Minnesota Senate has a Line 3 temper tantrum

Walz, Bishop: Don’t buckle to intimidation

Former Commissioner Steve Kelley

The Minnesota State Senate booted Steve Kelley as the Commissioner of Commerce because his department filed a legal challenge to the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline. In so doing, the Senate abused its role to “advise and consent” on top state administration appointments.

Kelley didn’t violate any ethics rules. He didn’t break the law. The Senate didn’t argue he wasn’t qualified. The Senate failed to make an argument against his appointment other than a policy disagreement.

If a policy dispute was sufficient to reject a commissioner’s appointment, the Senate could justify rejecting any and all appointees.

Also worrisome, the Senate seems to be sending a thinly veiled threat to Laura Bishop, Commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). The MPCA has yet to act on Enbrdige’s request for Line 3’s water crossing permit. The Senate has yet to confirm Bishop’s appointment, so there’s an implied threat that she could be next if she blocks the permit.

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A regulatory system gone belly-up: Deconstructing Line 3’s ‘Independent Monitors’

Part of an occasional series which explores how government regulatory agencies are biased towards corporate interests, creating an institutional culture favoring polluters over the public interest.

Line 3 current route (orange) and proposed route (green).

Consider the following thought experiment.

Imagine that a company wanted to build a crude oil pipeline 355 miles through northern Minnesota, crossing some of the state’s cleanest waters. That pipeline would carry tar sands crude oil, a particularly dirty form of fossil fuel and difficult to clean up when it spills.

Imagine that government regulators approved the project, but required the company to pay to hire 10 Independent Environmental Monitors to oversee construction on behalf of the state. These monitors would be the on-the-ground representatives for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and other departments.

Imagine — as the pipeline crosses 79 miles of wetlands and more than 200 water bodies — these Independent Monitors would have the authority to stop construction if they saw serious violations that threaten our clean waters.

Now imagine, in an unprecedented move, that government regulators put Tribal Nations and environmental groups in charge of selecting the Independent Monitors and training them. This, the regulators said, would bring more credibility to the process, as it would assure construction would meet the highest possible environmental standards.

What do you think would happen next? Continue reading