Minnesota Needs A Climate Champion

Stop new fossil fuel infrastructure

Grade: F

*Building the Line 3 tar sands pipeline will create more emissions than the total of all current MN emissions combined.

Investments in new infrastructure should be made with the climate in mind. When we build without considering climate, we delay needed action AND increase long-term costs. The grades given to Gov. Walz in the categories above generally describe missed opportunities to go forward in reducing emissions. But we must also avoid going backward and making the problem worse. Continued investments in infrastructure that supports the burning of fossil fuels makes it harder — and more expensive — to move toward a cleaner future. 

As one example, we continue to build in ways that will require future energy efficiency renovations. The climate crisis will force us to rebuild differently. When it comes to infrastructure that lasts for years, it would be much cheaper to “build it right” in the first place. Other examples include more oil pipelines, extending (natural) fossil gas pipelines and more highway lanes in the metro area. 

The climate crisis will force us to invest in alternatives to these expensive and outdated systems. Mainstream economists are increasingly concerned that such infrastructure will shortly become “stranded assets.” This predictable future should guide us to spend precious dollars on the alternatives like solar, wind, battery storage and BRT that have a longer lifespan and a better return on investment.

What Governor Walz has done:

  • Approved the Line 3 pipeline. The MPCA, whose commissioner reports to Gov.Walz, has provided the final permits needed for Line 3 pipeline expansion. This pipeline is now under construction despite the clear climate damage it will cause. It is the equivalent of building 50 new coal fired plants. It is a threat to our waters, crossing more than 200 water bodies, and violates treaty rights. The Red Lake and White Earth Nations, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, environmental groups and the Youth Climate Intervenors are currently challenging the project in court. The Minnesota Department of Commerce is also challenging the Public Utilities Commission’s approval of a certificate of need for the project since Minnesotans don’t need the oil the pipeline will carry. 
  • Failed to Side With Communities Opposing Highway Expansions. America has a long, unjust history of deliberately locating highways through communities of color. President Biden has explicitly acknowledged this history. In Minnesota, this tragic pattern of discrimination includes I-94 and I-35W through St. Paul and Minneapolis. When this is done to a community, two groups of injustices are committed. First, there was the immediate destruction of Black wealth and significant dispersing of Black populations. Second, there are the ongoing injustices of disproportionately poisoning people of color who live along the highway and failing to provide quality transit options even though these dense populations are the least expensive to serve. Currently, two separate expansions of I-94 are being considered in St. Paul and Minneapolis, which would double down on the initial crime, bringing more traffic and more air pollution to communities already disproportionately burdened. These expansions are being considered despite the fact that City Councils of both Saint Paul and Minneapolis have voted unanimously to reject fiscally and environmentally irresponsible highway expansions and instead demand BRT to increase choices for travelers. 
  • Failed to publicly oppose new fossil gas plants or direct agencies to oppose new fossil gas plants as described here.
  • Promoted the E-15 ethanol mandate as described here.

What Governor Walz should do:

  • Take bold action to stop on Line 3 and protect Minnesotans from its harmful effects.
  • Revoke Enbridge Energy’s permits for Line 3 as Michigan’s Gov. Whitmer has done for Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline. Direct the MPCA to enter into settlement negotiations on the water crossing permit currently at the Court of Appeals and revoke the permit while in negotiations.
  • Stay construction of Line 3 pending the outcome of ongoing legal appeals. 
  • Appoint Public Utilities Commissioners who are prepared to take actions needed to address the climate crisis.
  • Direct MNDOT to listen to cities and communities opposed to highway expansions and instead make immediate plans to design BRT to serve those corridors. Develop proposals to compete for federal infrastructure funds for BRT on these corridors, just like Minnesota successfully did for communities along 35W to the southern suburbs. 
  • Start immediately by supporting HF 1759 / HF 1810 authored by Rep. Esther Agbaje and Sen. Bobby Joe Champion 
  • Direct agencies to oppose construction of new fossil gas plants and pipelines as they do not fit into his goal of 100% clean energy by 2040.
  • Direct agencies to stop pushing for increased ethanol mandates and instead aggressively push for vehicle electrification.

More benefits for all Minnesotans:

Support Native rights. Revoking the Line 3 permit would demonstrate to tribal communities who oppose Line 3 that Gov. Walz has heard their concerns, including their rights to wild rice harvests. A majority of the MPCA’s Environmental Justice Advisory Board resigned in protest of that agency’s decision to approve Line 3.