DULUTH -- After endless debating, campaigning, and spirited rallies, a result not going the way you wanted is tough to take. It can be hard to accept, even if doing so is right for a greater good beyond yourself.
No, this isn’t about President Donald Trump and the result of the November election. This is about the final permit being issued this week for the Line 3 Replacement Project, allowing construction to finally begin on what, really, should have been routine infrastructure-improvement work.
Like with Trump and the election, lawsuits are quickly being filed to challenge the outcome. For Line 3, the review and permitting processes were years-long, involving expert analysis, scientific scrutiny, and numerous opportunities for public comment and input. Everyone who wanted to be heard had ample opportunity to share their viewpoints, allowing them to be considered.
After all that, numerous state and federal agencies determined Minnesota’s portion of Enbridge’s $2.9 billion private investment could safely proceed, ensuring our state and elsewhere the oil we need, even as we transition to renewable sources of energy, to fuel our vehicles, heat our homes, and produce the petroleum products we use every day: things like life-saving medical devices, household goods, and even pens. Legal challenges are part of the process, too, and need to play out in accordance with the law.
It’s what comes after those legal challenges, should they prove unsuccessful, that is concerning right now.
That’s because opponents of the Line 3 project have been using words and phrases like “battle lines,” “war,” and “never stop fighting,” suggesting not peaceful protests of the Line 3 project but violent conflicts — and an unwillingness to accept the result of a legitimate and painstakingly thorough public process because the result was disagreeable. (Again, not talking about Trump here).
Already, Line 3 opponents have been caught destroying heavy construction machinery being used for the project outside of Minnesota, including by pouring cement into gas tanks. And they’ve been arrested after trespassing onto private property to damage equipment and disrupt work, causing costly delays and endangering innocent workers and the public alike.
Few of us want to see the many clashes that marred protests over the Dakota Access pipeline project repeated in northern Minnesota. But violent protesters from around the country already are staging and readying, and law enforcement has been equipping itself with armor and mutual-aid agreements to respond en masse.
The stage may be set, but the destruction of public and private property, the bloody clashes, and our northwood skies filled with teargas and smoke don’t have to happen. Not with respect — whether in agreement or still in vehement opposition — for the legitimate result of a lengthy, inclusive, thoroughly considered, and exhaustive public process.
There’s no denying the economic benefit of Line 3 construction allowed to be peacefully and safely completed. The project is to provide 4,200 good-paying construction jobs across 13 counties. It’s work for local union members as well as out-of-town contractors who’ll come here and spend their money here, helping to refuel our COVID-devastated local economies. In addition, the project is to result in $19.5 million in new property taxes every year — on top of $34.5 million Enbridge already pays annually in property taxes.
The new pipe will be safer for the environment, too. The existing Line 3, laid way back in the 1960s, had deteriorated to the point where Enbridge pumps only 390,000 barrels per day through it when its original capacity was 760,000 barrels per day. The project is replacing outdated infrastructure before it fails with state-of-the-art technology, reducing the need for oil to be transported by rail or truck, both of which are environmentally riskier options.
In the coming months, the Line 3 Replacement Project can be peaceful or it can become a flashpoint. Which one depends on the respect given to a trustworthy, inclusive, and legitimate public process.
This other view is the opinion of the editorial board of our sister publication, the Duluth News Tribune.