Minnesota PUC Opens Hearings on Enbridge Line 3 Replacement

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Passions ran high as Minnesota regulators opened a key hearing on a final decision on Enbridge Energy’s proposal to replace its deteriorating Line 3 crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.

A crowd about evenly divided between supporters and opponents lined up early in the morning for limited seating. People held signs outside that read “Minnesotans for Line 3” or “No Pipelines – Keep it in the Ground.”

The crowd grew to over 200 by the time the Public Utilities Commission began hearing final arguments in the long-running proceedings. The five-member commission plans to decide next week whether the project is needed and, if so, what route it should take.

Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge built the current Line 3 in the 1960s. It carries light crude oil from Alberta across North Dakota and Minnesota to the company’s terminal in Superior, Wis.

Enbridge said it needs replacing because it’s increasingly subject to corrosion and cracking and is operating at only about half its original capacity. Tribal and climate change activists oppose the project because the replacement would carry Canadian tar sands oil, which contributes more to climate change than lighter oils, and because it would run through pristine areas in the Mississippi River headwaters area where Native Americans harvest wild rice and claim treaty rights. And they contend the country doesn’t need the oil as it transitions more and more to cleaner energy.

After countless public hearings and thousands of pages of filings, there was little new ground for the hearing to cover, though PUC Chairwoman Nancy Lange said the statements would help the commissioners form their questions.

Enbridge attorney Eric Swanson stressed in his testimony that a new state-of-the-art pipeline would be safer, while adding necessary capacity.
“Certainly we feel passionately about the project and feel we’re doing the responsible thing in bringing it forward,” Swanson said.

But Bill Grant, deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce, stood by his agency’s conclusion last year that Minnesota doesn’t need the oil, and that the risks and impacts of giving Enbridge the 340 miles of right-of-way it seeks across the state outweigh the benefits.

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