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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Pipeline revenue is lifeline revenue to many counties

When the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission announces its long-awaited decision on the Enbridge Line 3 replacement, it should approve both the certification of need and the route permit, based on the Enbridge-preferred route. Additionally, we believe Gov. Dayton should direct the Department of Commerce to rescind its opposition to the Line 3 replacement project -- because pipelines are critical to Greater Minnesota counties.

Pipelines have become controversial in recent years, but largely lost in all the back and forth between individuals and groups that support or oppose this project and others like it, is that pipeline property tax revenues are the foundation for many rural county budgets, and they ease the burden on individual homeowners and small business owners who pay the freight for county services.

At a time when the limited resources of counties across Greater Minnesota are being stretched thin from growing concerns related to opioid and eldercare abuse, an aging and increasingly isolated population, and endless unfunded mandates, pipeline revenues have supported law enforcement, human service and transportation infrastructure programs that have improved and saved lives.

It is not an overstatement to say pipeline revenue is lifeline revenue to many counties of the state.

Commissioners from six such counties in northern Minnesota met with Gov. Dayton’s staff last month to ask that he work with them to get the Department of Commerce to rescind its opposition to the Line 3 project. We support their request and hope the governor is listening.

As a deep-rural county that is among the oldest and poorest in the state, Aitkin is one county that would benefit greatly from the Line 3 replacement. “Approval of the preferred route for Line 3 means an additional million dollars annually to our $12 million budget,” said Aitkin County Commissioner Don Niemi, “and there would be another million annually for the townships and school districts.” He said those funds would provide significant relief to the schools, local governments, elderly homeowners on fixed income, and the small businesses that local residents and summer tourists depend on.

To counties in Greater Minnesota and the people who live there, pipelines and the property tax revenue they generate annually are critical and even life saving components to budgets that are stretched thin by endless existing and developing needs.

We hope the PUC and Gov. Dayton act favorably and soon on Line 3.

Paul Gerde, Glenwood, is chairman of Minnesota Rural Counties, a 29-member advocacy organization.