Don’t let pipeline protesters silence Minnesotans

This op-ed appeared October 29, 2017 in the St. Cloud Times.

The Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, which ships crude oil 1,100 miles from Alberta to Wisconsin, is five decades old. Today, it operates at approximately half the 760,000 barrels per day capacity it was designed for.

More than two years of regulatory review have made clear the need to replace Enbridge 3. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the pipeline is the safest way to transport this volume of crude oil. The alternative to is 10,000 rail cars or 24,000 tanker trucks per day.

Removing the need for these rail cars and tanker trucks isn’t the only benefit replacing Enbridge 3 would bring.

According to an April 2017 study conducted by the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s Labovitz School of Business and Economics, it would generate an estimated 6,500 jobs in Northern Minnesota over a two-year period. These jobs would be in construction (2,100), hospitality (2,800), and other suppliers and manufacturers (1,600.) The total payroll to local workers is estimated at $167 million.

All told, the project could have an economic benefit to Minnesota totaling more than $2 billion, including $1.5 billion from that company’s spending alone.

There are environmental concerns that have to be balanced with this benefit, just as there are with mining in northern Minnesota. But Enbridge must abide by national standards and federal laws. It must also receive a certificate of need and a pipeline route permit from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission before the project can go ahead.

Over the last month, public hearings have been held to inform an Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly’s recommendation to the PUC on whether or not to grant the certificate of need and route permit. These are important forums where Minnesotans can come together and discuss the economic and environmental costs and benefits of the Enbridge 3 replacement project.

Sadly, they have been prevented from doing so by the actions of a few aggressive thugs. In Duluth last week, a hearing was cut short when a mob of about 15 activists disrupted the proceedings.

And now state officials have abruptly cancelled two public hearings on the project which were scheduled in St. Cloud Thursday due to “logistical and safety issues.” As they did with the people of Duluth, these ‘activists’ have deprived the people of St. Cloud the chance to have their say.

A decision like this will have major implications for Minnesota, both economically and environmentally. It has to be discussed openly with as wide a participation as possible. Citizens and law enforcement should stand firm against the small group of aggressive thugs who would deny the people of Minnesota their say.

This is the opinion of John Phelan, an economist at the Center of the American Experiment, a public policy organization in Golden Valley.