Local View: Walz should support Minnesota's energy future, not block it

With the livelihoods of many Minnesotans hanging in the balance amidst the COVID-19 crisis, you’d think Gov.

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With the livelihoods of many Minnesotans hanging in the balance amidst the COVID-19 crisis, you’d think Gov. Tim Walz would support any project that would create thousands of jobs, ensure the steady supply of the energy that we need to grow and recover, and generate critical tax revenue for local governments. But Walz is doing the opposite with Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Project. He’s playing politics.

The facts couldn’t be more clear that Minnesota’s future depends on replacing the Enbridge pipeline across northern Minnesota. That’s why state utility regulators worked hard to approve a nearly $3 billion investment plan to replace the pipe that delivers 760,000 barrels of oil to the U.S. daily. The Minnesota agriculture industry needs the energy supplies, as does the rest of the nation.

Further, many across Minnesota, including local leaders and business groups, have written to urge Walz to support the project.

Walz’s reaction? Block and obstruct the pipeline replacement. On Aug. 20, he said he would fight to overturn the decision of state regulators on claims that there isn’t sufficient evidence that consumers need the oil the pipeline would deliver. His Department of Commerce announced it would appeal the plan.

The more than 50-year-old pipeline has served customers well but needs updating. Luckily, modernization brings benefits. These include an investment of $2.1 billion in the Minnesota economy, including a $100 million recruitment and job-training plan for Minnesota Native Americans. Plus, Enbridge will pay $19.5 million more in property tax revenues on top of the $34 million it already pays in Minnesota property taxes.

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Among those who depend heavily on energy supplies are the state’s farmers. Cropland takes up 75% of the land area in a third of Minnesota counties, with the average farm size on the rise. That means Minnesota farmers will need even more energy as we emerge from this pandemic. So will consumers who depend on stable food prices that are affected heavily by energy shortages.

Notably, Minnesotans heavily favor supporting oil and natural gas as part of our future. A poll conducted by Morning Consult found that Minnesotans are highly aware of the need for energy supplies, with three quarters believing oil and gas will play a large role in America’s continued energy needs. Two-thirds of those surveyed think natural gas and oil will play an important role in the economic recovery from a state economy damaged badly by COVID-19. If Gov. Walz truly wants to represent Minnesota voters, he should remember they want to invest in domestic energy production, not block it.

By supporting the pipeline replacement project instead of obstructing it, Walz can safeguard energy customers and deliver real benefits to Minnesotans statewide. By dropping his appeal to a carefully crafted plan by state regulators, he can send a message that consumers, not a leftist political agenda, is his highest priority. Livelihoods are at stake. There’s no better time to stand behind a solution like oil and natural gas we all can count on.

Karolyn Zurn of Calloway, Minnesota, is a farmer and past president of Minnesota Agri-Women.

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