Skip to main content
Updated:
Original:

No need for a new MN pipeline, state agency says

Commerce Dept. opposes Enbridge line but they don't have final say

Minnesota's Commerce Department says there's no need to replace an aging oil pipeline across the northern part of the state. The agency suggested Monday that the existing Enbridge Energy line should be shut down and not replaced.

It's just a recommendation because the final decision about whether to build a new line belongs to a different group, the state's Public Utilities Commission (PUC). But the 338 pages of analysis from the Commerce Department will add to the argument against the plan to replace Enbridge's Line 3. 

Why not replace it?

The Commerce Department had experts in oil markets and the insurance industry help them analyze the need for the Enbridge project, which would replace a line that was built in the 1960s and is now operating at half its capacity to help guard against any accidents.

Line 3 carries crude oil from the Canadian tar sands to a refinery in Superior. Enbridge says a new replacement would be more efficient and safer.

In a statement explaining its recommendation Monday, the Commerce Department said refineries in the Upper Midwest are operating pretty close to capacity right now. So there isn't room for a lot more oil, they said. 

Their oil market analyst also says Minnesota's demand for petroleum is not likely to increase in the long term. 

The department noted that Enbridge is also asking for permission to expand a different pipeline through Minnesota (Line 67, nicknamed the Alberta Clipper). 

That line opened seven years ago. It can carry 800,000 barrels a day but the permit Enbridge has from the U.S. only allows 500,000. The Duluth News Tribune reported that the feds may change the permit by the end of this year. 

So, given the environmental risks of building a new Line 3, the limited benefits to Minnesota refineries, and Enbridge's other expansion plan, the Commerce Department concludes "Minnesota would be better off if Enbridge proposed to cease operations of the existing Line 3, without any new pipeline being built.”

Environmental groups and northern Minnesota tribes that oppose the line celebrated the recommendation. 

What happens now?

The Public Utilities Commission is on track to decide next spring whether Enbridge needs a new Line 3 – and if so, which of five possible routes it should take. (An environmental impact statement that came out last month looked at the effects of each route.) 

Between now and the spring there will be lots more debate about those questions. 

There will be a series of nine public hearings starting late this month and continuing through October. Most are in northern Minnesota, with the others in St. Cloud and St. Paul.

Then in early November there will be something sort of like a trial. It's called an "evidentiary hearing" and an administrative law judge will preside over it for a week or so in St. Paul. The Commerce Department says witnesses will testify and be cross examined as they talk about whether there's a need for the pipeline and where it should go. 

Once that's over the judge will send the PUC a final report with a recommendation based on the evidentiary hearing. 

The head of Minnesota's Commerce Department was appointed by Gov. Dayton, but the Public Utilities Commission is independent of the governor's administration. 

Next Up

Karl-Anthony Towns

Timberwolves' winning streak snapped at five games

The Wolves' bid for their longest winning streak since 2014 came up short.

Screen Shot 2020-08-14 at 6.45.53 PM

Teen arrested over fatal shooting of 5-year-old boy in Brooklyn Park

Police say the teen was filming a social media video while handling a gun.

Joe Biden

President Biden coming to Minnesota to promote Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Tuesday's trip follows passage of the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal.

Kirill Kaprizov

Kaprizov gets into the holiday spirit to rout Jets

Kirill Kaprizov's four points led the Wild to a 7-1 victory.

Kirk Cousins

Coller: Cure to Vikings' disrupted season lies in an explosive passing game

The Vikings go to San Francisco knowing that a win would be a huge boost to their playoff hopes.

unsplash football helmet ground

Judge upholds star QBs suspension for state championship game

Sam Backer, of Chatfield Senior High, won't be allowed to play in Friday's title game.

Screen Shot 2021-11-25 at 7.53.37 AM

Another 5,000 lbs. of goldfish removed from Carver County lakes

It all likely stemmed from people dumping their pets into local waters a few years ago.

Rosaleia Shelton

Appeal to find 19-year-old missing from Bloomington

The teen left her home on Monday afternoon.

hospital, emergency room

Deaths of twin fetuses after woman was shot ruled a double homicide

The woman was shot in the abdomen in mid-September.

Related

Pipeline opponents ride the proposed route on horseback

A final review of the Enbridge project comes out Thursday

enbridge energy line 3

Oil will flow through Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline starting Friday

The controversial project is complete, Enbridge says.

enbridge line 3

Complaint argues that Line 3 pipeline replacement is no longer needed

Honor the Earth filed the petition with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Tuesday.

Gov. Tim Walz to continue appeal to block Enbridge oil pipeline

The appeal was originally launched by the Dayton administration.