Energy company decides it doesn't need a new MN pipeline, after all


After years of planning, delays, and demonstrations, the Sandpiper oil pipeline has flown away.

Enbridge Energy announced Thursday that it is withdrawing its application to build a $2.6 billion line to carry crude oil from North Dakota across northern Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin.

The 616-mile project, which Enbridge called Sandpiper, has been opposed by environmental groups and tribes who say it would threaten the lakes and rivers of northern Minnesota including the Mississippi River's headwaters.

In some ways Thursday's announcement was the other shoe dropping after Enbridge decided last month to buy a stake in a different pipeline project to carry oil from North Dakota's Bakken region to a tank farm in Illinois.

Less oil coming from North Dakota

The Sandpiper project has been in the regulatory process in Minnesota for more than two years. During that time crude oil prices have slumped and production from Bakken has declined, Bloomberg notes.

In their statement on Thursday Enbridge said Sandpiper is not included in the company's five year "planning horizon."

Instead, Enbridge and a partner company, Marathon Petroleum, bought a $1.5 billion stake in the Bakken Pipeline System in August. That system includes a new line, the Dakota Access Pipeline, passing from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois.

That pipeline is under construction and the Star Tribune says it's expected to be finished by the end of this year, whereas construction of Sandpiper was unlikely to begin before 2019.

The Dakota Access Pipeline has also been the subject of protests, particularly from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota which sees the line as a threat to its water supply and says the construction is disrupting historically significant land near its reservation.

Enbridge Energy Partners President Mark Maki said in a conference call Thursday that the Dakota Access Pipeline remains on schedule, the Star Tribune reports.

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