ST. PAUL — Supporters of an Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline replacement plan on Thursday, Aug. 13, carried to the Capitol a replica of the proposed pipeline and a message to the governor: Let the project move forward.
State lawmakers, labor leaders and construction firm heads over the last several months collected thousands of signatures in support of the project, which they printed onto the pipe.
Parties interested in appealing regulators' decision to re-issue a certificate of need for the project have to do so by Wednesday, Aug. 19. And days ahead of that deadline, lawmakers, labor groups and chambers of commerce met at the Capitol to urge the Walz administration to let the project advance. Opponents of the project are also asking the Walz administration to appeal.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in June rejected a request from the Minnesota Department of Commerce, environmental groups and tribes to reconsider regulators' February decision approving the certificate of need and route permit for the proposed 340-mile pipeline across northern Minnesota, which will carry 760,000 barrels of oil (31.92 million gallons) per day from Alberta, Canada, to the Enbridge terminal in Superior, Wis.
"Line 3 replacement has passed every test and I want to assure you (that) we're ready to go," said Randy Rice, a design and construction manager with Enbridge, said. "We're ready to move forward and I know you are, too."
The push to again sway the governor's office comes a day after the Minnesota Senate voted to reject the confirmation of Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Nancy Leppink. And Senate leaders suggested others could be on the chopping block as they bring them up for review.
Republican state representatives said they weren't considering similar action at this time and a lone senator at the news conference departed before a reporter asked the question.
Opponents of the project, meanwhile, said they also had plans to make their case to the governor to intervene in an effort to block the project. Sasha Lewis-Norelle, a spokesperson for the youth-led climate change awareness effort Sunrise Movement, said the replacement could cause severe environmental impacts and would cross tribal lands. Lewis-Norelle said the group would urge Gov. Tim Walz to appeal.
"We're hoping to remind him that people are watching him and really care about his issue and we can't let him sleep easy until he's made the right decision," Lewis-Norelle said.
Labor leaders said they were eager to get their workers jobs that would come with the project and urged the Walz administration not to stand in the way any longer.
“The most important process is to get Gov. Walz and Lt. Gov. Flanagan to approve this pipeline,” said Dan Olson, a representative for Laborer's International Union of North America of Minnesota and North Dakota. “There’s no reason after all this time that I should be standing in front of a pipe on a truck. Let’s get this in the ground.”
A spokesman for Walz on Thursday didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
A move to appeal regulators' decision would send the plan back to the courts. If the state takes no action, the project could be vetted for a final permit and, if approved, construction could begin later this year.