Dayton threatens to veto pipeline bill

Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he’ll veto a bill to authorize a replacement of the Line 3 oil pipeline in northern Minnesota if the Legislature tries to preempt the normal state approval process.

Enbridge Energy  is planning to replace the line that runs from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin. Minnesota regulators have been reviewing the proposed Line 3 replacement since 2015. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is slated to decide on it in June.

But a bill heading to the Minnesota House floor would bypass the PUC and grant that approval in law.

Dayton said it’s unacceptable.

“This one is just ridiculous. I mean just to say say the Legislature is going to just take it over, and Enbridge can do whatever they want and it’s approved? That doesn’t take us back to the 20th century, that takes us back to the 19th century.”

The bill cleared the House Job Growth and Energy Committee Tuesday.

Its sponsor, Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, said his constituents in northwest Minnesota want the pipeline built.

“And this project will create many much needed jobs and economic activity, and not only will it create jobs but it’s going to sustain a lot of jobs up there and economic activity in northern Minnesota.”

His constituents in northern Minnesota overwhelmingly support the pipeline, Fabian said. He expressed concern about leaving the decision to the Public Utilities Commission, whose five members all live in the Twin Cities metro area, he said, far from where the pipeline would be built.

“I don’t believe it’s a technical choice at this point,” Fabian said. “I’m concerned it’s becoming a political choice.”

But opponents who testified against the proposal argue it would upend the regulatory process they’ve engaged in, which has included dozens of public meetings across the state.

“We have a system of checks and balances to protect people and land” argued Michele Anne Naar of Duluth. “This is a shame” to bypass that process in favor of a Canadian oil company, she argued.

The bill cleared the committee on a split voice vote despite more than 20 people testifying against it.

Reporter Dan Kraker contributed to this story.