Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton made some statements and demands to the DFL state legislature on tarsands pipeline safety that are a baby step towards winning over younger voters and environmental activists in what is projected to be a close election contest this year.
I noticed this blurb printed in my hometown's newspaper, the Bemidji Pioneer:
Pipelines took the spotlight in late-session negotiations.What's really needed is a significant tax on each gallon of tar sands crude that passes through Minnesotan pipelines that can be either a strong disincentive for Enbridge to build new pipelines or expand capacity on existing pipelines that threaten Minnesota's northern lakes and Mississippi headwaters, or would be sufficient to replace them with brand new ones when the inevitable pipeline disasters occur.
A budget bill that wrapped up early Friday includes $3.75 million to increase training and buy equipment for first responders such as fire departments to deal with potential oil spills from pipelines. The money would come from assessments placed on pipeline companies.
The bill already contained more than $8 million for training and equipment where oil-carrying trains travel. The rail provision also would add two or three railroad inspectors to the one the state already employs.
About 900,000 Minnesotans live near oil pipelines, and many more live near railroad tracks where oil trains travel. Most oil trains go through Moorhead, St. Cloud and the Twin Cities, but trains do travel other parts of the state.
House Transportation Finance Chairman Frank Hornstein, D-Minneapolis, said a key part of the bill requires the state Public Safety Department to study oil transportation safety —including trains, pipelines, trucks and boats —and provide information next year to legislators about what else needs to be done.
The House wanted the pipeline safety provision, but the Senate included no funding. Budget negotiators opted to include pipeline safety after Dayton piped up and demanded it.
The bill containing the oil pipeline safety items was an overall budget bill that increases spending $262 million in a $39 billion, two-year budget..
Nothing short of ending the transport of climate destroying tar sands through the state will please some of the most determined activists, but fully insuring our lakes and rivers against tar sands and climate disruption would go a great distance towards winning over duck hunters, fisherman, and people who boat and swim in the state.
There is time yet for Democrats like Dayton and Duluth Mayor Don Ness to come around to the populist position of preserving the water resources that residents of Minneapolis/St. Paul and suburbs drink, and that give the state its character, and to abandon their service to foreign corporations lethally exploiting tar sands and lax safety standards.
UPDATE: I am now finding the language that really caught my eye in the print edition. The Bemidji Pioneer is hard to search online, and probably not well indexed by google.
Gov. Mark Dayton said on Wednesday he was "appalled" at a lack of Minnesota Senate support for tougher safety regulations on oil pipelines, calling it one of the worst aspects of the recently completed 2014 legislative session.
"I'm at a loss to understand why, particularly in the Senate, key senators decided to side with the pipeline companies rather than the public safety," he said in a phone press conference with reporters.
Dayton said in the event he faces political retaliation from those companies for his support of stronger pipeline rules, he's prepared.
"I'll be glad to have a public conversation with them about why they want to be exempted from the basic safety standards that we're establishing for transport of volatile and flammable liquids through our state," he said. "If they want to go after me, I'll be ready."
Pipeline operator Enbridge Energy is the process of expanding or upgrading three of its oil lines that run through northern Minnesota.