Environmental and Indigenous leaders on Thursday responded with alarm after Minnesota regulators approved key permits for Enbridge Energy’s planned Line 3 Pipeline replacement, and called on Democratic Gov. Tim Walz to block any construction for the Canadian company’s long-delayed multibillion-dollar project.
“Gov. Walz has apparently decided that if Washington won’t lead on climate, Minnesota won’t either,” said Andy Pearson, MN350’s Midwest tar sands coordinator, in a statement about the permits. “Make no mistake. “This decision is a sharp escalation against water protectors and climate science.”
The Associated Press reported that “the approvals from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources clear the way for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue the remaining federal permits, which is expected to happen fairly quickly. The MPCA could then approve a final construction storm water permit that’s meant to protect surface waters from pollutant runoff.”
As Leo Golden, vice president of Line 3 execution, called it “a big day for Line 3 in Minnesota” and said that “these authorizations and approvals are an important step towards construction,” Pearson and other critics of the crude oil project reiterated their opposition, citing both treaty rights and climate science.
“Line 3 is facing multiple court challenges by Native nations, grassroots groups, and the Minnesota Department of Commerce,” Pearson noted. “This decision means that Enbridge may launch construction while the overall need and legality of the pipeline are being fought in court, including by a state agency.”
“There is a good chance that courts will find the pipeline was approved illegally,” he said. “It’s just common sense, then, to demand that the state immediately halt Enbridge’s progress toward construction while those important legal challenges play out.”
We’re beginning construction on an unnecessary, dangerous oil pipeline, in the middle of a climate crisis. In the middle of a pandemic. Hundreds of out of state workers will come here over the next few months. What’s the plan to keep people safe?
This is nightmarish.
— Tim Schaefer (@tharoldschaefer) November 12, 2020
In February 2019, Walz said publicly that projects like Line 3 “don’t just need a building permit to go forward, they also need a social permit.” At the time, the governor was praised for “working for the people first not a foreign pipeline company” by deciding to renew a challenge launched by his predecessor against the project.
“It’s clear now that Gov. Walz’s wish for Line 3 to have ‘a social permit’ was all talk and no action,” Pearson declared. “This is a deeply unpopular pipeline that is a disaster for our climate, and it will be fought every step of the way. The climate justice movement will still stop the pipeline, but the governor has made that unnecessarily harder.”
The permits come less than a week after major news outlets called the presidential contest for President-elect Joe Biden. Though he has faced calls from campaigners to go even further, Biden has still put forth climate action plans that dramatically contrast with the pro-corporate polluter agenda of President Donald Trump.
“President Trump spent four years angling to protect the profits of Big Oil rather than protecting our planet,” said Pearson. “Minnesota loudly rejected that kind of destructive leadership. The governor had all the legal tools he needed to stop this environmentally catastrophic pipeline. Why would he instead give Trump a parting gift like this in the last days of his term?”