Walz Faces Big Decision on Pipeline Project as Both Sides Mount Pressure

Gov. Tim Walz (D-MN) has less than 20 days to make a decision on the highly controversial Enbridge Line 3 pipeline project, according to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

On February 5, the Minnesota Court of Appeals dismissed a last-minute appeal of the project made by former Gov. Mark Dayton’s (D-MN) Department of Commerce. The court has given Walz a 20-day window to refile the appeal or allow the project move forward.

The court’s decision was mostly based on procedural reasons, saying the appeal was filed “prematurely” since it was made before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued a final order for the project.

Now, groups on both sides of the issue are pleading with Walz to support their cause. A group of bipartisan lawmakers sent a letter to Walz Friday morning urging him to support Line 3.

“We strongly encourage you to support the project and direct state agencies to complete the permitting process that would allow this critically important project to move forward,” the letter states. “We believe after more than 3 ½ years of review and evaluation of the project by state and federal experts, 65 public meetings by state agencies, three weeks of evidentiary hearings by the Administrative Law Judge, tens of thousands of public comments, and the unanimous votes by the PUC, it is clearly time for the process to continue.”

The letter was signed by 77 state lawmakers, who conclude their letter by telling Walz that allowing to the project to move forward is “an important opportunity for Minnesota to demonstrate its economic and environmental leadership to do things right for people and businesses across Minnesota.”

But supporting the project could have some negative political consequences for Walz. Two of his inaugural events, for instance, were disrupted by protesters opposed to Line 3, and on Friday another group of protesters gathered outside his office.

The DFL American Indian Outreach Group and the DFL Environmental Caucus sent a joint letter to Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan Friday morning requesting that they keep the “appeal against the Line 3 tar sands pipeline.”

“We write to ask that you stand up for tribal rights, environmental rights and due process by refiling the Department of Commerce appeal of the flawed PUC decision on the proposed Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline,” the letter begins.

It goes on to call Line 3 an “immediate environmental threat to Minnesotans, as well as a cultural threat to the Anishinaabe people.” One of their concerns is that the pipeline would “spill and contaminate our waters,” thereby destroying wild rice beds.

“Scientists tell us we have just 12 years to cut our greenhouse gas emissions in half. Yet Line 3 would carry the dirtiest form of tar sands oil and would release as much CO2 as 50 coal-fired power plants. This would be a huge step backward for Minnesotans and the nation in meeting our climate goals,” the letter continues. “We and the world simply cannot afford to make this callous, radical choice.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN-05) also sent a letter to the Walz administration to express her opposition to the pipeline replacement project.

“Over the past several years, opposition to the pipeline has grown exponentially, uniting and mobilizing Native American tribes across the state, landowners, environmentalists and concerned citizens,” Omar writes. “Due to the expected impacts to the fragile wetland ecosystem, the threat of substantial increases in carbon emissions and opposition from Tribal governments, I urge your administration not to back away from the Department of Commerce’s appeal of the Certificate of Need permit for the proposed project.”

As The Minnesota Sun reported, four protesters were arrested Monday after attempting to disable one Enbridge pipeline in northern Minnesota, which Enbridge said “put themselves, first responders, neighboring communities and landowners at risk.”

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].







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