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Hearings canceled over Minnesota oil pipeline

State petroleum council said opponents of the Enbridge Line 3 overhaul were stifling free speech.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Hearings canceled over Minnesota oil pipeline
Minnesota agency cancels hearings over an Enbridge oil pipeline because of "logistical and safety issues." File photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 26 (UPI) -- More than $20 million in state property taxes are on the line amid shows of civil disobedience over an Enbridge oil pipeline, a Minnesota trade group said.

Public hearings of plans by Enbridge Energy to overhaul its Line 3 pipeline through Minnesota were canceled by authorities in St. Cloud because of "logistical and safety issues" at a convention center. The Minnesota Petroleum Council said it was unfortunate that those working to "actively obstruct civil discourse, stifle free speech, and disrespect those in attendance" were interfering with public vetting.

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"It's estimated that the Line 3 replacement project would support thousands of Minnesota jobs and generate an estimated $20 million per year in state property taxes," Executive Director Erin Roth said in a statement. "We hope that this cancellation is an isolated incident and look forward to our continued participation in these hearings throughout Minnesota."

Enbridge said replacements and upgrades to the 50-year-old system are the most efficient way to ensure the infrastructure is reliable. In testimony submitted to the state Public Utilities Commission, 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."

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RELATED Enbridge gets U.S. approval for cross-border pipeline section

The proposal for Line 3 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.

The State Department last week said Enbridge could build a three-mile section of its Alberta Clipper oil pipeline across the national border. 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.

The PUC said it was reviewing a time to reschedule the canceled hearings. Pipeline opponents said the cancellation was "a blatant sign of racism" because many of those protesting were from the indigenous community.

RELATED Line 3 oil pipeline overhaul is necessary, Enbridge says

The PUC is expected to make a decision on the project by early 2018

RELATED Minnesota starts new phase for Enbridge pipeline review

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