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MN Officials Approve Line 3 Project Permit

Friday, June 29, 2018

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Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously Thursday to approve the Line 3 replacement project sought by Canadian energy firm Enbridge Inc., a day after questioning company officials about the necessity of the project.

Line 3 replacement
Images: Enbridge

Enbridge has already begun replacing parts of Line 3 in Canada and Wisconsin.

Opponents of the pipeline project—part of a planned $6.5 billion overhaul that would replace 1,000 miles of pipeline and is already underway in Canada and Wisconsin—gathered at the PUC meetings Wednesday and Thursday to call for its rejection, though an administrative law judge and PUC staff had already recommended its approval, with certain stipulations. The PUC’s five commissioners implied early in the Thursday meeting that they will approve a certificate of need, but the permit could come with strings attached.

Judge Ann O’Reilly called for the new line to be routed along the same right-of-way as the current Line 3, which could raise issues on Native American lands that the line crosses, and the PUC staff report recommended against that provision. The judge also recommended that the new pipeline be 34 inches in diameter, the same as the current line; the PUC staff advised that the 36-inch pipeline Enbridge plans to use would be acceptable.

The vote Thursday granted the project a certificate of need, meaning it is approved to take place, but a decision on routing concerns is expected to come separately.

The permit comes with stipulations that Enbridge establish a trust fund to bankroll the proper decomissioning of the new pipeline when it reaches the end of its service life decades from now, and that the company remove the old pipeline where property owners request that it do so, a concession the company had already promised. 

The Replacement Project

Enbridge officials have said Line 3, which runs from Alberta to Wisconsin through Saskatchewan, Manitoba, North Dakota and Minnesota, must be replaced wholesale because issues with its tapecoat disbanding have led to corrosion concerns and, as a result, a reduction in operating pressure and capacity. The 50-year-old pipeline currently transports 390,000 barrels per day of light, medium and heavy crudes; the new line would convey 760,000 per day, with a design capacity of 844,000 barrels per day.

Line 3

Line 3, which runs from Alberta to Wisconsin through Saskatchewan, Manitoba, North Dakota and Minnesota, currently transports 390,000 barrels per day of light, medium and heavy crudes.

PUC commissioners Wednesday questioned whether the increased capacity is really necessary to transport crude to refineries in the Midwest, as they pointed out that refineries in and around Minnesota aren’t sitting idle with the line at its current limited capacity. Enbridge representatives, according to the Calgary Herald, told the commission that increased capacity on Line 3 would reduce the need to apportion space on its Canadian pipelines and to transport crude by rail.

Canada’s National Energy Board has said in recent years that the country’s oil companies have been forced to use railcars more as increases in oil production have outstripped pipeline capacity growth. The costs of having too much capacity, the NEB says, are less than the costs associated with having too little.

But during Thursday’s meeting, according to Minnesota Public Radio, commissioners noted the poor condition of the current Line 3 and the risk for a rupture that could harm the environment, with one commissioner calling the state of the pipeline “horrific.” All five commissioners reportedly made remarks early in the meeting implying that whether they like the pipeline replacement or not, they felt obligated to approve it in order to get the old, deteriorating Line 3 shut down before it creates an environmental disaster.

Critics have come out in opposition to the planned replacement for a number of reasons, including the new pipeline’s role in promoting fossil-fuel consumption decades into the future. Some tribal leaders are concerned about the proposed route alternatives, some of which cross tribal lands. Some opponents have vowed to protest the project as it moves forward.

   

Tagged categories: Government; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Oil and Gas; Pipelines; Program/Project Management

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