You’ve seen the yard signs and headlines, now an important vote for Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Program is on the ballot next Tuesday. You won’t see a Line 3 question on the ballot but be assured that the people you vote for will either make or break this project.
Enbridge’s Line 3 transports crude oil from Eastern Canada through Clearbrook, Minnesota, where Line 3 continues on to Superior, Wisconsin, and other lines bring the oil to Twin Cities’ refineries and others around the country. The Line 3 Replacement Project will replace hundreds of miles of the 1,097-mile pipeline, part of Enbridge’s Mainline System. The line has been in service since the 1960s and has become corroded from age, allowing only half the usual amount of crude oil to be transported safely. The replacement project would increase the diameter of the pipeline from 34” to 36” which will primarily follow the existing pipeline route. Enbridge explains that the program would “maintain safety standards, reduce future maintenance, create fewer disruptions to landowners, and the environment, and return historical operating capacity to Line 3.”
This replacement program, costing Enbridge a whopping $2.9 Billion, has already replaced 14 miles of pipeline in Wisconsin in 2018, but the project is stalled in Minnesota while waiting for certification for permits to replace 337 miles of pipeline in the state.
Enbridge and their opponents, led by former Governor Dayton, and current Governor Walz, have been locked in a dance of two steps forward, 1¾ steps back since 2014.
In the past six years, Enbridge working with the clearly muddled Minnesota government has only been able to secure two of the ten necessary approvals from the Minnesota DNR.
Not only is this a horrendous waste of time and money for Enbridge, it’s also a glaring example of how hard it is for companies to do business in Minnesota. A corporation wants to pour billions of dollars and thousands of jobs into our state while our governors fight it tooth and nail.
According to Enbridge, the project would bring over 8,000 jobs to the state for 2 years, 6,500 of them would be local hires, including 4,200 union construction jobs. The project would provide a $2 billion dollar boost to the state economy during the design and construction phase, with $1.5 billion coming directly out of Enbridge’s britches. Enbridge breaks the local impact into payroll – $334 million with more than half being earned by local hires and $162 million in “construction-related gain” for local economies due to non-local workers requiring lodging, food, and other services.
Opponents argue that the jobs are temporary, so they don’t matter. Someone should let them know that all construction jobs are temporary. And every job a worker does they learn skills that make them more valuable to the next job.
In the long term, Enbridge would be pumping an additional $5 million in annual property tax on top of the $30 million they currently pay. Have the bean counters at the capital informed our esteemed leader that this is $30 million they could lose if Enbridge isn’t allowed to replace Line 3?
So what’s the hold-up? Endless environmental groups coming up with poorly rationalized reasons why this project should not move forward.
For example, they argue that pipelines are dangerous to the environment because they can leak and contaminate our water and land. To this, Enbridge agrees – in fact, this is the primary reason they want to replace Line 3 – to be a responsible energy business that protects the land they use – to replace a pipeline so corroded that it can only transport 370,000 barrels a day when it should be transporting over 700,000.
Most recently the environmental group, Honor the Earth, filed a petition asking the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to investigate the efficiency and capacity improvements of other Enbridge lines and how they impact the need for Line 3. They claim capacity additions from 2016-2019 in Lines 2, 4, and 65 allow for transport of an additional 400,000 barrels a day, with Line 3 currently transporting less than the increased capacity of the others, the group argues that Line 3 is no longer needed – regardless of the fact that it is the mainline supplying refineries in Superior, Wisconsin, and the Twin Cities. I wonder how they expect oil from lines 2, 4, and 65 to magically appear in Superior… without a pipeline. Their math is also faulty in that they are using the reduced capacity barrels in their equation instead of the full capacity Line 3 can transport.
Governor Walz entertains both of these reasons to delay the pipeline replacement – he also subscribes to a new euphoric reason – the belief that in the near future fossil fuels will be as dead as the dinosaur bones they come from. He as recently quoted in a MinnPost article saying his most recent legal challenge to Line 3 was “in part to “reset” relationships with Minnesota’s tribal nations and better determine whether the project is necessary to meet future oil demand.” He also said that climate change was a factor in his decision. His most recent budget pushes to speed up the transition to electric transportation and “those types of decisions should be considered when measuring the need for oil”.
In an August 2020 MPR article, Walz said, “We must follow the process, the law, and the science.” Yet the state seems to be reinventing the process as they go. In the same article, Aitkin Mayor Gary Tibbits said “Instead of making the right and data-informed decision to accept six years of review to move Line 3 forward, he decided to disrespect the hard work done by the regulators he has appointed.”
How likely is it that the United States won’t need crude oil in the NEAR future? Probably as likely as Governor Walz winning a second term as governor – slim to none.
In June of 2020, Isaac Orr from the American Experiment, wrote: “Oil is the single largest source of energy used in Minnesota (US Energy Information Administration) with 33% of all energy from oil in 2018”.
Minnesota Energy Usage 2018
Natural Gas: 28%
*Note the top three (and the majority of our energy) are fossil fuels.
Perhaps Governor Walz missed the document from Minnesota State Profile and Energy Estimates that explains energy used in the state. The document offers this important piece of information for electric car touting Walz, “coal-fired power plants provide the largest share of Minnesota’s electricity net generation.” And while wind, solar, and natural gas are trending up for electricity production, the state is a decade or more away from relinquishing fossil fuels as the main source for our power plants. Can the already corroded Line 3 make it another decade or more?
The Energy Policy and Conservation Quadrennial Report of 2016 by the Minnesota Commerce Department examined the use of petroleum consumption in Minnesota in barrels per customer and found over the 20 years of the study oil usage hasn’t been reduced at all.
While there was a spike in oil use around the 10 year mark of the study, barrels used in 2014 are nearly the same as those used 20 years earlier.
It’s not just vehicles that need petroleum. Crude oil and its by-products are used in endless ways. Enbridge explains “Petroleum products are an essential part of our everyday lives. They fuel our cars, heat our homes, power industry, schools, and hospitals, and are turned into hundreds of consumer goods, from clothing, to cosmetics, to cellphones.”
The state has until November 15th to decide on whether to reissue Enbridge’s permit. The company still needs permits from the MN Pollution Control Agency, MN DNR, and the US Army Corp of Engineers. The longer Governor Walz and the handful of environmental groups around the state drag out this process, the longer Minnesota’s environment is in danger from a leak or break in the current corroded Line 3 pipeline.
The delay in this project has gone on six years too long. At this point and spilled oil and it’s damage to earth, water, and wildlife is on the hands of these groups and Governor Walz.
It is absolutely critical that we elect representatives that will both protect our environment and promote the benefits of big industries in our state. Neither of which are being done by the current administration.