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Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Project is in the best interest of Minnesotans

Nancy Norr

The state of Minnesota is arguably one of the most environmentally conscientious states in the country. This is in part due to our beautiful surroundings and plethora of fresh water, but is also because we are a people who see the value of the great outdoors and who have worked hard to protect it. We have put processes in place to ensure that we are able to move forward with the needs and demand from modern society while simultaneously protecting the natural surroundings that make this a great place to live.

One of these processes is a robust environmental review process for infrastructure projects, including those in the energy industry. The Minnesota Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) mission is to “protect and promote the public’s interest in safe, adequate and reliable utility services at fair, reasonable rates.” This Thursday, the state agency will be tasked with another important decision affecting our state’s energy future. The agency will determine whether to find the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Project adequate.

Four years of study

This important decision follows more than four years of study and over 1,500 meetings with local stakeholders to compile a thorough and comprehensive EIS. The final document evaluates the effects the pipeline replacement project will have on the environment – both physical and in relationship to the people living in communities along the route.

Minnesotans have had ample opportunity to share their perspectives on this project during a public input process. Recently, the administrative law judge tasked with make a recommendation to the PUC on the adequacy of the final EIS said the study sufficiently addressed impacts the proposed pipeline could have, along with proposed alternatives. As the PUC gathers to consider whether to adopt the administrative law judge’s recommendation, we hope they will remember their mission. Because, at the end of the day, the thoughtful and thorough environmental review process has shown the Line 3 Replacement Project is in the best interest of the people in Minnesota.

Jason George

From an environmental perspective, the project is a maintenance project to replace aging infrastructure, just as our state needs to replace roads and bridges, and our cities need to replace and upgrade water and wastewater infrastructure. The current proposal is the most energy efficient option for this crucial energy source. Replacing the existing Line 3 with a new 36-inch pipe will result in fewer greenhouse gas emissions than either maintaining the existing line (currently shipping at reduced capacity of 390,000 barrels per day (bpd) and moving the balance of 370,000 bpd by rail) or replacing the existing line with like-for-like 34-inch pipe. It takes less energy to move the same liquid through a wider 36-inch pipeline than it does to move it through a 34-inch pipeline. These energy savings are enough to power about 14,700 homes in Minnesota annually.

And, make no mistake, the positive effects on the people of Minnesota will be tremendous. Minnesotans are in line to benefit from a project offering more than $2 billion in economic impact, to better meet our needs for affordable and reliable liquid fuels, and to enhance the safety of our environment for generations to come.

Economic impact

A recent University of Minnesota Duluth study estimates that Enbridge will spend $1.5 billion on the Line 3 Replacement Project, leading to a total economic impact of $2 billion in direct and spinoff spending, with much of the benefit accruing to communities and counties in Greater Minnesota along the energy corridor.

The same study found that the project will create 8,600 jobs over two years and will have a payroll of $334 million for the skilled workers employed during construction. These workers are rigorously trained to safely build and maintain this critical energy infrastructure and they take great pride in their work, including the environmental protection of their surroundings.

The long-term economic impacts of the project will include an additional $19.5 million annually in property taxes – this is above and beyond the more than $30 million Enbridge already pays each year in property taxes.

Built in the 1960s, Line 3 needs to be replaced in order to maintain the highest safety standards and reduce future maintenance needs that would disrupt local landowners and businesses. The replacement project as proposed is essential to minimize future risks to the environment while ensuring that Minnesota refineries have access to sufficient capacity. Minnesota does not operate on an energy island. Having affordable energy in Minnesota is critical to our residents and helps our businesses be more competitive.

Nancy Norr is director, regional development at Minnesota Power. Jason George is legislative and special projects director at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49. Both serve on the board of the nonprofit coalition Jobs for Minnesotans.


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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Pat Terry on 12/05/2017 - 04:06 pm.

    How will you avoid this?

    “A total of 210,000 gallons of oil leaked Thursday from the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota, the pipeline’s operator, TransCanada, said.

    Crews shut down the pipeline Thursday morning, and officials are investigating the cause of the leak, which occurred about three miles southeast of the town of Amherst, said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

    This is the largest Keystone oil spill to date in South Dakota, Walsh said. The leak comes just days before Nebraska officials announce a decision on whether the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, a sister project, can move forward.”

  2. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 12/05/2017 - 04:44 pm.

    “Best interests of the people of Minnesota”?

    If the FEIS says this, it’s not supposed to. It’s only supposed to outline the environmental effects or implications of various decision alternatives one of which is whether the replacement of the Line 3 is needed and in the public interest. The authors no doubt think this proposal is in the best interest and no doubt there is an argument for it. But it also supports the argument that we can live with fewer pipelines.

