Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline clears hurdle as Minnesota regulators approve environmental review

Minnesota utility regulators on Monday approved a revised environmental review for Enbridge Energy’s plan to replace its aging Line 3 crude oil pipeline across the state.

The state Public Utilities Commission voted 3-1 to approve the environmental impact statement for the project worth $2.6-billion US (3.4-billion Cnd), saying the new review adequately addressed the impacts of a potential spill in the Lake Superior watershed.

“More good pipeline news: Enbridge has secured approval from the Minnesota Utilities Commission for the Line 3 Replacement Project, which will add about 380,000 barrels of egress for Canadian oil, hopefully by this time next year,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney tweeted Monday.

Commissioner Matt Schuerger disagreed with the majority, saying the updated review “doesn’t adequately represent the consequences of a spill,” the Star Tribune reported.

The new pipeline would replace Enbridge’s Line 3, which was built in the 1960s.

Old line prone to corrosion, cracking 

Calgary-based Enbridge says the old line needs replacing because it is increasingly prone to corrosion and cracking and can run at only about half its original capacity. Environmental and tribal activists have urged regulators to kill the project.

The commission had approved an environmental review in March 2018. But the Minnesota Court of Appeals sent the previous final version of the project’s environmental review back to the commission after finding that the massive document failed to adequately deal with the potential risks of an oil spill in the Lake Superior watershed.

The state Department of Commerce then conducted additional modelling and concluded in the update that there was little chance of a spill reaching the lake.

Environmental activists protest

During a public hearing Friday, environmental and tribal activists argued against the project, saying climate change has reached a crisis stage.

But the project’s supporters, including union construction workers, testified it’s time to let project move forward.

Line 3 starts in Alberta and clips a corner of North Dakota before crossing northern Minnesota en route to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin.

Enbridge said in a filing ahead of Friday’s hearing that the record continues to show the project is needed.

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