MN Regulators Grant Final Approval for Line 3
Late last month, Minnesota utility regulators granted their final approval for Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project, a move that rejected a previous appeal from project opponents for the regulators to reconsider the approval that had been granted in June.
The next step involves the courts. Concerned parties, including Native American tribes, environmental groups and the Department of Commerce, have all filed separate challenges against the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission's approval of the Line 3 certificate.
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.
PUC commissioners questioned last year 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.
In August, groups Honor the Earth and Friends of the Headwaters filed an appeal of the PUC’s approval, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. The two groups argued that the environmental impact statement for the project did not adequately account for potential spills and did not take into account a survey related to tribal matters.
According to Bloomberg, Enbridge recently anticipated that its Line 3 crude oil pipeline to be in operation a year behind schedule, with a current planned opening date in the second half of 2020. The delay is largely due to Minnesota’s permitting process, which won’t be complete until November. Federal permits won’t arrive until up to two months after that.
Utility Regulator Approval
According to MPR News, Enbridge still needs a number of state and federal permits before ground in Minnesota can be broken for the project. Industry groups and others have voiced support for the project, citing the creation of construction jobs and the fact that the new line would be safer than the current Line 3.
"It's better to replace a more than 50-year-old pipe with one that is safer," said Minnesota Commissioner Katie Sieben.
"For the department to argue that the commission should ignore the current condition of the very infrastructure that is to be replaced is nonsensical."
The PUC also recently approved the company’s plan to recruit Native American workers for jobs in the pipeline industry. As it stands, Enbridge expects to have all the required permits by the end of the year.