SEVERE WX : Severe Thunderstorm Watch - Severe Thunderstorm Warning View Alerts

Minnesota oil pipeline fight highlights Democratic dilemmas

A divisive fight over the future of a crude-oil pipeline across Minnesota is pinning presidential candidates between environmentalists and trade unions in a 2020 battleground state, testing their campaign promises to ease away from fossil fuels.

Posted: Sep 9, 2019 9:53 AM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A divisive fight over the future of a crude-oil pipeline across Minnesota is pinning presidential candidates between environmentalists and trade unions in a 2020 battleground state, testing their campaign promises to ease away from fossil fuels.

Progressive candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have condemned a Canadian company's plan to replace its old and deteriorating Line 3 pipeline, which carries Canadian crude across the forests and wetlands of northern Minnesota and into northern Wisconsin. They've sided with environmental and tribal groups that have been trying to stop the project for years, arguing that the oil should stay in the ground.

Other candidates — including home-state Sen. Amy Klobuchar and front-runner Joe Biden — have remained largely silent, mindful that such projects are viewed as job creators for some of the working-class voters they may need to win the state next year.

The fight illustrates a hard reality behind the Democratic candidates' rhetoric on climate change. For months, Democrats vying for the White House have sounded strikingly progressive on the issue, endorsing ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions and putting forward sweeping proposals for investing in the green jobs of the future. But the debate often glosses over the harder, more immediate choices between union jobs and phasing out fossil fuels. Those fights often divide Democrats and may create an opening for President Donald Trump.

Enbridge Energy's Line 3 project has generated opposition on two main grounds: that the oil it would carry would aggravate climate change and that it would risk spills in pristine areas of the Mississippi River headwaters where Native Americans harvest wild rice. Enbridge says replacing the 1960s-era pipeline, which is increasingly prone to corrosion and cracking, will be safer for the environment while allowing it to restore the line's original capacity and ensure reliable deliveries to refineries. Labor unions, once the bedrock of Democrats' support in northern Minnesota, backed the plan on the promise it will create scores of new jobs.

Regulators in Canada, North Dakota and Wisconsin have given the necessary approvals, and some work on those segments already has been completed. In Minnesota, the Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge is still waiting for permits while court challenges play out.

While it waits, the pipeline has become a political weapon. Democrats and Republicans in Minnesota are in a tug of war over working-class, rural voters needed to win statewide. Trump won enough of those voters to come within just 1.52 percentage points — fewer than 45,000 votes — of beating Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. He has said repeatedly he intends to win Minnesota in 2020, something not done by a Republican since Richard Nixon in 1972.

While Trump hasn't taken a specific stand on Line 3, he's made it clear that he's all for oil pipelines. Soon after taking office, he signed executive actions to advance the highly disputed Keystone XL and Dakota Access projects, vowing, "From now on we are going to start making pipelines in the United States." He backed that up in April with more orders to assert presidential power over cross-border pipelines and to make it harder for states to block them over environmental concerns.

Some Democratic candidates have been eager to draw a contrast. Sanders, a Vermont senator, was the first to come out against Line 3. In January, he tweeted a video of himself listening to indigenous activists about the proposal and wrote: "The dangerous Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota would send a million barrels of tar sands oil — the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world — through the headwaters of the Mississippi River, tribal treaty lands and sacred wild rice beds. It must be stopped."

Warren, a senator from Massachusetts, weighed in just ahead of a recent visit to Minnesota by tweeting: "The Line 3 pipeline would threaten Minnesota's public waters, lands, and agricultural areas important to several Tribal Nations. I'm with @MN_350 and Minnesota organizers fighting to #StopLine3 and protect our environment."

She was referring to MN350, a climate change group that's part of the opposition. Its spokesman, Brent Benson, called on other candidates who've spoken out against climate change to oppose Line 3, too.

"It's folly to be promoting fossil fuel infrastructure in the middle of a climate crisis," Benson said. "Presidential candidates have an opportunity and a duty to point that out."

Other Democrats have not taken clear positions on the project. The campaigns of Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg did not respond to repeated requests for comment. A spokesman for Sen. Kamala Harris of California didn't address whether she has a position on Line 3, but pointed out that she opposed the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

Klobuchar has also avoided taking a position. She has said she wants to ensure a thorough environmental and scientific review to determine if the Line 3 project should move forward. Minnesota regulators signed off on the main environmental review last year, although an appeals court has ordered additional study on the potential impacts to the Lake Superior watershed. But she recently returned $5,600 in donations from an Enbridge project manager after a liberal watchdog group, the Public Accountability Initiative, revealed them.

In contrast to the divided Democrats, Minnesota Republicans have made it clear that they support Line 3, and that they see it as a winning strategy for 2020, coupled with other issues that split Democrats along ideological and geographic lines, such as copper-nickel mining in northeastern Minnesota.

