Quantcast

Who Is Gov. Tim Walz and Why Is He So Important for the Climate?

Governor Tim Walz holds up the signed oath on his Jan. 8 inauguration day at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota. Lorie Shaull / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Rachel Rye Butler

We've only got 10 years to work on the climate. But, thankfully the Green New Deal is pushing and shoving its way through Congress — putting elected leaders and presidential candidates to the test to show us whether they're actually serious about climate action.

And while climate champions like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are advocating for widespread and far-reaching federal climate policy, we need to do everything in our power (which is pretty mighty) to make sure state officials like Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan keep fossil fuels in the ground right now by stopping projects like Enbridge's dangerous Line 3 tar sands pipeline.


Basically, Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan are faced with the biggest issue of our time. Their test? Whether they'll stop major fossil fuel expansion in Minnesota and begin to build a green and just economy for all Minnesotans — or continue on with business as usual, which will exacerbate our climate crisis in a time we desperately need to change course.

The administration recently took a good first step by continuing a key appeal of the Line 3 pipeline permits, but there's more that the administration can and should do to make sure that this dangerous pipeline never gets built.

State-based fights like stopping Line 3 are a key part to the current wave of climate movement and #GreenNewDeal momentum. And, if Line 3 is successfully stopped, it'll create a beacon for the rest of the country to look to at a time when it's needed the most.

But, until we have a policy that addresses both creating a green economy and limiting fossil fuel expansion, every action you take will bring us all closer to the world we want to see.

What Is Line 3?

We know that it's time to stop building more fossil fuel projects like tar sands pipelines. Unfortunately, not everyone has gotten the memo. Fossil fuel company Enbridge is raring to build Line 3, a new tar sands pipeline in Minnesota that is larger than Keystone XL and that would cross indigenous treaty lands without the consent of some of the impacted tribes.

Tar sands are one of the dirtiest sources of oil on the planet. In fact, they produce 30 to 40 percent more climate pollution than "conventional" oil. Not only is tar sands oil bad news for the climate, but it's also bad for the water too. We know it's not a matter of if, but when pipelines spill. And when they do, they can be nearly impossible to clean up.

Water at Risk

Enbridge's Line 3 tar sands pipeline would cross Minnesota's freshwater lakes region and the Mississippi River not once but TWICE. Their track record doesn't bode well for all this water.

A recent Greenpeace USA report found that Enbridge and its joint ventures and subsidiaries reported 307 hazardous liquids incidents to federal regulators from 2002 to present — one incident every 20 days on average.

Not only have Enbridge pipelines seen some of the largest pipeline spills in American history — including a spill in Grand Rapids, Minnesota in 1991, and a spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010 — the data shows that it's both Enbridge's old AND new pipelines that spill. Forty-six of the incidents from 2002-2018 were from equipment installed 10 years or less prior to the problem.

What Can Be Done to #StopLine3?

Over the past ten years, indigenous leaders and frontline activists have worked so hard to stop tar sands pipelines like Line 3 and Keystone XL at every juncture with local mobilizations, lawsuits, thousands of public comments and direct action.

Thankfully Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan have the opportunity to listen to the people and shut this project down now. In announcing his decision to continue the Department of Commerce appeal of the pipeline permits, Governor Walz said that projects like Line 3 need a "social permit." In the years that this project has been proposed, 90 percent of the public comments collected about the project have been against Line 3, and the Department of Commerce's own analysis shows that the project is more risk than reward for Minnesota.

Continuing forward with the Department of Commerce's legal appeal of the project permits is an important first step, but there is more that Walz and Flanagan can do. The project still needs key permits from the administration to cross over 200 lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands. What's more, Walz can use the bully pulpit of the governor's office to set a new direction for the state of Minnesota.

Here's the thing — stopping fossil fuel projects like Line 3 is a necessary part of action on climate that actually meets the scale of the problem.

Want to create local change that protects communities from fossil fuel infrastructure? Jump-start the transition to a democratic 100 percent renewable energy economy? Limits political power of Big Oil? State-based fights like stopping Line 3 are a key part to the current wave of climate movement and #GreenNewDeal momentum.

You can start by signing this petition to the administration asking that they do everything in their power to #StopLine3.

What's Next?

Line 3 is a disaster for the climate. It threatens the water. And many impacted tribes have not given their consent. So the question is this:

Are Gov. Walz and Lt. Gov. Flanagan willing to keep Minnesota tied to a fossil fuel economy and risk Minnesota's climate, water, wild rice and relationships with tribes to build a dangerous tar sands pipeline?

Rachel Rye Butler leads the Democracy Campaign at Greenpeace USA.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Mizina / iStock / Getty Images

By Ryan Raman, MS, RD

Oats are widely regarded as one of the healthiest grains you can eat, as they're packed with many important vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Read More Show Less
JPMorgan Chase building in New York City. Ben Sutherland / CC BY 2.0

By Sharon Kelly

A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Sriram Madhusoodanan of Corporate Accountability speaking on conflict of interest demand of the People's Demands at a defining action launching the Demands at COP24. Corporate Accountability

By Patti Lynn

2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."

Read More Show Less
The head of England's Environment Agency has urged people to stop watering their lawns as a climate-induced water shortage looms. Pexels

England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Jessica Corbett

A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A flock of parrots in Telegraph Hill, San Francisco. ~dgies / Flickr

By Madison Dapcevich

Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.

Read More Show Less
Fire burns in the North Santiam State Recreational Area on March 19. Oregon Department of Forestry

An early-season wildfire near Lyons, Oregon burned 60 acres and forced dozens of homes to evacuate Tuesday evening, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) said, as KTVZ reported.

The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.

Read More Show Less
Edwin Hardeman is the plaintiff in the first U.S. federal trial claiming that Roundup causes cancer. NOAH BERGER / AFP / Getty Images

A second U.S. jury has ruled that Roundup causes cancer.

The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The decision comes less than a year after a jury awarded $289 million to Bay-area groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson over similar claims. The amount was later reduced to $78 million.

"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."

Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.

"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."

Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.

However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.

"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.

Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.

Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.

"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.

Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.