The PUC isn’t acting in the public interest or even answering public questions about flaws in its Line 3 permits

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is a uniquely confusing state entity. It’s not a state agency. It’s not a court. It’s a quasi-judicial entity, something of a hybrid which also happens to lack both transparency and accountability.

I watched the PUC’s deliberations on the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline going back to 2017-18, and I remain confused about why the Commission seemed to bend over backwards for Enbridge and ignore the public interest.

It led me to reread the PUC’s convoluted mission statement and question whether that’s part of the problem:

The Commission’s mission is to create and maintain a regulatory environment that ensures safe, adequate and efficient utility services at fair, reasonable rates consistent with State telecommunications and energy policies. It does so by providing independent, consistent, professional and comprehensive oversight and regulation of utility service providers. One of the key functions of the commission in performing this mission is to balance the private and public interests affected in each docket, and to make decisions that appropriately balance these interests in a manner that is “consistent with the public interest.” (Emphasis added.)

PUC website

If you blur your eyes and don’t think too hard, you might think it’s reasonable. Boiling it down into its simplest terms, it makes no sense. The mission statement says the PUC is supposed to balance the private and public interest in a manner consistent with the public interest.

It implies there are two kinds of “public interest.” One is the full-blown public interest. Then the PUC balances the public interest against the corporate interest — compromising the public interest — and still comes up with a decision that’s “consistent with the public interest”?

The PUC didn’t consider the public interest in approving Line 3. The public interest was nowhere to be found.

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