  3. Submitted by Nancy Peterson on 12/05/2017 - 04:49 pm.

    Benefits are overstated

    The company will spend only a fraction of the estimated outlay in Minnesota, and the jobs—even if they approach the estimated number—are temporary. Meanwhile the proposed route takes dilbit through the heart of our only remaining clean waters. And—like toothpaste—once it leaks, there’s no getting it back in the tube.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 12/05/2017 - 09:00 pm.

      Temp Jobs

      I’ll not defend in any way Enbridge 3 replacement. But I will push back hard on this notion of temp jobs that I continue to read on MinnPost.

      Yes, it’s true that construction jobs are temporary. It’s the nature of the business. We’re constantly working ourselves out of a job. Would you be pleased with a contractor who made a career out of building your home? I assume most people who agree to buy new homes are happy the jobs created are “temp jobs,” and at some point they get to move in. I assume the users of the new 35W bridge are pleased that those temp jobs are over and the new bridge is available to drive over.

      These well paying temp jobs allow families to purchase homes and cars, put bread on the table, pay youth sports association fees, and a week at a resort up north. I’ve known dozens of tradesmen, and a an increasing number of tradeswomen, who have strung together a series of temp jobs. After 40 years or so, they have a nice, dignified retirement. There is industry in this state that relies on these skilled temp workers to get their projects done on time and within budget.

      Construction jobs alone are never reason enough to justify a construction project. And I sure hope I’m done socializing the cost of professional sports palaces. But to deride an entire industry for being temporary in nature is foolish and short sighted.

      • Submitted by Nick Foreman on 12/06/2017 - 01:33 pm.

        I’m sorry Frank, I hear and read a lot about

        The failures of these pipelines and the environmental damage. Just don’t trust the viewpoints of hired spokespeople for the oil pipelines. You also mention the new I-35W bridge in your comment built in 2008. In 2014 in the Star Tribune it was reported that there were already deficiencies in that bridge, which dropped its safety rating to very good from excellent in six some years. Need to see more reports on that bridge

        • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 12/06/2017 - 05:14 pm.

          Are You Sure

          That you read the first sentence of my post? You’re post implies my advocacy of the project. Please parse my words carefully.

  4. Submitted by Mary Dyl on 12/05/2017 - 09:57 pm.

    Old line 3

    “IF” this were a replacement, what is the timeline for shutting down line 3? Has a comprehensive study been done on the environmental impact of abandoning the old line?

    The economics stated in the article are way overstated. Did Embridge provide those numbers?

    This is not what is best for MN.

  5. Submitted by Ray J Wallin on 12/05/2017 - 10:58 pm.

    Bravo…. applause….

    Kudo’s to Enbridge’s marketing team for the social media/television marketing they have been doing over the past months. I expect nothing but roses to flow through this new pipeline.

    And to have two heavy hitters come in and post an article like they represent community voices instead of the lobbyists they truely are, is very impressive.

  6. Submitted by Matt Haas on 12/05/2017 - 11:27 pm.

    You are building a pipeline

    To ship more oil, to be be turned into greenhouse gas spewing fuel, than you were previously. Don’t particularly care how energy efficient it is, the net effect is still the destruction of the planet my kids have to live on, and further delaying any attempt to stop doing so. Kinda like saying, “we’re gonna keep punching you in the face, but with a fist 30% larger, what a great increase in efficiency!”

  7. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 12/06/2017 - 09:38 am.


    I just have to say that I’m looking forward to a future where photographers don’t pose their subjects as if they’re just popping into the picture from the side of the frame. It looks just plain silly. I suppose, though, it’s appropriate that such silliness should be attached to this opinion piece. I think several people already addressed the overall issues with the piece–it’s a fantastically optimistic (and by “fantastically” I do mean “based in fantasy”) lobby for something that benefits few, if any, actual Minnesotans.

    While I do agree with the sentiment that jobs, even if they are temporary constructions jobs, are good things, such jobs will not outlive or out-benefit the environmental and economic impact of the oil being passed through our state.

    #1, we should be phasing out oil, not making it more convenient. We have no more room in our atmosphere for additional fossil fuel pollution. I’m tired of people being killed and displaced by hurricanes that blow with greater force (on average) than in the past, flood events that happen more broadly and more frequently, and droughts that bring unprecedented wildfire seasons. And I’m tired of paying for it, too.

    #2 There is no reason we should risk another giant spill on our land like we’ve seen elsewhere. And the only way to prevent it is to stop moving oil. Period. Sand Lake in SD is irretrievably polluted. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. No amount of earth moving and microbe digestion is going to get that oil out of the water. There’s a reason it’s called Sand Lake–that oil slipped right into that sand and immediately into the water table–it’s already miles away. I supposed cleaning up such messes does create jobs for the cleanup. It probably provides jobs to doctors and social workers who have to deal with the health effects of drinking oil later on, too. We don’t need those jobs, thank you very much.

