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Commentary: Alternate route of new Line 3 has fewer hazards

The public hearings for the new Line 3 pipeline are almost over. We have been to two so far and have some thoughts and reactions.

Some attendees do not want any new pipeline crossing our state. We agree that it seems counter-productive when the world is focused on moving toward sustainable energy alternatives as quickly as possible. The impact of climate change and the potential for new jobs in green industries would support this position. However, we are focused on the proposed route this new corridor would create through the 40 percent of the state the DNR assesses as having "good quality lakes that can be protected." The rest of the state's waters are in "major stress and cannot be restored or restoration is unrealistic." (No fishing, no swimming.)

Two arguments made by supporters for the proposed Line 3 pipeline stand out. First, many are focused on the jobs that this construction will bring. Enbridge estimates around 1,500 temporary jobs during construction and possibly 0 to 20 full-time once built. Jobs: we know that this area's economy depends in great part to travel and tourism for jobs. The reality is that pipelines leak, always and eventually. A spill in this route could jeopardize the current jobs in our travel and tourism industry. The U of M estimated in 2008 that our four-county area (Cass, Crow Wing, Aitkin and Hubbard) had over 17,000 full-time equivalent jobs that could be at risk if there is a spill along the proposed water-filled route. And the same study estimated $245,867,979 in travel and tourism revenue in just Cass and Crow Wing counties.

The second argument for this pipeline is that if the line is not built there is concern over lost taxes that support our townships and counties. Our rural counties with smaller populations struggle to support public schools, roads and infrastructure. So, who pays taxes? We know we depend heavily on the property taxes paid by seasonal home owners. And, there is data that every seasonal property owner spends upwards of $10,000 a year boosting our revenue. True, a pipeline corridor would bring some new property tax revenue, but at what cost? What happens to properties when the waters are degraded? Pipelines leak, a spill of any size could endanger lakes, watersheds and rivers in any of our four counties. Just in Crow Wing county alone the tax base for seasonal homes is two-thirds of their county tax base.

Facts: Our four-county area has some of the most pristine waters of anywhere in North America. This new corridor crosses 192 bodies of water including the Mississippi River twice. Two lakes, Roosevelt and Norway, are directly affected by the proposed route as well as the entire White Fish chain. There are 20 wild rice lakes within one mile of the proposed route. The product being pumped through new Line 3 is tar sand oil for which there is no technology known for clean-up should a spill occur in any sort of water. Our economy and our culture are water-based.

Why would we put a new pipeline corridor through the most sensitive water-rich region in north- central Minnesota?

We support an alternative route: SA-04 that would take the line through far fewer water hazards, in a straighter configuration and provide more temporary employment.

We hope you will join us in urging that the Public Utilities Commission recommend an alternate route for new Line 3. Comments by Nov. 22 will be considered. Email publicadvisor.puc@state.me.us, comment online at mn.gov/puc/line3/participate/comment or write Scott Ek, Minn. Public Utilities Commission at 121 7th Place East Suite 350 in St. Paul, Minn 55101 and include Docket Number 15-137 (Route) and 65-2500-33377 (Route) in the subject line.

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