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Minnesota oil pipeline review 'half-baked,' opponent says

Hearings over plans by Enbridge Energy to overhaul its Line 3 oil pipeline were cancelled because of security issues last week.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Minnesota oil pipeline review 'half-baked,' opponent says
A review of the overhaul of the Line 3 oil pipeline in Minnesota was inadequate, the regional chapter of the Sierra Club said. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 2 (UPI) -- A review of plans by Enbridge Energy to overhaul an oil pipeline through Minnesota was "half-backed," the regional chapter of the Sierra Club said.

The next phase of a state review of the plans to overhaul the oil pipeline began Wednesday and runs through Nov. 15th. Enbridge aims to spend more than $7 billion to upgrade the 50-year-old system, noting that operating the aging infrastructure carries more risk than running oil through a "newly constructed, modern pipeline."

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An administrative judge in the case told the state Public Utilities Commission, the vetting authority, that an environmental impact statement on the proposal was adequate. According to Margaret Levin, the director of the regional chapter of the Sierra Club, the impact statement included several calculation errors and fell short of its review of alternatives.

"The people of Minnesota deserve a full accounting of the risks of this project, not a half-baked, incomplete review of a project that would dramatically increase the amount of toxic tar sands running through our state," she said in a statement.

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In more than 125 pages of testimony submitted in late October, 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 because state refiners have been operating at near capacity.

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The company said the overall demand for fuels in Minnesota and the broader energy sector warrants the infrastructure, even if demand were to decline.

The pipeline review process has been met with stiff opposition in Minnesota. Public hearings were canceled last week by authorities in St. Cloud because of "logistical and safety issues" stemming from protests at a convention center.

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Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said he was waiting until the entire review process was completed, adding the PUC was independent of his administration. The commission is expected to make a decision on the project by early 2018.

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