When Gov. Mark Dayton, (DFL-MN), says that Scott Lucas might have “crossed the line”, what he’s really attempting to do is limit the criticism of his administration. The reason why this is newsworthy is because Mr. Lucas used his government email account to help environmentalists undercut the proposed Sandpiper Pipeline project.
It’s important to know that Mr. Lucas works in the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, aka the MPCA. It’s equally important to know that Gov. Dayton takes the situation “very seriously.” Finally, it’s worth noting that Gov. Dayton didn’t suspend or terminate Lucas despite the fact that he’s undercutting the Sandpiper Pipeline project.
What’s especially rich is hearing Gov. Dayton say he’s “concerned whether Lucas used his role at a state agency responsible for its oversight to advocate against it.” At the start of Gov. Dayton’s administration, Gov. Dayton nominated Paul Aasen to be his first Commissioner of the MPCA. At the time, Aasen was the president of an organization called the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, aka the MCEA. Aasen’s chief credential for the job was the fact that he bragged about litigating the Big Stone II power plant project into the ground.
It’s intellectually insulting to hear Gov. Dayton pretend that he’s just an innocent bystander who doesn’t take a position on these projects. The truth is that he’s heavily invested in the environmental movement. Without the environmental activists’ funding, the DFL would be the minority party in Minnesota. Period.
This is troubling:
Agency spokesman Dave Verhasselt said that the inquiry was still being developed and that it was unclear how long it would take. “Since the issue raises questions about the integrity of MPCA processes, the public should know we’ll act carefully but promptly,” he said.
Lucas is still working at the agency during the investigation, but his role in the Sandpiper project, which took about 10 percent of his time, in the future is being reviewed, Verhasselt said. Six to 10 other staff members have worked on Sandpiper-related tasks, he said, and Lucas was not the key decision maker on the project. Agency officials have advised Lucas not to comment at this time. Attempts to reach him have been unsuccessful.
TRANSLATION: The MPCA has told Lucas that his job is safe as long as he keeps his mouth shut.
What’s disturbing is that Lucas hasn’t been suspended. He’s a regulator who’s taken an activist’s position on a project he’d be regulating. The fix certainly appears to be in. At this point, Enbridge can’t be certain that they’ll get a fair shake from the MPCA or from Gov. Dayton.