Minnesota Department of Commerce Decides a New Oil Pipeline ‘Isn’t Needed’

By Ayana Byrd Sep 12, 2017

The Minnesota Department of Commerce just dealt a potentially crippling blow to a Canadian company attempting to build a pipeline through Native lands in Minnesota.

Per an article published yesterday (September 11) in the StarTribune, “Enbridge’s proposed new crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota isn’t needed, and moreover the aging line it’s supposed to replace should be shut down, the Minnesota Department of Commerce (MDOC) said in an analysis released Monday."

Enbridge is a Canadian company that operates a total of six pipelines used to transport 2.9 million barrels per day of crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to the company’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. Line 3 was built in the 1960s and, according to the StarTribune, “Since 2010, [it] has been operating at 390,000 barrels per day—well short of its 760,000-barrel capacity—because of safety concerns.”

Enbridge intends to build a replacement 340-mile line that would travel through Minnesota on the older line’s existing route. While the company sees it as necessary for safety concerns, MDOC believes Enbridge has sufficient capacity without it.

Per the StarTribune, “The high socioeconomic costs [of a new Line 3] outweigh the minimal benefits to Minnesota of the proposed project," Kate O’Connell, manager of the MDOC’s energy regulatory division, testified in a document filed with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

In addition to opposing the building of a replacement pipeline, MDOC officials also said that the existing line should be closed. StarTribune reports that O’Connell testified, "In light of the serious risks of the existing Line 3 and the limited benefit that the existing Line 3 provides to Minnesota refineries, Minnesota would be better off if Enbridge proposed to cease operations of the existing Line 3, without any new pipeline being built."

This is not the first time a group has opposed the pipeline. In June, Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) News reported, “…the proposal [to build a replacement pipeline] has sparked intense opposition from environmental and tribal groups.”

MPR interviewed Winona LaDuke from the White Earth Nation reservation and the Native environmental group Honor the Earth during a public meeting regarding the pipeline. She said, "Don’t tell me it’s because we need the oil because we all drive around, I got that. I’ve lived in the fossil fuel era my whole life. But what I want is a graceful transition out of it. I don’t want to choke on it."

A judge will deliver a final decision on the pipeline by the end of April 2018.