A Sept. 12 editorial (“Stalemates continue in D.C., St. Paul”) deals with the Minnesota Senate’s rejection of Gov. Tim Walz’s appointment of Steve Kelley as commerce commissioner. The Editorial Board would have us believe that the reason for the rejection by the Republican-led Senate was the body’s opposition to the extension of Walz’s emergency powers in responding to the pandemic.
“The notion that Senate Republicans could punish Walz by axing one of his commissioner’s every time he extends the power exercised by nearly every other governor in the country takes polarization to new lows,” the Editorial Board wrote.
Oh really? In fact, the Senate’s rejection of Kelley was the result of the Commerce Department twice appealing the decision of the Public Utilities Commission approving Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement pipeline. We beg to refresh the institutional memory of the Editorial Board:
In March 2018, the PUC approved the Environmental Impact Statement and granted a Certificate of Need for the Line 3 pipeline. Then Gov. Mark Dayton appealed PUC’s decision. In February 2019, Walz announced that his new administration would continue the court challenge.
In a March 2019 editorial the board wrote: “For safety’s sake, let Enbridge build.” Delay, it said, will mean even higher rail shipments of oil that “travels some of the most densely populated areas of the state, posing a potential environmental disaster should there by a derailment. ... Walz and the Commerce Department should drop the court challenge and allow the project to proceed.”
In February 2020, the PUC approved Line 3 a second time, the result of six years of public hearings and a 13,500 page EIS. Yet, in a stunning display of political partisanship and indifference, Walz and Kelley announced that they would again appeal PUC’s approval of Enbridge’s plan to replace Line 3, a $2.9 billion project creating 4,200 well-paying union jobs, that will generate an additional $19.5 million in property taxes that Enbridge will pay the counties and state, in addition to the $34.5 million it already pays annually on Line 3.
We recently suggested in letters published in a number of outstate newspapers that Walz should ask for the resignation of Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley. Thanks to the Senate, that is no longer necessary. Now Walz should end his opposition to the Line 3 pipeline by promptly withdrawing the state’s pending appeal in the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
Gerald M. Tyler, of Ely, is chairman of Up North Jobs Inc., a nonprofit supporting economic development in northeastern Minnesota.