In a few weeks, The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will decide if Enbridge will be allowed to replace its Line 3 oil pipeline, an incredibly important energy resource for families, our economy, and the entire Midwest region.

If the project is approved, Minnesota will continue to have the dependable source of energy it has relied on for decades.  This pipeline will allow us to bridge time as technology and the marketplace continue to work to make green and other sources of energy more affordable.  Families across the state will immediately benefit from the jobs and work it will take to complete the project.  If the Line 3 replacement is rejected, access to energy will be disrupted in a way that will cause the price of heating oil, gas and diesel fuel to dramatically increase, triggering other negative impacts.  That WILL happen without abundant supply.

Approving this project is a major issue and the decision is supposed to be and should be made by focusing on facts, data, and other objective information.  Yet this week a group of religious leaders opposed to the project, used a petition to attempt reframe the decision-making process by calling this “a moral issue” and oppose the project.

As much as we believe and know that objective facts should matter most, viewing this as a moral issue is something we also agree with. The petition signers use an extremely narrow definition of morality to reach their opposing conclusion, ignoring what a holistic definition of morality would lead anyone to conclude.  Replacing Line 3 is not only needed, approving it is also the moral thing to do if we are truly committed to “make Minnesota a better home for everyone,” as the petition states.

While well-meaning, the people and groups who signed the petition are misguided by wanting the PUC to reject plans to replace Line 3. They are focusing on only one issue and the remotest possibility of what might happen in the future instead of and ignoring what the larger impacts are to our friends and families now, and for many years to come.

Their position is anchored and connected to the concept of minimizing human impact as a way to justify their collective opposition to pipelines.  At the same time, they are ignoring the ongoing need for energy we (and you) will continue to have for years to come.

While the faith leaders believe only focusing on remote future impacts is significant enough to establish “a moral status” for their position, there is an issue of even higher, broader importance in terms of morality.  Alex Epstein, founder of the Center for Industrial Progress describes it as, “maximizing human flourishing.”

Making sure more people continue to have access to the most economical and reliable sources of energy has allowed Minnesota and our country to flourish.  It is what helps people who are economically struggling be able to better pay their bills, be able to get to work, have the ability to heat their homes, and as a result be able to live the best possible quality of life available to them.

Reliable access to cost-effective energy is what makes it possible to live in Minnesota by making allowing for people to live and thrive in a state with a complex climate.  It helps families who choose to live in smaller communities while also supporting the active growth in our bigger cities as immigrants and others continue to change the face of Minnesota.

We take ALL of that into consideration and not just a narrow (minded) one when judging what to do or not do. To only use climate change topic as the only criteria to “achieve” a moral status for one view of an issue is wrong!  Applying today’s values on past history is also missing the mark. We cannot change what has happened but can learn from it.  This is exactly what Enbridge (and others) are doing with Line 3 and the preferred route.  The new line will be more efficient and apply the latest technology.  All tribal lands will be by-passed, making the petition’s statement about tribal/treaty lands purposely misleading.

Not rebuilding Line 3 (or forcing it to be built along the current route) will also create a series of real impacts that includes increasing the cost of energy and, as a result, reducing or impacting access to something that right now that is a dependable resource.

Taking affordable and reliable energy away from people who can least afford higher costs and the additional stress on their families for any reason is morally wrong.  Using the idea that climate change “disproportionately harms poor people” to justify making energy more expensive today is not only hypocritical, that too is morally wrong.

I respect and appreciate the dedication and commitment of the people and groups who have signed the petition. Their willingness to be involved in this issue and the important decision about Line 3 matters.  They do mean well, and their broader goal is to make Minnesota a better place and so is mine.

What I strongly resent is the attempt to use misplaced “morality” to justify one subjective opinion that at the same time attempts to denigrate anyone who may have a different point-of view.

If this “moral” opinion is transformed into an action that results in the denial of the project, it would immediately hurt thousands of struggling families who can least afford it.  Again, that is immoral by any definition.

If this happens, the petition signers may enjoy a sense of what they view as principled accomplishment while at the same time far too many families will be dealing with rising costs that will stretch already-thin budgets beyond the breaking point.

Replacing Line 3 is supposed to be driven and decided by reviewing objective facts and data to make the best possible decision for Minnesota.  Yet as we get closer to another key milestone, it is clear that some want to change how we review and refuse to understand what is at stake and what should guide this final decision.

Bringing a less-than fully contextualized sense of morality into this conversation is a misguided attempt to exploit emotional concerns of well-intentioned people.  It is an attempt to foment emotion to drive over facts (and people) and valid data that would clearly support a different and truly “moral” decision and outcome.

Very simply, if we are going to view Line 3 through a morality lens, it would be better to do so clear of any hypocrisy first.  When this happens, it is clear that not only is replacing Line 3 the right thing to do, it is also the best and moral way for Minnesota’s future.