Judge Recommends Route for Line 3 Replacement


A Minnesota administrative law judge has recommended that, if the Enbridge Line 3 replacement is to move forward, the new pipeline follows the route of the old, rather than the company’s preferred route, as that way travels near the headwaters of Mississippi River.

According to Minnesota Public Radio News, Enbridge Energy is proposing closing down the current Line 3 and building a new one, preferably along a different route. The new pipeline would be able to carry roughly twice as much oil as the current iteration.

Judge Recommendation

In her report, Judge Ann O’Reilly said the replacing of the old line is reasonable, as it is corroding and cracking and has become a safety concern. The judge also noted that Minnesota refineries would benefit from the additional oil capacity.

The judge’s recommendation that the line replacement follow its current course—which shares space with five other lines from Alberta—would lower the environmental risks, along with preventing the abandonment of nearly 300 miles of pipeline.

Enbridge’s preferred route has consistently been met with opposition, among which is Friends of the Headwaters. Scott Strand, an attorney representing the group, noted that running a “new tar sands pipeline through the headwaters region, through some of the most sensitive groundwater, drinking water in our state, through the wild rice beds, the new corridor would impose too many costs and risks to justify the very limited benefit of the line.”

Pipeline Concerns

Despite the judge’s recommendation, there are still two issues to consider moving forward: safety and integrity concerns, given there are so many pipelines running through that corridor; and the fact that the current corridor runs through two Native American reservations—the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. The Leech Lake Band previously stated it "will not allow any replacement of Line 3.”

According to The Chippewa Herald, Enbridge’s easements with the federal government that allow the company to run six pipelines through the two reservations, which includes Line 3, expire in 2029; the Public Utilities Commission cannot require the tribes to replace Line 3 within their borders. If the commission approves in-trench replacement, this would likely accelerate discussions between the company and the tribes.

Others remain optimistic about the judge’s recommendation, however.

"This is an incredible victory," said Nancy Norr, chair of the labor and business group Jobs for Minnesotans. "We had a Department of Commerce recommendation that this line was not needed, and we want to reinforce the report finding that the certificate of need is valid, that this is a project that needs to be moved forward in the best interests of Minnesotans."

Moving Forward

With the commission expected to make a final decision in June, the judge’s recommendation is not binding, but rather part of a longer public hearing and comment process.

Enbridge has already begun construction in Canada and Wisconsin.

"We urge the PUC to listen to the voices of thousands of Minnesotans who have marched, submitted public comment, and testified against Line 3 and reject this dangerous pipeline once and for all,” said Margaret Levin, director of the Sierra Club’s Minnesota chapter.

The new $2.6 billion pipeline would replace a span built in the 1960s, and is currently only capable of carrying half of its capacity of 760,000 barrels per day. A new 36-inch line would have a 844,000-barrel capacity.


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

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