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The Administrative Law Judge in the case filed by Friends of the Headwaters against Enbridge is currently hearing Public Comments and our chance to speak in Bemidji happens tomorrow.  So while Dan and I had a really wonderful trip out to Missoula and to Denver to visit Tom and Celia, we had to cut our trip short to be home in time to prepare our remarks for and attend the Public Hearing.  [The blog on the adventures out West will follow this week’s timely topic.]

I decided that my focus for the Public Hearing will be on the fact that we cannot afford to pull any more fossil fuels out of the ground.  We need to leave most of what remains in the ground if we hope to have a planet that is livable for humans in the long run.  Here is what I plan to present:

In 2012, Bill McKibben wrote an article entitled “Do the Math” to simplify the then current situation with regard to fossil fuels on Planet Earth.  He explained that, if 2°C is the maximum we can increase global temperature and maintain a livable planet, we could only put 565 more gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere. At that time we had 2,795 gigatons of carbon in proven coal and oil and gas reserves meaning we were planning to burn 5 TIMES the amount that would allow us to maintain a planet which supports life for humans.

Fast forward to 2016 for Bill’s update article entitled “Recalculating the Climate Math” after a study by Oil Change International in partnership with 14 organizations from around the world recommended three things: 1) No new fossil fuel extraction or transportation infrastructure should be built and governments should grant no new permits for them. 2) Some fields and mines – primarily in rich countries – should be closed before fully exploiting their resources, and financial support should be provided for non-carbon development in poorer countries. 3) This does not mean stopping using all fossil fuels overnight. Governments and companies should conduct a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry and ensure a just transition for the workers and communities that depend on it.

Bill concluded: If we’re serious about preventing catastrophic warming, the new study shows, we can’t dig any new coal mines, drill any new fields, build any more pipelines. Not a single one. We’re done expanding the fossil fuel frontier. Our only hope is a swift, managed decline in the production of all carbon-based energy from the fields we’ve already put in production.

Meanwhile, we’re finding that the effects of increasing CO2 are far worse than predicted.  You may have noticed the increasing ferocity of Hurricanes and Forest Fires which are not only devastating infrastructure but also killing more and more people.  Scientists now agree a more reasonable target for maximum global temperature rise is 1.5°C which will require significantly less fossil fuel usage in order to maintain a livable atmosphere.

The state of Minnesota has been a leader in this nation, more recently with decisions on gay marriage and health care.  As ideas and opinions change over time, in the end, Time reveals what is best and true for our country.  Scientific development often leads the way and the science is telling us the era of fossil fuels is over.  We need to abandon pipeline efforts in Minnesota and focus on the true future of our nation and our world, conservation and energy alternatives. The future is NOT fossil fuels. Every week we hear of another car company vowing to build only electric vehicles in the very near future; another major user marching away from the fossil fuel industry.

Minnesotans already lead in reduced greenhouse gas emissions by having more E85 refueling stations than any other state.  Minnesota is also a leader in wind power generating over 9% of our electricity with this renewable resource.  Let’s keep growing our alternative energies and be a leader in abandoning the dying fossil fuel industry by saying “NO to Line 3”, “NO” to Enbridge.

Dan’s focus will be on jobs.  There has been a lot of propaganda in the papers regarding the number of jobs that Line 3 will provide but we’re finding that Enbridge’s own numbers contradict what is being promoted by Jobs for Minnesotans which is a lobbying group consisting of the MN Building and Construction Trades Council and the MN Chamber of Commerce.  Their website states: “Combining the state’s rich heritage in natural resources with modern technology and workforce expertise, mining and energy transportation projects can significantly increase jobs and economic development for the state while protecting Minnesota’s water and great outdoors.”  However, their focus seems to be on mineral extraction and energy transport with the environment being an afterthought, if truly given any consideration at all.

In fact, there was a study – requested by Apex, a local business booster – and conducted by University of Minnesota Duluth Labovitz School of Business and Economics, that says of itself: “The study… looked only at the economic impact of the project and gave the caveat that ‘this analysis does not consider the social or environmental impacts of the project and should not be viewed as a cost-benefit analysis or environmental impact assessment.’”  So, it’s clear that they cherry-pick the data to give a good economical showing for these projects while ignoring the more important social and environmental aspects.  I believe most citizens would agree that clean water and air and fair treatment of all citizens, not giving some more protections than others, are far more important than mere money… especially when that money is primarily going to big corporations and not us everyday citizens.  Fun Fact: The best part of the Study to read is Appendix C which describes the assumptions used by the software, most of which are not applicable to a real-world economy.

It was interesting to note that Enbridge only claims 1500 construction jobs will be created while local papers quote figures like 4200, half of which will be local jobs, or even as high as 8600!  Regardless, much of the work will be temporary with only a handful of permanent jobs resulting from the pipeline installation (I believe 31 was the final number I saw).  Interestingly, calculations made using Enbridge’s own estimates show ~8300 job would be generated to remove the old Line 3, 5.5X the jobs of construction!  If we also consider the three additional pipelines that will become obsolete in the near term, we can look at 20X the number of jobs in removing the old energy transport infrastructure than we get in constructing the pipeline.  Removal is where the jobs are, not construction.

Stop Line 3

Some say that this is a done deal… that Enbridge has already lined the proper pockets and the PUC will grant the Certificate of Need and the Route Permit so Enbridge can connect the already constructed pieces on either side of Minnesota.  Even though the Department of Commerce has officially  noted that Enbridge has not demonstrated a Need for the line. There is a piece of me that has listened to the ALJ Hearings to date online and has little hope.  To hear the Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly thanking people for their comments, often in a condescending or sing-song type voice, doesn’t seem to convey the respect for the public that she might be hoping to portray.

What gives me hope?  In a 10-9-17 presentation, the following was presented as a Summary of Commerce Testimony:

  • Enbridge testimony indicates continued operation of existing Line 3 if a CN is not granted despite extensive testimony about the risks of continued operation;
  • To date, Enbridge has not demonstrated need for the proposed project;
  • The PUC could determine that Enbridge has not demonstrated that the minimal benefits to Minnesota of the proposed project outweigh the high socioeconomic and environmental costs.

I guess at this point, we need to provide our testimony and then just wait and see what happens in 2018.