The thief of time

Another MPCA maneuver; another Line 3 delay.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has announced it will again delay the replacement of the aging Line 3 pipeline, this time by holding a contested case hearing that will delay construction in the vital infrastructure project until at least 2021. The holdup represents the latest among multiple moves taken by the Walz administration to delay the project that has spent five years in regulatory review. Unfortunately, every delay increases the risk of damage to the environment.

It is well established that the leading cause of pipeline spills from 2010 to 2018 was corrosion—and given that the current Line 3 is corroded, it needs to be replaced. Corrosion is also the reason Line 3 is operating at just half of its potential capacity. If the Walz administration truly values the environment and isn’t simply using the pipeline as a political football, it should have never delayed the project in the first place, and certainly should not have effectively pushed the project back another year.

And if Governor Walz is relying on his push for electric vehicles to replace a reliance on oil, he will be sorely disappointed. Oil is the single-largest source of energy used in Minnesota, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Thirty-three percent of all the energy used in the state came from oil in 2018, and the slow rate of electric vehicle adoption means we will rely on oil long after Walz is no longer governor.

A far more likely explanation for why Governor Walz delayed the pipeline project is that he hopes continued delays might tempt Enbridge, the company seeking to replace the pipeline, to give up and walk away. A delayed project forces the company to spend millions more in court fees and other costs associated with red tape while losing the revenues it would reap by replacing the pipeline and transporting more oil. President Obama used a similar tactic when he unnecessarily delayed the Dakota Access Pipeline, a wrong President Trump has righted. In the end, replacing the Line 3 pipeline represents a classic win-win situation. The environment benefits because a newer, safer pipeline will replace an old, corroded pipeline—vastly reducing the potential for an oil spill.

The economy will also benefit because this $2.6 billion construction project would create 6,500 local jobs in Minnesota. Considering that Governor Walz’s COVID-19 shutdown has caused Minnesota to post the highest unemployment claims of any neighboring state (Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, or Wisconsin), one would think his administration would embrace such good economic news. Apparently not.

While Walz loves to imagine that his decisions are based on scientific evidence, his actions show otherwise. In reality, Walz’s mantra of “following the science” is just a thinly veiled smokescreen for doing whatever he wants to serve his own purposes. Line 3 is a perfect example.