By Priya Dalal-Whelan, Maddy Fernands and Shahad Geer
February 5, 2019
In his first week in office, Gov. Tim Walz met with us and 150+ other youth concerned about the threats posed by climate change to our future. He declared that he “ran unabashedly that climate change will kill the planet and stop our futures … we must act boldly to move forward on that.” We welcomed his declaration, but the following day we learned he was reconsidering the Minnesota Department of Commerce (DOC) appeal against the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Line 3 pipeline decision — an action that could lead to exacerbating climate change and endangering our future.
Building Line 3 would ensure long-term fossil fuel dependence precisely when we urgently need to reduce carbon emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently concluded that we have less than 12 years to fully transition to renewable energy if we are to avoid the worst impacts, societal disruption, and calamitous costs of climate change. In other words, this governor’s term coincides with an unparalleled watershed moment for humanity. We hope he sees that as clearly as we do. He can either step up to lead Minnesota’s transition to a sustainable future. Or not. If he intends the former, there is no question what he must do regarding this pipeline.
The new Line 3 would carry 760,000 barrels daily of heavy bitumen, the dirtiest, most emission-intensive form of oil, over its lifespan of 60 years. It would cause an estimated $287 billion in damages from its predicted carbon generation. Enbridge argues the existing Line 3 must be replaced, but there are five additional pipelines serving similar routes and the DOC concluded that Midwest refineries have sufficient crude oil supplies and little capacity for expanding processing. The DOC appeal asserted that Enbridge Energy hadn’t provided adequate projections of long-term oil demand, required under state law. Significantly, it didn’t project how demand might be impacted by climate change circumstances. In approving Line 3, the PUC essentially denied basic climate models — turning its back on science.
Beyond its disastrous climate impacts, Line 3 would pose extreme risks to indigenous treaty lands, pristine northern waters, and sacred wild rice beds. The pipeline would perpetuate our shameful history of stealing indigenous lands and violating indigenous rights. Many indigenous communities vehemently oppose this pipeline, yet they have been widely ignored.
Given the possible bold actions on climate change this governor could take, allowing the DOC appeal to proceed is a minimum possible step. Short of bold, It would be simply respecting the expertise of DOC professionals who have invested thousands of hours in researching this proposal and striving to fulfill their agency mission “to protect the public interest … and strengthen the state’s economic future.” For the governor, rescinding the appeal would fundamentally contradict his statements about the need to take bold climate action, protect indigenous rights, and stand with future generations.
Instead of allowing the construction of unnecessary fossil-fuel infrastructure, Walz should prioritize investing in the renewable sector that brings long-term jobs, innovation, and prosperity to our state. He told the youth that he intended to “creat[e] new opportunities, new jobs, more prosperous communities … [while] trying to clean the environment.” If true, then he should not simply greenlight the DOC appeal, but stop Line 3 construction. Imagine the impact if even a portion of Enbridge’s proposed $7.5 billion investment in Line 3 were redirected into renewable infrastructure development, job creation, new technologies, and innovations in industrial, building, agricultural, and transportation sectors.
Walz also assured us he was concerned for climate change as “… the parent of a 12- and 18-year-old … someone who has watched this issue continue to get worse, [and hopes] to inspire us in what we need to do to change.” Again, we appreciated his words, but at this pivotal moment, words are not enough. We are urgently waiting for this governor to show us that he stands with youth, indigenous people, scientists, and Minnesotans by letting the DOC appeal proceed, listening to indigenous leaders, and prioritizing Minnesota’s full and expedient transition to renewable energy. We hope Walz will be a bold, visionary leader who guides our state toward a sustainable, prosperous future, and not the leader who goes down in history for allowing the state to proceed toward devastation.
Lia Harel, Isra Hirsi, Anna Grace Hottinger, Sophia Manolis, and Henri Nguyen also contributed to this article. Priya Dalal-Whelan is a junior at Perpich High School, Maddy Fernands is a sophomore at Edina High School, Shahad Geer is a sophomore at Roosevelt High School, Lia Harel is a senior at Hopkins High School, Isra Hirsi is a sophomore at South High School, Anna Grace Hottinger is a sophomore at Edvisions Off Campus High School, Sophia Manolis is a senior at South High School, and Henri Nguyen is a junior at Southwest High School. These students all work together in a youth-led climate coalition called Minnesota Can’t Wait.