WASHINGTON – Health professionals gathered outside the Minnesota governor’s mansion to urge the Walz administration to stop the pending construction of the Line 3 pipeline in Northern Minnesota.
“As frontline healthcare providers my colleagues and I are already struggling under the weight of current cases. We can not endorse any activities that will potentially increase the numbers of people traveling, sharing work spaces or living spaces that exponentially increase the number of COVID cases. Please issue a stay on construction of Line 3,” Dr. Nyasha Spears, a family physician from Duluth, said at the news conference.
Nearly 200 health professionals, along with the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians, have signed a petition calling on the governor and the Department of Health to issue an emergency stay to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The health professionals called on the state to prevent the risk of an explosion of COVID cases in Northern Minnesota as infection and mortality rates are reaching unprecedented levels statewide and hospital capacity is exceeded.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Line 3 project says half of the 4,200 workers employed during the construction of the proposed Line 3 pipeline are expected to come from outside the 15-county area of the route (Chapter 11, p20).
“I really do thank the governor and MDH for following public health guidance and helping me and my colleagues care for Minnesotans throughout this pandemic. As a frontline physician, I’m begging you, Gov. Walz, to issue a stay on construction as a COVID-19 mitigation measure,” said Dr. Laalitha Surapaneni of the Twin Cities, a frontline hospitalist.
The Walz administration on Monday approved the last permits necessary for Enbridge Energy to begin construction of Line 3. Last week, the Red Lake and White Earth nations filed a motion seeking a stay on construction, citing pending lawsuits and COVID-19 risks. The motion will be heard at a PUC meeting Friday before moving to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
“We need to be consistent in our COVID-19 messaging and follow our own guidance of avoiding close social contact and large gatherings. We also need to demonstrate that our voiced concern about addressing Minnesota’s health disparities translates into responsible action by protecting our most marginalized communities” said Dr. Kristi White, of the Twin Cities, a clinical health psychologist.
Tribal nations, climate groups, local landowners and the MN Department of Commerce have filed suit to overturn the Certificate of Need issued for the pipeline, arguing the pipeline would violate treaty rights, threaten clean water, and provide an economic that would slow the transition away from the highly polluting Canadian tar sands oil industry. The Department of Commerce estimated the social costs of the climate damage from the pipeline at $287 billion.