Political Gamesmanship Comes to Minnesota

Yesterday Minnesota threw itself into contention for needless energy disputes with an appeal of Enbridge’s Line 3 project by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. The appeal alleges that the state’s Public Utilities Commission wrongly granted a certificate of need to Enbridge for the Line 3 replacement project because Enbridge didn’t submit a long-term demand forecast model for review.

Never mind that the Line 3 replacement project would replace a pipeline installed in the 1960s (and bring with it significant technical advantages) after nearly 7 years of review and consideration of the plan. Or that the state is an important corridor for crude oil, with about 30% of imports flowing through the state.  

As Enbridge stated: “Line 3 Replacement Project (L3RP) has undergone six years of process, more than 70 public meetings, numerous comment periods, and a 13,500-page Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The project’s EIS, Certificate of Need and Route Permit were all recently reaffirmed by the PUC based on the substantial evidence in the record that this project is needed.”

Despite the extensive, years-long review and signoff by all necessary regulators Governor Walz said that “When it comes to any project that impacts our environment and our economy, we must follow the process, the law, and the science.” One should rightfully wonder what is left to uncover after 7 years of review, or consider the possibility that Governor Walz is just keen to deliver a victory to environmentalists (at the expense of Minnesotans).

In the meantime, Minnesota’s Department of Commerce and Walz Administration is going to forgo some $2.6 billion in private investment and an estimated 4,200 union jobs to needlessly politicize the project and tie it up in court once more.

It is hard to imagine that such a clear pathway to interfering with the success of an energy infrastructure project like Line 3 would be obtainable if not for the many other instances across the country of activists leaning on the courts. Recent court battles over Dakota Access, Atlantic Coast, and others have made it clear that litigation continues to be effective at dragging projects toward abandonment.

To get ahead of this growing trend there must be considerations made to balance the democratization of infrastructure projects and legitimate concerns to be hashed out in court. The consequences of continued litigation against fossil fuel projects like the Line 3 pipeline will eventually hand away the many advantages the United States enjoys thanks to its energy security.