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'This Is What Dem Leadership Looks Like': Minnesota Gov. Praised for Backing Fight Against Line 3 Tar Sands Pipeline

"He's rightly putting Indigenous rights, our global climate, and the water resources for thousands of Minnesotans before fossil fuel industry profits."

line 3 protest

Environmental and Indigneous activists have fought against Enbridge's Line 3 proposal. (Photo: MN350/Facebook)

Green groups and progressive lawmakers heaped praise on Minnesota's new Democratic governor on Tuesday for "working for the people first not a foreign pipeline company" by announcing that he would renew a challenge launched by his predecessor against Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline project, which would run from Canada's Alberta tar sands through North Dakota and Minnesota on its way to neighboring Wisconsin.

"We want to thank the governor for doing the most prudent thing possible to help avert the ecological economic and social disaster that is Line 3."
—Winona LaDuke, Honor the Earth

"Minnesotans have clearly voiced that they do not want this dirty pipeline, and Governor [Tim] Walz and Lieutenant Governor [Peggy] Flanagan showed today that they are listening," declared Greenpeace USA tar sands campaigner Rachel Rye Butler.

"By committing to refile the state's appeal to Enbridge's Line 3 tar sands pipeline expansion," Butler said, "he's rightly putting Indigenous rights, our global climate, and the water resources for thousands of Minnesotans before fossil fuel industry profits."

Last year, the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved the Calgary-based company's proposal to replace a decades-old corroded crude oil pipeline with a new 1,031-mile pipeline that would cross Native American reservations and treaty lands, threatening fresh water resources, and culturally significant wild rice beds. That approval was granted in spite of expert analysis submitted by the state Department of Commerce (DOC) that the project was unnecessary, and "serious environmental and socioeconomic risks and effects outweigh limited benefits."

Former Gov. Mark Dayton's DOC and other critics appealed PUC's approval, but last week the Minnesota Court of Appeals dismissed those challenges. On Tuesday, in what many characterized as "his biggest decision since becoming governor last month," Walz came out on the side of environmentalists and Indigenous groups that have been persistently organizing against the pipeline, which would have the capacity to transport 760,000 barrels of tar sands oil daily.

"When it comes to any project that impacts our environment and our economy, we must follow the process, the law, and the science," the governor said in a statement. "The Dayton administration's appeal of the PUC's decision is now a part of this process. By continuing that process, our administration will raise the Department of Commerce's concerns to the court in hopes of gaining further clarity for all involved."

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Winona LaDuke, executive director and co-founder of Honor the Earth, characterized the PUC approval as "a rogue decision, contrary to all state agencies and tribal interests." Welcoming the governor's decision, she said, "as Minnesota moves toward efficiency and renewable energy, we want to thank the governor for doing the most prudent thing possible to help avert the ecological economic and social disaster that is Line 3."

"This dirty tar sands pipeline would threaten our clean water, communities, and climate, all for the sake of more oil our state does not need."
—Margaret Levin, Sierra Club

"This dirty tar sands pipeline would threaten our clean water, communities, and climate, all for the sake of more oil our state does not need," added Sierra Club North Star chapter director Margaret Levin. "We will continue to urge the administration to do everything in their power to stop Line 3, and look forward to working with Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan to realize a truly clean, just energy future for all Minnesotans."

While also applauding Walz and Flanagan for the announcement, Andy Pearson, Midwest tar sands coordinator for MN350, pointed out that "for an administration that ran on taking climate change seriously and upholding indigenous sovereignty, continuing the appeal was the only choice that made sense."

The news out of Minnesota on Tuesday comes amid surging national momentum for transitioning the energy system and economy away from fossil fuels, which led Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to introduce the Green New Deal resolution last week. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a proponent of the congressional resolution, is also among the Minnesotans celebrating Walz's move:

"Coming just days after progressive leaders in Washington introduced a bold resolution for a Green New Deal to fight climate change and boost the economy, our elected officials are finally showing the kind of leadership we need to combat the climate crisis," Greenpeace USA's Butler concluded, tying the governor's move to the national momentum for climate action. "Today's decision is a good first step. Now they have a chance to stop Line 3 for good and jump-start a community-led, just transition to a green energy economy in Minnesota."

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