Walz: Enbridge now needs a ‘social permit’

Enbridge Energy has operated a crude oil pipeline — called Line 3 — across northern Minnesota since the 1960s. It begins in Canada and ends at a terminal in Superior, Wis. The oil is processed by refineries in the Midwest that turn it into many products, including gasoline.

Line 3 is subject to cracking and corrosion because of its age. Enbridge wants to replace it so that it can keep the crude flowing to the refineries, pump at full capacity and operate safely. Which all makes sense.

It also makes sense to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which approved replacing Line 3. It said the Canadian-based company has met its requirements for the project to move ahead.

But under former Gov. Mark Dayton’s watch, his Commerce Department objected. It believes Enbridge failed to provide some long-range forecasts to establish the project’s need. Dayton’s successor, Tim Walz, this week chose to continue the Commerce Department appeal.

We believe Walz’s decision is a politically motivated mistake. While Walz touted “the process, the law and the science” in making his announcement, he revealed his true motive farther down in his press release, arguing the following: “As I often say, projects like these don’t only need a building permit to go forward, they also need a social permit.”

Is that really the standard in law? Because it is no standard at all. It is devoid of any meaning, except to the speaker himself. It could mean anything. (Convenient for a politician, we suppose.)

Our best guess on this one is that Walz knows the Enbridge project meets the criteria for approval and should be allowed to move forward. But some people don’t like it, because they are radical environmentalists, anti-industrialists or have deluded themselves into believing humans are not going to remain dependent on oil and gasoline for the foreseeable future. They are wrong and so is Walz.