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Judge backs expansion of pipeline carrying Canadian oil through Minnesota

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A judge who studied the proposed expansion of an oil pipeline that runs across northern Minnesota is advising state regulators to approve the project.

Administrative law judge Eric Lipman released his finding of fact and recommendation to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Thursday.

Enbridge Energy wants to expand its Alberta Clipper pipeline that carries crude oil from the Canadian tar sands to a refinery in Superior, Wisconsin. Judge Lipman writes that Enbridge demonstrated the need for the expansion.

As the Associated Press reports, some critics of the expansion argue it will fuel climate change because oil is extracted from the tar sands through an energy-intensive process that generates greenhouse gases.

But Lipman writes that no one has offered a better alternative for providing a steady supply of petroleum.

The Star Tribune reports the $160 million expansion would increase the pipeline's capacity by 40 percent, allowing it to carry 800,000 barrels of oil per day. The entire line is 1,000 miles long with 285 miles passing through Minnesota.

Enbridge says the expansion would be accomplished by adding pumping stations and modifying existing ones, without laying any new pipeline.

The Alberta Clipper, which Enbridge calls Line 67, has already been expanded once using the same technique. If the second expansion is approved, it would bring the line to its maximum capacity.

The Alberta Clipper project is part of a series of expansions Enbridge is planning.

It is separate from Enbridge's proposed $2.5 billion pipeline that would carry oil from North Dakota to the refinery in Superior.

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