By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Environmental concerns focus of hearings

Pipeline scoping hearings set to collect concerns of public

 


About a dozen environmental activists and tribal band members turned out at the Black Bear Convention Center for the May 5 evening "Public Information and Environmental Document Scoping Meeting" scheduled by the Minnesota Department of Commerce which is responsible to eventually issue the permits needed to build the Sandpiper and Line 3 Replacement Pipelines on a corridor passing through Carlton County for the transport of oil from the Bakken Oilfields of North Dakota and Canadian oil. These initial meetings are collecting (or scoping) concerns by the public, local governments and the Native tribes.

These concerns will be addressed in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will be used to make a route decision permit in late 2017. Testimony is being taken on the best route for oil transport, spill analysis, ground water, surface water resources, wild rice, tribal concerns and pipeline decommissioning. When the EIS is finally completed in the summer of 2017 formal hearings will be carried out to get public testimony on the document.

Enbridge, the oil pipeline corporation, continues to say the present route it has chosen is the safest route with current technology and follows to a large extent existing transmission corridors as it crosses the state to the Superior, Wisconsin, terminal. New pipeline construction will handle new oil production from North Dakota and also will replace an outdated Line 3 now being used.

Pipeline representatives explained no more pipe will be delivered to the storage areas until the EIS is complete. Land agent work to settle with local property owners has slowed. Teams will be sent out to survey and study the impacted lands for such issues as wetland areas and water crossings.

"We have confidence that the line will be safe," a representative from the 49ers union commented. "We want to build a safe pipeline and do it right."

All other comments were of environmental concerns. Fond du Lac tribal member Korey Northrup asked for a full EIS study. She said, "The loss of the berries, wild rice, wildlife, forests, water, sugar bushes, sacred sites, etc. have the chance of being a permanent loss. Water is the life of everything. The abandoned oil lines should be removed from the ground and the surface area restored."

Steve Schulstrom of the Land Stewards in Wrenshall argued moving the pipeline corridor farther south would not cost much more with the millions of barrels of oil that will move through the lines. He felt protection of water and Northern Minnesota wild land is more important than corporate profits.

Thane Maxwell of Honor the Earth explained the impact of decommissioning an oil pipeline is not known because Minnesota has not had one retired before. The Fond du Lac tribal lands have six oil lines operating at this time with the first two, one built in the 1950s, floating in wetland areas.

Maxwell went on to say these latest pipes delivered to local storage yards from Canada can be six to seven years old and the effect of ultra-violet light on the coating is not known and should be studied. In the event of spills he said more response equipment was needed and more training for local disaster response teams.

Diane Aubid noted two different shades of wild rice are being harvested from Perch Lake. She noted, "I think that this change in wild rice coloring is the disintegration of the old pipeline and its coating. What are we eating?"

The comment period ends on Thursday, May 26. Written comments can be submitted by email at Pipeline.Comments@state.mn.us or be mailed to Jaime MacAlister, Minnesota Department of Commerce, 85 7th Place East, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55101-2198. They are looking for any issue that may have been overlooked on this issue.

 

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