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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Democratic presidential candidates are starting to visit the Midwest to campaign and secure votes ahead of the 2020 election. Earlier this week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren made her first appearance in St. Paul at Macalester College in Minnesota for an hour-long speech about policy prescriptions to economic inequality and political corruption. But it was a social media post right before her campaign speech that had the most consequential meaning for the state and region. 

Ms. Warren weighed in on plans to rebuild a pipeline running through Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota 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” prior to her Macalester visit. 


This makes Ms. Warren the third Democratic presidential candidate to comment on rebuilding the pipeline. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee both also voiced opposition to rebuilding Line 3 earlier this year.

As former governor of Wisconsin, I know the impact pipelines have on the states they operate in and the rigorous safety and environmental standards that must be adhered to. Before a project can begin, it has to undergo and pass an Environmental Impact Statement that abides by strict guidelines and takes an average of three years to complete. The review process is a collaboration between the Environmental Protection Agency and the public to ensure every stakeholder’s needs are satisfied. And I know firsthand that Wisconsin families, farmers and businesses wouldn’t succeed without access to affordable, reliable and safe sources of energy to fuel their lives and work.

Pipelines aren’t just important for the state of Wisconsin, but they are an essential part of the American energy infrastructure system to power the lives of all Americans. There are more than 2.5 million miles of pipelines in the U.S. that safely deliver trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of billions of ton/miles of liquid petroleum products each and every year.

They’re also more efficient than other forms of transport like railroad and tanker trucks, and according to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), pipeline systems are the safest means to move these products. The updated pipeline will be a safer alternative that better protects the environment of our beautiful state.

Maintaining our nation’s pipelines and energy infrastructure isn’t a partisan issue where I’m from, either. Many Democrats and unions support projects like Line 3 in Minnesota, as was evident from the responses to Ms. Warren’s recent tweet. 

Kevin Pranis, spokesman for the Laborers’ International Union of North America-Minnesota and North Dakota, hinted that Ms. Warren is out of touch with voters in the state since Line 3 construction will boost job numbers, especially for his union, in a comment to the MinnPost. “We encourage all of the presidential candidates to talk to us and to other stakeholders and to better educate themselves about these issues before rushing to judgment,” Mr. Pranis said.

I agree with Mr. Pranis on this point. Ms. Warren and all the other Democratic presidential candidates should get all the facts before making proclamations that could undermine our nation’s energy system and threaten the safe, accessible energy sources that are the Midwest and entire country depends on.

• Scott McCallum is the former president and CEO of Aidmatrix Foundation Inc., a global nonprofit technology firm that specialized in humanitarian relief efforts. He served as the 43rd governor of Wisconsin from 2001 to 2003.


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