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Brett Benson

Gov. Tim Walz Turns Blind Eye to Pipeline Construction: Health Professionals Warn This Could Spread COVID and Accelerate Dangerous Climate Change

WASHINGTON - Minnesota state agencies are on the verge of approving Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Line 3 tar sands pipeline replacement project. Enbridge Inc. is planning to mobilize over 4,000 workers to start construction this winter. Half of these will be out-of-state workers, who will be housed in temporary housing in already under resourced and vulnerable rural and tribal communities. This as COVID-19 spread is at an all-time high in Minnesota, hospitals are out of beds, and healthcare workers pushed to their limits. 

“I've seen firsthand how exhausted these nurses and caregivers are right now, this pandemic is pushing our rural health systems and providers to the brink,” said Shanai Matteson, a resident of Palisade, a town of less than 200 people that is in close proximity to one of the proposed construction sites. “Healthcare workers here are shocked that state officials would give this project a green light at this critical time.” 

Nearly 200 individual health professionals from across the state, and the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians, have signed on to a petition calling on the Governor and the Department of Health to issue an emergency stay on construction as a COVID-19 mitigation measure. This petition was submitted in solidarity with a plea for action from frontline rural communities such as Aitkin County.  “This is an unnecessary pipeline at a particularly dangerous time. Permitting construction now is just compounding the climate disaster with a COVID disaster, “ said Dr. Laalitha Surapaneni, a physician caring for COVID-19 patients in the Twin Cities. “Outbreaks in rural areas will have ripple effects on hospital capacity state-wide.” 


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Gov. Tim Walz is asking families to limit gatherings around the holidays, businesses to close operations, and for Minnesotans to stay home to help slow the spread of COVID-19, in the name of “caring for those who take care of us.” Yet, he is turning a blind eye to the influx of pipeline workers into rural Minnesota, and deaf ears to the health professionals calling on him to take action. Gov. Tim Walz and his state agencies are allowing construction of an oil pipeline not just during the worst stage of the pandemic the Midwest has yet seen, but also during an ever-worsening climate crisis.

This is not just a Minnesota issue. National audiences need to know: The Line 3 pipeline has not yet received the national attention that DAPL (530K BPD) or KXL pipeline (840K BPD)  have gotten. However, if built, this pipeline is proposed to carry 720K BPD and will have a maximum carbon footprint of 273 million tons annually (or 50 coal plants worth) of carbon emissions per year. State agencies have failed Minnesotans, and now our Indigenous partners are being pushed ever closer to direct action to protect their sacred tribal lands and water.


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