Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Jennifer Yocum-Stans
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

PUC holds public pipeline hearings

 

October 26, 2017

On October 12, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) held two public hearings at Grand Casino Hinckley. These were meetings nine and ten of 18 meetings. The purpose of the meetings was to hear public comment on the proposed replacement of Line 3 by Enbridge Energy (a fossil fuel delivery company based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada). The meeting was well attended by both supporters of the new line and opposition.

Enbridge applied to the PUC for a certificate of need and routing permit for the project. According to the PUC website, the project is described as an integrity and maintenance driven project that would involve constructing 337 miles of new pipeline across Minnesota.

The hearing was ran by Ann O'Riley, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) with the Office of Administrative Hearings, an independent state agency that exists to allow meetings such as these to be fair and impartial.

According to Paul Eberth, Enbridge's Line 3 Replacement Project Director, the existing Line 3 pipeline is approximately 1,000 miles long and runs from Alberta, Canada, along the existing pipeline to Clearbrook, Minn., down to Park Rapids, Minn, through Cass, Crow Wing, Aitkin and Carlton counties and ending in Superior Wisconsin. Line 3 currently transports 390,000 barrels of crude oil per day. The proposed line would increase the size of the pipe from 34 inches to 36 inches, increasing the amount of oil transported daily to 760,000 barrels. "Minnesota uses 340,000 barrels per day," said Eberth.

Why does the line

need to be replaced?

According to Eberth, the current line was constructed in the 1960s and is showing corrosion and cracks. Enbridge estimates that 6,000 integrity digs would be needed to keep the line operating safely in Minnesota for the next 15 years. Integrity digs include digging up the existing pipeline and making the necessary repairs. Enbridge believes that a new line will provide a safer transportation option with new infrastructure while avoiding a very intense maintenance program. Once the new Line 3 pipeline has been installed, tested, and is operational, the existing Line 3 pipeline would be permanently deactivated in adherence with federal regulations.

The opposition

On the other side of the discussion is the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Representing them was Bill Grant, from the Division of Energy Resources. He explained that his department plays two roles. The first role is to be technical advisor to the PUC during the preparation of the environmental review documents. The second role is to evaluate the applicant's case for need of the project. He summarized their testimony by saying "Enbridge has not demonstrated a need for the proposed project. We also believe the PUC could make a finding that Enbridge has not demonstrated that the minimal benefits to Minnesota from the proposed project outweigh the high socioeconomic and environmental costs associated with the project."

Friends of the Headwaters (FOH), a volunteer group from Hubbard County also spoke at the hearing. Richard Smith explained that FOH is not an anti-pipeline group, and they believe in safe energy transportation; they just have a different opinion on where the line should go. "Friends of the Headwaters do not believe that a new crude oil energy corridor should be built across Minnesota's best water resources," said Smith.

FOH also submitted a proposed route to the PUC. Their route, SA-04, would run along another existing pipeline corridor, starting in Alberta Canada and ending in Illinois but would avoid wetlands, including some of the state's wild rice lakes.

Smith finished by saying, "If the state does determine that this pipeline is needed, we want you to build the safest pipeline, but we want you to build it in the part of the state that's the lowest risk environmentally."

During the public comment portion of the hearing, many people spoke on both sides of the issue. These comments have become part of the record and will all be taken into consideration as a decision is made. Some of the comments of support related to the jobs that this would create for Minnesotans. According to Jobs for Minnesotans, quoting a recent study from the University of Minnesota, the project would have a total economic impact of more than $2 billion creating 6,500 jobs over two years.

Public comments can be made by attending the last public hearing on October 26, which will be held at the River's Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud or written comments can be submitted by mail, email, fax or on the MN Public Utilities Commission website at https://mn.gov/puc/line3/participate/comment/. The deadline for public comment is 4:30 p.m. on November 22.

 

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