As the state of Minnesota and small businesses take in the heavy blows of mandated shutdowns, northern Minnesota is on the brink of economic devastation. The 14 counties along Enbridge’s Line 3 route have average unemployment rates in excess of 20 percent and they continue to rise.
Now more than ever, northern Minnesota desperately needs Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement project and the $2.6 billion private investment that comes with it. Not only is Line 3 the safest option for the transportation of crude oil and an effective way to protect northern Minnesota’s pristine environment by replacing aging infrastructure, but it represents a much needed economic boost that will provide over 4,000 union jobs within a two-year period.
In a June letter to Gov. Walz, 42 mayors across northern Minnesota asked him to support Line 3 and to put a stop to any more appeals and contested case hearings, but northern Minnesota has heard nothing but crickets from the governor’s office. This is in addition to Gov. Walz expressing his support in private conversations with union building trade leaders.
From a June 3 statement in response to Gov. Walz’s decision to hold a contested case hearing on Enbridge’s approved Water Quality Permit, IUOE Local 49 Business Manager Jason George expresses his frustration saying, “Gov. Walz has committed to us privately … on several occasions that he would follow the process and would not change it.”
The decision to hold a contested case hearing on Enbridge’s approved water quality permit has pushed back Line 3’s projected construction start date even further, a project that is already the most studied pipeline project in Minnesota’s history. What’s more troubling is that the governor’s decision took place during a time in which small businesses in northern Minnesota are struggling to survive due to the pandemic and much of the union building trades are out of work.
Gov. Walz touts multi-billion dollar proposals to rebuild infrastructure across Minnesota through public investment and I applaud him for making that a priority, but the irony is that large-scale investment in public infrastructure requires companies like Enbridge privately investing in large scale projects similar to the Line 3 replacement project to fund public projects.
From Crookston to Duluth, northern Minnesota has an opportunity to make a speedy economic recovery and thrive in a post-COVID economy.