January 11, 2019

Side with Science: Asking MN Gov Walz to Support the Dept. of Commerce

“I made a prediction [twelve years ago],” Governor Tim Walz told a group of young climate advocates on Wednesday afternoon, “that by 2020, there wouldn’t be anybody left in America who would even debate climate change.”

However, the next morning Governor Walz surprised many of his constituents when he announced that his administration was reconsidering a decision that was made based on sound climate science. On Thursday, January 10, newly appointed Department of Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley told MinnPost that he had been instructed by the Governor to reevaluate the Department’s recent legal appeal challenging the approval of the Line 3 pipeline.

Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 is a controversial project proposed for northern Minnesota, which would carry 760,000 barrels of Canadian tar sands oil across Anishinaabe treaty territory and the lake country of northern Minnesota (including crossing the Mississippi River twice) in order to transport the oil to Superior, Wisconsin. Dr. John Abraham, a world-renowned climate scientist who testified as part of the legal process surrounding Line 3, pointed out the project would enable the emission of as many annual greenhouse gasses as 50 coal plants. The State’s own Environmental Impact Statement estimated those emissions would cost society more than $287 billion in climate damages.

The Department of Commerce has adamantly opposed Line 3 since fall of 2017, hiring outside experts to run independent analysis on whether the proposed pipeline met the criteria to be approved in Minnesota. It didn’t. Alongside multiple tribal governments, indigenous rights groups, environmentalists, and young climate advocates, the Minnesota Department of Commerce testified repeatedly that Line 3 should be denied. In June of 2018, however, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission issued the largest of the permits for the project, the Certificate of Need and Routing Permit. The Department of Commerce’s December 21, 2018 legal appeal challenges the Certificate of Need, maintaining the Department’s position that Enbridge Energy failed to produce the required demand oil demand forecast to prove a need for the pipeline.

Governor Walz’s uncertainty about the appeal throws his stance on climate into serious question. In making their June 2018 ruling, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission simply stated they didn’t trust the models used to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions for the project, and therefore refused to entertain any discussion of climate change. Denying basic climate science, like the widely-accepted models used in the Environmental Impact Statement, seems like exactly the kind of thinking Governor Walz hoped would no longer exist in America by 2020.

But we are counting on the Governor’s actions -- and he seems to be directing the head of Commerce to take actions that would give credence to the Public Utilities Commission’s climate denialism in approving the Line 3 permits.

Less than 24 hours before this announcement, Governor Walz had been assuring the young people of Minnesota Can’t Wait, a high-school-student-led climate action coalition, that climate science wasn’t debatable, reminding his young constituents that he “ran unabashedly that climate change will kill the planet and stop our futures. We must act boldly to move forward on that.”

Acting boldly clearly means stopping the Line 3 tar sands pipeline, not reversing course and ceding ground to climate deniers like the Public Utilities Commission. Now is the time for Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan to lead Minnesota on climate issues -- and standing up for climate science means supporting the Department of Commerce appeal on Line 3.

Line 3 opponents are asking our allies to call Governor Walz and let them know you hope to see the Department of Commerce appeal continue! CALL: 651-201-3400