    #3 Our economy, and its future, is increasingly going to benefit from renewable energy. The dam is breaking and a bigger, more efficient pipeline is just a piece of bubblegum on the leak. The money, and the jobs, are in inventing, building, creating, and maintaining an infrastructure that uses solar, wind, and geothermal energy. And, if we’re smart, we’ll even accept nuclear. But it’s not oil. Getting those last drops of oil money into people’s (mostly big oil’s) pockets is not a long term bet Minnesota should make on the clean air, clean water, and clean soil that our children and grandchildren will inherit.

  8. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 12/06/2017 - 11:15 am.

    MinnPost should have a new category: Lobbyist Voices

    This commercial advocacy piece is so greasily deceptive in its conflation of this for-profit project with the public interest, the propaganda on behalf of narrow interests so brazen, it really ought to be separated in its presentation.

    For example, conflating the publicly funded infrastructure of roads & bridges with Enbridge’s project is a propaganda technique of transference.

    Here’s how it works: associate something questionable with something the audience accepts without question. The sheen and desirability of the questionable matter may gain by transferred acceptance by association with the unquestionable – UNLESS the reader is paying attention.

    MinnPost needs another category, like the one I’ve suggested, or something similar. “Propaganda Voices” would be a good category for this one, or maybe “Commercial Interests”.

  9. Submitted by Susu Jeffrey on 01/04/2018 - 07:57 pm.

    Enbridge Line 3 “Replacement”

    The Oil Drug

    On November 16, the Transcanada Keystone 1 pipeline leaked 210,000-gallons of tar sands oil in South Dakota farmland about 250 miles west of Minneapolis.

    The proposed Keystone pipeline runs from Canada through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska to connect with an existing pipeline ending in Port Arthur, Texas. It is planned as a 2,925-mile pipeline that could deliver 800,000-plus barrels a day to the Gulf Coast.

    Enbridge, another Canadian oil transporter, already has eight oil pipelines coming into northwest Minnesota at Clearbrook. Six of those lines continue across the state to Superior, Wisconsin. From there additional Enbridge pipelines carry oil eastward under the Straits of Mackinac or south to Chicago and beyond—some down to the sprawling Gulf Coast refineries.

    Now Enbridge, based in Calgary, Alberta, proposes to dig a new pipe path through some of the best wild rice lands in Minnesota and our most pristine surviving wetlands.

    This new pipeline threatens to exacerbate climate change, cause environmental damage and violate tribal and landowners’ property rights. Enbridge claims that the project, formerly called Sandpiper, now labelled Line 3, will create 8,600 jobs over the two-year construction period.

    Jobs after that?—estimates range from maybe up to 20, now reduced to “some new jobs.” Environmental opponents counter that the real jobs will be in clean up.

    Over $1-billion was spent after the July 2010 Enbridge oil spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. After a perfunctory clean up the federal Environmental Protection Agency ordered Enbridge back to the spill site in 2013 to dredge up parts of the river bottom’s contaminated sediment.

    Lawyering-Up Against Line 3

    Now that environmentalists have lawyered-up flaws in the very profitable and very dirty Canadian tar sands oil industry were found. Agency permits that used to slide through the process are scrutinized and found wanting.

    After more than four years of study and more than 1,500 meetings with stakeholders the tar sands Line 3 Environmental Impact Study was determined to be “inadequate” by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (12/72017).

    For example, there are no conclusions on potential environmental impacts and no details on how a large spill in roadless wilderness or in water would be cleaned. Since sticky tar oil clings to soil particles the concept of cleaning up a spill is relative.

    Perhaps the most glaring omission in Enbridge’s Line 3 environmental study is a dearth of attention to Native American cultural impacts: treaty rights, religious practice and subsistence ricing, fishing and hunting. “Once again, Native American interests have slipped through the cracks,” noted Paul Blackburn, attorney for Honor the Earth.

    No Need

    The Minnesota Department of Commerce determined that there is no need to replace the existing Line 3 with a new pipe (9/11/2017). “Refineries in Minnesota and the upper Midwest already have sufficient supplies of crude oil and little capacity for processing more of it,” the agency reported.

    “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.”
    Furthermore, the state Department of Commerce does not foresee increased demand in the future and notes that environmental and socio-economic risks outweigh any theoretical benefits.
    Alternatives Exist: Why Wait?

    Whether we lead the coming clean energy revolution or play catch up, clean energy is happening. A typical car emits about a pound of carbon dioxide per mile traveled. From hybrid vehicles and plug-ins to ride-hailing or telecommuting, personal cars are losing affordability.

    Investing in toxic power production is cultural suicide when we already get extreme weather affecting worldwide food production, health and political security. Clean energy is the business of this century.

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