Sept. 29 (UPI) -- State leaders in Minnesota heard from both sides of the debate over a multibillion dollar effort by Enbridge to expand a controversial crude oil pipeline.
"One of the ways that U.S. energy security could be threatened is from a lack of investment in energy infrastructure or reinvestment in existing infrastructure," Brydon Ross, the vice president of state affairs for Consumer Energy Alliance, testified before the state Public Utilities Commission. "There is no better example of this than the current discussions revolving around modernizing Line 3 - part of a system that supplies 80 percent of all crude oil to Minnesota refineries."
The PUC held public hearings Thursday in St. Paul, one of more than a dozen scheduled through the end of October for the vetting of the planned overhaul of the Enbridge pipeline system.
Enbridge said it needs to make improvements on its Line 3 system that runs from Canada through Minnesota. The proposal includes a $4.2 billion Canadian component and a $2.9 billion U.S. component. Enbridge said replacements and upgrades to the system are the most efficient way to ensure the infrastructure is reliable.
Enbridge added that state environmental reviews found the overhaul would be better than keeping the existing network in service.
"If built, this pipeline would threaten Minnesota's precious lands, water, climate, and Indigenous treaty-protected rights," Margaret Levin, state director for the Sierra Club, said in a statement.
In its testimony to the PUC, the Minnesota Commerce Department said "it is reasonable to conclude that Minnesota would be better off if Enbridge proposed to cease operations of the existing Line 3, without any new pipeline being built."
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said he was waiting until the entire review process was completed, adding the utilities commission was independent of his administration. The commission is expected to make a decision on the project by early 2018.
Enbridge last year backed out of its planned Sandpiper pipeline through Minnesota and instead put resources behind the Dakota Access pipeline.