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MN Regulators Near Pipeline Decision   06/17 10:44

   MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota regulators will open two days of final 
arguments on whether they should approve Enbridge Energy's proposal for 
replacing its deteriorating Line 3 crude oil pipeline from Canada across 
Minnesota.

   The proposal has aroused intense opposition from tribal and climate change 
activists. The Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to make its final 
decision late this month on whether the project is needed and, if so, what 
route it should take.

   Groups on both sides are urging supporters to pack the two-day hearing, 
which start Monday. Some opponents plan to canoe the Mississippi River to 
downtown St. Paul and then carry their boat to the proceedings.

   Here's a look at some of the key issues:

   THE PROPOSAL

   Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge wants to replace Line 3, which it built in 
the 1960s. For safety reasons, Enbridge runs it at only about half its original 
capacity and only with light crude. The replacement would restore its original 
capacity of 760,000 barrels per day so that it can again deliver as much light 
or heavy crude as Midwest refineries want. All Enbridge still needs is 
Minnesota's approval, through it has been a long, contentious process.

   The current Line 3 starts in Alberta and clips the northeastern corner of 
North Dakota before it traverses northern Minnesota on its way to Enbridge's 
terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. Enbridge wants to lay a line that would run 
parallel to the existing one as far as Clearbrook, Minnesota, before taking a 
more southerly route to Superior.

   Enbridge says the old line is increasingly subject to corrosion and 
cracking, and that its maintenance needs are accelerating. It says that without 
a new Line 3, its customers would have to rely more heavily on rail and truck 
transport, which have higher costs and risks.

   THE OBJECTIONS

   Unlike the old route, the company's preferred route bypasses the Leech Lake 
and Fond du Lac Indian reservations, but tribal groups still oppose it because 
the new route would take it through a pristine area of lakes and wetlands in 
the Mississippi River headwaters region, where Native Americans still harvest 
wild rice, fish and claim treaty rights.

   They're allied with environmental groups that oppose Line 3 because it would 
carry Canadian tar sands crude, which generates more greenhouse gases than 
lighter oil because the production process uses more energy and generates more 
carbon dioxide.

   More than 500 clergy and other faith leaders have signed a letter to the PUC 
and Gov. Mark Dayton urging rejection, citing the risks to the environment and 
the rights of indigenous peoples.

   WHAT OFFICIALS RECOMMEND

   The PUC staff this month recommended granting Enbridge a certificate of need 
and said the company's preferred route would have the fewest adverse 
environmental effects.

   That contrasts with a recommendation from an administrative law judge who 
concluded that the replacement would be justified only if Enbridge digs up the 
old pipeline and uses the existing trench. However, the Leech Lake tribal 
government has already formally rejected any new pipeline crossing its land, 
and the Fond du Lac band has been nearly as outspoken. Another problem is that 
using the existing trench would take Line 3 out of service until the new 
pipeline could resume operations.

   The Minnesota Department of Commerce went even further last year, saying the 
project isn't needed and that Minnesota might be better off if Enbridge just 
shuts down Line 3. The department said the environmental and socio-economic 
risks outweigh the benefits to Minnesota.

   THE COMMISSION

   The PUC is an independent five-member commission but its members were all 
appointed by Dayton, a Democrat who vetoed a GOP-led attempt in the recent 
legislative session to bypass the PUC and give Enbridge permission to proceed 
immediately. None of the recommendations from the PUC staff, the administrative 
law judge or the Commerce Department is binding on the commissioners, who will 
reconvene June 26-27 for deliberations and a decision.

   THE FUTURE

   PUC Chair Nancy Lange has said that whatever the commission decides, the 
dispute is likely to end up in court. County officials in northern Minnesota 
told the PUC last month that they're worried about large-scale protests if 
Enbridge gets a green light.

   Construction of the Dakota Access pipeline in neighboring North Dakota drew 
thousands of protesters to the Standing Rock Reservation area in 2016 and 2017, 
resulting in sometimes violent skirmishes with law enforcement and more than 
700 arrests. Some activists have threatened a repeat in Minnesota if Line 3 
moves forward.


(KA)

 
 
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