I strongly disagree with the decision made by Governor Walz to hold a contested case hearing on a simple water quality permit for the Line 3 replacement project. This is a basic construction permit, one that is issued for many other kinds of infrastructure projects. I understand the justification raised due to the Polymet permit decision on contested case hearings, but do not agree that this step was necessary in this case.
Governor Walz has committed to us privately, to our membership and to me, on several occasions that he would follow the process for the Line 3 replacement project and would not change it. He has also said that publicly. There has never been a contested case hearing for this type of water quality permit for any other project that we are aware of. This is a clear deviation from the process and it will hold up construction for another three months. In my view this was a choice, not a requirement.
Northern Minnesota is hurting badly. Thousands of people whose livelihood depends on economic activity generated from the mines are out of work. We have a pandemic that has crippled the hospitality industry. Local governments are in trouble because of lack of tax revenue. People in these communities are desperate for good news, something to give them hope that jobs are coming back soon.
A private company wants to invest $2.6 billion to build an infrastructure project in Northern Minnesota. They want to replace a sixty year old pipeline with a brand new one. This project is supported by every local county and city in the area where the project will be built. Construction workers and their families, bars and restaurants, hotels, equipment dealers, material suppliers, and local governments that desperately need tax revenue will all benefit tremendously. Instead of throwing up hurdles and changing the process to create delay, the state of Minnesota should be doing what it can to swiftly move permits through the legal process in place.
This state doesn’t seem to have a sense of urgency about job creation. We don’t have a bonding bill right now. Line 3 is six years into review with no certainty. Polymet mining permits were overturned on ridiculous technicalities after ten plus years of review. Twin Metals Mining isn’t even being allowed to begin to study their project.
Enough is enough. Minnesota needs to get serious about economic development. The government needs to allow business to proceed with certainty. Politics need to be removed from infrastructure project permitting and job creation. No more excuses, no more politics – Minnesota’s elected officials from both sides of the aisle need to quit playing games and do something to get this economy going again.