Oct. 24 (UPI) -- An agency charged with part of the vetting process for a crude oil pipeline through Minnesota pressed its case that plans by Enbridge are no longer necessary.
The state Public Utilities Commission continued hearings in St. Paul on plans by Enbridge to spend more than $7 billion to overhaul sections of its Line 3 pipeline system that runs from Canada through Minnesota.
Enbridge said replacements and upgrades to the 50-year-old 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.
In more than 125 pages of testimony, Kate O'Connell, an energy regulation manager at the Minnesota Department of Commerce, said it doesn't appear Enbridge actually needs the overhaul to boost capacity on the broader network.
"Refiners in the Minnesota District have been operating and continue to operate near capacity," she said.
The company said the overall demand for fuels in Minnesota and the broader energy sector warrants the infrastructure, even if demand were to decline. In its own testimony, the company stressed that operating a 50-year-old pipeline that has a regular maintenance program carries more potential risk of a release than a "newly constructed, modern pipeline."
The State Department under President Donald Trump said last week that Enbridge could move forward with plans to build a three-mile section of its Alberta Clipper oil pipeline across the national border. Construction on the entire network to a terminal in Wisconsin began in 2010 and Enbridge had used existing corridors to facilitate the shipment of nearly 900,000 barrels of oil per day.
The company three years ago connected Alberta Clipper to its existing Line 3 pipeline through Minnesota while it waited for approval for the new cross-border section. Enbridge now says it needs to make improvements on its Line 3 system that runs from Canada through Minnesota.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said he was waiting until the entire review process was completed, adding the Public Utilities Commission was independent of his administration. The Public Utilities Commission is expected to make a decision on the project by early 2018.