Minnesota kicks off public hearings this week on whether regulators should allow Enbridge Energy to replace its aging Line 3 crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.
The replacement would have higher capacity than the existing pipeline and run along a new route in some areas — two characteristics that opponents say shows it’s more like a new pipeline than a replacement.
Environmental and tribal groups say they expect hundreds of people to protest and march against the project before Thursday’s hearing in St. Paul. They’ve been buoyed by a recent review from the state Commerce Department, which surprised opponents and Enbridge alike by concluding the project isn’t needed and won’t benefit Minnesota. But Enbridge says Line 3 is a critical piece of infrastructure for petroleum shippers and refineries in the region.
Oil pipelines have become an increasingly contentious national issue amid concerns about oilsands oil and climate change, the danger that spills pose to water supplies, and the rights of Native Americans who live along the routes. The fight over the Dakota Access pipeline drew thousands of protesters to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, stalling work on that project for months.
Here’s a look at some of the issues with Line 3:
Calgary-based Enbridge wants to replace Line 3, which was built in the 1960s, because it now runs at just over half its original capacity of 760,000 barrels per day and the costs of maintaining it are growing. The pipeline runs from Hardisty, Alberta, clips a corner of North Dakota, and crosses Minnesota on its way to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. Construction has already begun in Canada and Wisconsin. Overall, it’s about a $7.5 billion US project.
The replacement would follow much of Line 3’s current corridor, although Enbridge wants to use a more southerly new route across much of northern Minnesota that would cross the Mississippi River headwaters and pristine lake country where Ojibwe bands harvest wild rice and hold treaty rights.
Enbridge’s project manager for Line 3, Barry Simonson, said the new pipeline would use state-of-the-art technology and stronger steel to ensure safety, which he said is Enbridge’s paramount concern.
The decision process
The hearings will be conducted in nine Minnesota cities this month and next, starting Tuesday in Thief River Falls. The state Public Utilities Commission will consider the testimony as it decides whether the…