Daily Digest: Setback for Line 3

Good morning. Here’s your Tuesday Digest to get the day started.

1. Court backs Line 3 opponents on need for further review. In a victory for Line 3 oil pipeline opponents, the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday reversed the state Public Utilities Commission’s approval of the Line 3 replacement project’s environmental review, saying it didn’t adequately address the potential impact of a spill in the Lake Superior watershed. Last June, the PUC approved Enbridge Energy’s plan to replace its aging Line 3 oil pipeline, which has been transporting oil across northern Minnesota from Alberta, Canada, since the 1960s. As part of that process, the PUC approved an environmental impact statement — a review of potential impacts the project might have on the surrounding environment. The environmental groups Friends of the Headwaters and Honor the Earth, as well as the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, the White Earth Band of Ojibwe and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians appealed the PUC’s decision to approve that environmental impact statement. They argued that the environmental review of the Line 3 project did not adequately analyze the potential impacts of oil spills along the route or the potential harm to tribal resources. (MPR News)

2. How will the session impact coming elections. Maneuvering for political advantage from the Minnesota Legislature’s session began even before the final whack of the gavel on May 25. Both parties are recruiting candidates, devising campaign themes and targeting districts for Nov. 3, 2020, when every seat in both chambers will be on the ballot. But the consequences could stretch far beyond the next election. The GOP has a 35-32 margin in the Senate. The DFL reclaimed power in the House last year and has 75 members to Republicans’ 59. If the GOP wins back the House and retains the Senate, it could block DFL Gov. Tim Walz’s agenda and steer redistricting after next year’s census. If Democrats take over, the governor’s priorities could advance largely unimpeded. Both sides believe the overtime session gave them a strong case to make to voters. (Star Tribune)

3. No vetoes in sight. Something was absent from this year’s meeting of the Minnesota Legislature: Vetoes. The first year of Gov. Tim Walz’s term was veto-free. That’s the first time since 1978 that has occurred. “I think that’s a good thing,” Walz said in a recent interview of his reluctance to strike down bills. Walz allowed every bill sent his way to become law, signing the final batch of budget bills late last week without any line-item vetoes. (MPR News)

4. An environmental scorecard for the session. There was a lot of give-and-take at the last minute between Minnesota’s DFL-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate this legislative session. Environmental, energy and natural resources issues took a back seat to the overall budget negotiations, as legislators spent most of their energy on passing a spending plan that will keep state government running for the next two years. Many of the bills under consideration — including those with provisions on environment, energy and natural resources — were agreed upon behind closed doors and then sent to the House and Senate floors for last-minute votes during a special session. Reporters on MPR News’ regional and environmental team have been keeping track of many of the bills under consideration this session. Here’s a final accounting of what passed, what failed and what changed. (MPR News)

5. Twin Cities-to-Duluth rail backers undettered. Breakthrough funding for the proposed $550-million passenger rail line between the Twin Ports and Minneapolis will have to wait for at least another year after the Minnesota Legislature last week failed to address the project. Funding for the Northern Lights Express passenger rail line ultimately landed in a proposed off-year bonding bill. The bill was never taken up in a special session which yielded a bipartisan state budget. None of the budget’s fine print was aimed at Northern Lights Express. The lack of state funding means there will be no federal grant submissions this year. Federal funding is anticipated to pay for the majority of the project on an 80-20 scale, but committed state dollars are a requirement in order to unlock federal funds. Still, project leaders told the News Tribune they were undeterred by the outcome. “It’s not totally unexpected,” Bob Manzoline said. “The good news is that there were things to get excited about — the governor included us in his budget, along with a house bill — so we’re very encouraged.” (Duluth News Tribune)

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