Enbridge crude oil pipeline route through Minnesota scrutinized

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The route for a long-gestating proposed pipeline, which would cut through Minnesota's northland as it carried crude oil from North Dakota to Superior, is once again being questioned.

Last week, the Star Tribune reported Minnesota regulators will consider changes to the Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline route due to concerns it cuts through environmentally sensitive areas.

This week, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan is throwing his political weight behind a new route.

In a press release Thursday, Nolan – who represents the northeast corner of the state – says the current route takes the pipeline through "vulnerable northern wetlands, porous sandy soil and water tables used for drinking water, and some of the clearest lakes in the state."

“There’s no compelling reason why the Sandpiper pipeline can’t be rerouted to avoid environmentally fragile areas,” Nolan says. “Our way of life is tied to water in Minnesota ... A pipeline spill in a region so dependent on outdoor recreation and tourism could have devastating economic consequences for years to come.”

Enbridge, a Candian company, provides a detailed look on its website at how the $2.6 billion pipeline will cut through each county in Minnesota, carrying crude oil from the Bakken in North Dakota to refineries in Superior, Wisconsin and Canada. A rough estimation of the current proposed route can be seen below.

Nolan also wrote a letter to the Environmental Manager of the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Larry Hartman, who is evaluating the pipeline's application.

Forum News Service reports environmentalist group Honor the Earth is planning a Friday protest in Bemidji, in an effort to stop construction of the pipeline because of environmental concerns.

A spokeswoman with the petroleum and natural gas company has said the project will more than double current capacity — which is about 225,000 barrels per day — to a total of 580,000 barrels per day. It could be in service by early 2016.

The company says the project will create about 3,000 construction jobs, about half of which are likely to be filled by North Dakotans and Minnesotans. It also says the pipeline improves energy independence, and will provide an economic boost in the form of revenue taxes and the use of businesses who offer pipeline supplies and materials.

The utilities commission this spring accepted public comments on the project, which can be viewed online here.

According to Enbridge, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is planning to hold public hearings this fall on the Certificate of Need – basically, an evaluation where the commission determines what should and shouldn't be constructed.

North Dakota's Public Service Commission voted unanimously in favor of the project back in June, Bakken Breakout reported. The site notes federal regulators have also given the pipeline the green light.

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