Over the objections of about 50 chanting, sign-carrying protesters, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved the expansion of a crude oil pipeline that cuts through the state.
Protesters, including environmentalists and Native Americans, oppose transporting more crude oil from the tar sands region of Alberta to the United States. They interrupted the hearing, but the PUC did not hear any testimony.
The Minnesota Commerce Department supported the pipeline expansion for its ability to ensure a stable supply of oil. The department reported that it would require 7,000 tank cars traveling through the state to move that amount of crude by railroad rather than with the upgraded pipeline.
Beginning next month, Enbridge intends to spend $40 million to upgrade three Minnesota pumping stations, at Viking, Clearbrook and Deer River. The expansion will allow 27 percent more oil to flow through the 36-inch pipeline.
In separate action, the U.S. State Department is conducting an environmental review of the Enbridge expansion because the project requires a Presidential permit to expand shipments across the border.