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Minnesota Public Utilities Cowards

It’s hard to disagree with the malcontents that broke up the latest public meeting yesterday of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.  Their main message? “PUC” stands for “Public Utilities Cowards,” according to a Duluth News Tribune report of the breathtaking lack of backbone on display again by state energy regulators under the Dayton administration.

The protestors, who describe themselves as water protectors, sat with their backs turned to the commission for the first hour of discussion with shirts that read “Public Utilities Cowards” on the back.

The Star Tribune also provided the play-by-play as commissioners allowed the disrupters to take over a technical discussion on the Enbridge 3 pipeline replacement project.

A disruption started around 11:15 a.m. when three pipeline opponents in the back of the PUC hearing room in downtown St. Paul took out a bullhorn and made speeches aimed at the commissioners.

“You should all be ashamed,” one protester said.

“It’s going to be really uncomfortable for you for the next couple of years,” another protester said.

Actually, both parties should be ashamed–the disrupters and their PUC enablers. But that’s expecting too much, particularly from the PUC chair Nancy Lange, who tearfully cast her vote in favor of the vital $2.6 billion pipeline back in June.

PUC Chairwoman Nancy Lange then recessed the meeting until 11:45 a.m. The commissioners came back at 11:55, and they were greeted with protesters shouting, “What do you do when your land is under attack? Fight back.”

Lange tried to restart the meeting, and the protests diminished, though one pipeline opponent continued playing music on a boombox. Lange then canceled the rest of the meeting when her request to turn the music off wasn’t heeded. The PUC will reschedule the meeting as soon as possible, said Dan Wolf, the commission’s executive secretary.

Instead of calling police to arrest the disrupters, Lange caved in to their crude and intimidating  tactics, just as she did at a public hearing on the pipeline earlier this year.

Several opponents, in a protest coordinated by the environmental activist group MN350, sat with their backs facing the commissioners, their shirts featuring slogans, such as “Enbridge lap dogs.” No organization took credit for the bullhorn speeches.

Thanks to Lange, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has opened the door to further chaos in future meetings and hearings from eco-malcontents and other anarchists.

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