Just before her visit to Minnesota, Warren also tweeted her opposition to a proposed Twin Metals mine near Ely. Like her position against Line 3, it drew an angry response from labor unions.

"Why would you want to be against something that will create so many jobs, and living (wage) jobs, within an area that desperately needs it?" Mike Syversrud, president of the Iron Range Building and Construction Trades Council, told the online news site MinnPost.

When Republican Jason Lewis launched his U.S. Senate campaign at the Minnesota State Fair, the former congressman said he would focus on greater Minnesota — the mostly rural part outside the Minneapolis-St. Paul area — to make up for Democratic strength in the cities. He highlighted the 8th Congressional District, which covers northeastern Minnesota and has swung from blue to red. Lewis said Trump's campaign is "dead serious about Minnesota," and that he expects it to follow the same strategy.

"Greater Minnesota is turning red, deep red. ... I don't know how a Democrat's going to win the 8th District promising to give pink slips to every trade union member on the Iron Range, promising to stop Enbridge, to stop copper mining, to stop logging, to stop people from having jobs on the Iron Range," Lewis said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 26273

Reported Deaths: 1126
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin8867641
Ramsey3252140
Stearns205014
Nobles15625
Anoka148878
Dakota141464
Washington68034
Olmsted67211
Kandiyohi5111
Rice4833
Scott4602
Clay44129
Mower4062
Wright3392
Todd3361
Sherburne2482
Carver2322
Benton1823
Steele1670
Blue Earth1480
Freeborn1420
Martin1325
St. Louis11814
Pine930
Nicollet8811
Lyon811
Winona8015
Cottonwood790
Watonwan780
Crow Wing774
Unassigned7511
Carlton750
Otter Tail730
Goodhue715
Chisago641
Polk612
Itasca5610
Dodge530
Chippewa521
Morrison480
Le Sueur461
Meeker460
Douglas450
Becker430
Jackson420
Murray400
McLeod390
Isanti360
Waseca270
Pennington230
Rock230
Mille Lacs231
Faribault200
Swift190
Beltrami180
Wabasha180
Fillmore171
Sibley160
Brown162
Norman150
Pipestone120
Marshall120
Kanabec121
Wilkin113
Cass112
Aitkin110
Wadena100
Pope100
Koochiching90
Big Stone80
Redwood70
Renville70
Mahnomen61
Lincoln60
Yellow Medicine60
Grant40
Traverse40
Red Lake40
Lac qui Parle30
Clearwater30
Roseau30
Hubbard30
Houston20
Kittson10
Lake10
Stevens10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 20767

Reported Deaths: 583
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk4541137
Woodbury283737
Black Hawk177548
Buena Vista9971
Linn97179
Dallas94025
Marshall91218
Wapello62814
Johnson6189
Muscatine56541
Crawford5472
Tama41029
Scott38010
Dubuque35521
Louisa34911
Pottawattamie31110
Sioux2980
Jasper26917
Wright2120
Washington1958
Warren1661
Plymouth1462
Story1261
Allamakee1204
Mahaska9912
Poweshiek928
Henry722
Bremer706
Boone700
Des Moines671
Clarke660
Clinton651
Taylor640
Webster621
Hamilton610
Guthrie543
Cedar491
Benton431
Monroe415
Shelby370
Cherokee370
Jones370
Jefferson350
Marion350
Osceola340
Clayton343
Cerro Gordo331
Iowa330
Dickinson330
Buchanan330
Madison292
Lee290
Fayette280
Sac280
Davis280
Harrison260
Monona250
Clay250
Lyon240
Winneshiek240
Emmet240
Lucas222
Hardin210
Grundy200
Mills200
Delaware191
Humboldt191
Floyd191
Franklin170
Appanoose173
Hancock160
Butler161
Ida150
Greene150
Pocahontas150
Page140
Kossuth140
Keokuk140
Audubon131
Jackson130
Carroll130
Chickasaw130
Howard120
Cass120
Winnebago110
Montgomery91
Adair90
Union90
Van Buren90
Adams70
Palo Alto70
Calhoun60
Ringgold40
Mitchell40
Fremont40
Worth30
Wayne10
Decatur10
Unassigned00
Rochester
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 68°
Mason City
Broken Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
Albert Lea
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 70°
Austin
Scattered Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 72°
Charles City
Broken Clouds
68° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 68°
Another round of severe weather tonight
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Covid-19 Cases on the Rise

Image

Becoming a better ally

Image

Giving your best

Image

Coronavirus attacking your blood vessels?

Image

Young Protester's impact on police reform

Image

How important are school resource officers?

Image

bri first at 4

Image

Graffiti on Rochester trail

Image

Expedited breast cancer treatment

Image

Stock market makes a comeback

Community Events