Minnesotans Show Support for Line 3 Pipeline Replacement

(UC) — A grassroots organization supporting the Line 3 replacement project said it has helped generate comments to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) from nearly 7,500 people around the state who are in favor of the crude oil pipeline.

People from across the state showed their support for Enbridge's replacement project by submitting photos and videos to the Minnesotans for Line 3 website.

The Minnesota Supreme Court declined last September to take up challenges by tribal and conservation groups and ruled that the MPUC can move forward with an environmental review of Enbridge Energy’s proposal to replace its aging Line 3 crude oil pipeline.

Enbridge confirmed in December that it has already begun commercial operation of the Canadian section of Line 3, even as it continued to work through the Minnesota regulatory process for the U.S. portion of the $9 billion replacement project.

The comments generated by supporters through the Minnesotans For Line 3 organization urged the PUC to determine that the revised Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the replacement project is adequate.

The project would likely have faced long delays if the court agreed to hear the appeals.  The decision, rendered in a one-page order, drew praise from the Minnesota division of the American Petroleum Institute (API), whose director described Line 3 as "the most studied pipeline project in state history – having undergone four years and thousands of hours of environmental review."

The court decision decision meant that the MPUC can move forward with addressing one deficiency in the environmental impact statement identified by the Minnesota Court of Appeals. That court upheld most of the environmental review in June, but sent the case back to the state commission for further work because the review did not address a possible spill in the Lake Superior watershed.

The additional analysis determined it was unlikely any "measurable amount of oil would reach Lake Superior," Minnesotans for Line 3 emphasized.

“We have finally reached what must be the end of a long, rigorous, and thorough review of this critically important energy infrastructure project,” said Abby Loucks, a member of Minnesotans for Line 3, “This project has answered every question, passed every test, and is supported by tens of thousands of people across Minnesota. We are confident the PUC will do the right thing and allow the permitting process to move forward so workers to get ready to build this essential energy project.”

Minnesota residents in favor of the project responded with postcards. (photo: Minnesotans for Line 3)

The PUC will review information received via the public review process and decide if the updated EIS is adequate to reinstate the previously approved route permit and certificate of need. After the PUC re-instates its adequacy determination for the EIS and again approves the route permit and the certificate of need, state and federal agencies are expected to make decisions about permits for Line 3 later this year.

Enbridge has operated Line 3 since 1968, with the Canadian portion of the pipeline stretching from Hardisty, Alberta, to Gretna, Manitoba, and the U.S. portion delivering oil to Superior, Wisconsin. Plans to replace the aging pipeline have been in the making since 2013.

Line fill of the 665-mile (1,070-km) Canadian segment of the Line 3 replacement pipeline was completed in mid-November.  That replacement pipeline in Canada connects to the existing U.S. Line 3 at the Manitoba-U.S. border.  

Enbridge hopes to bring the U.S. segment online during 2020, but the timing is uncertain due to Minnesota's regulatory process.  

The Line 3 replacement is the largest project in Enbridge history.  The Canadian portion of the project was estimated to cost $5.3 billion, or about 59% of its $9 billion total.

It is one of three key pipeline projects that would alleviate takeaway capacity constraints from Alberta’s oilsands, all of which have faced continuing opposition from environmental activists.  Construction restarted on the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion to the British Columbia coast last August, while TC Energy plans to resume work on the Keystone XL pipeline in February.

Trans Mountain was sold by Kinder Morgan to the government of Canada for $4.5 billion last year.

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