minnesota, Walz established a different kind of legacy, one that favored short-term job creation at the expense of handing down significant environmental debts to the state’s future generations.

Winona LaDuke, head of Minnesota-based Honor the Earth, an Indigenous environmental group, criticized Gov. Walz in a Star Tribune article. While Gov. Walz talks about climate change and environmental justice, she said, the MPCA’s decision “shows he lacks commitment to either.”

Meanwhile, the MPCA was praising itself for approving the pipeline, saying it issued a permit with “stringent” standards. That was hype. The MPCA managed to approve the project only by burying its head in the sand and ignoring Line 3’s future oil spill risks and its climate damage.

Somehow, Minnesota state leaders were unable to say “no” to a project that — according state estimates — would add $287 billion in climate damage over three decades. (That’s the damage worldwide from more severe storms, more extended droughts, agricultural losses, impacts oh human health, etc.)

Somehow, Minnesota state leaders were unable to say “no” to a project that — according to state documents — puts a disproportionate burden on Minnesota’s Indigenous peoples.

In related news, more than a dozen Aitkin County healthcare workers and concerned northern Minnesota residents in Enbridge’s Line 3’s path, are petitioning Walz, the Public Utilities Commission, and State Health Commissioner Jan Malcom “to issue a temporary stay on construction as the Covid-19 pandemic surges across the northland and throughout the state,” according to a media release.

An influx of out-of-state Line 3 workers are already present in northern communities like Park Rapids and surrounding areas. According to the petition summary for a temporary stay – based on Enbridge communications – Enbridge workers are “reportedly mobilizing 800 outside workers to Aitkin County for construction over the winter months. This could include workers from neighboring states like Wisconsin and North Dakota, where COVID-19 is surging at even more alarming rates than here in Minnesota.”

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