Permitting problems in Minnesota to delay ND oil pipeline project for 1 year

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Permitting problems in Minnesota are delaying a Canadian company from building a 612-mile pipeline from western North Dakota's Bakken oil fields, The Associated Press reports.

Enbridge Energy Partners LP, which is based in Calgary, Alberta, disclosed the delay Tuesday of the $2.6 billion Sandpiper pipeline in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Sandpiper pipeline is designed to move 225,000 barrels of oil a day from North Dakota to Clearbrook, Minnesota, and in turn, ship up to 375,000 barrels a day from the Minnesota location to another oil hub in Superior, Wisconsin.

The delay comes after the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission requested an expanded study on the environmental impacts of six possible routes of pipeline. Critics have suggested the planned route of the pipeline crosses many environmentally-sensitive areas in northern Minnesota, including rivers, lakes and wetlands.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources sent a letter to the Public Utilities Commission in August, asking the agency to "strongly consider" one of several alternatives to the route proposed by Enbridge for the pipeline.

“The Preferred Route for the Sandpiper Project is proposed in a region of the state that contains a concentration of important lakes for fisheries, trout streams, sensitive aquifers, public conservation lands, and mineral and forestry resources,” the DNR wrote in the letter.

In conference call with reporters Tuesday, Enbridge Chief Executive Al Monaco said Minnesota regulators have decided to split their vetting process into two separate tracks, which is causing the delay, according to Journal. One of the vetting processes is focusing on the need for the added takeaway capacity, while the other will debate the routing of the pipeline, Monaco says.

Enbridge says alternate routes will be more costly. In a statement emailed to the Star Tribune in August, Enbridge said the preferred route is the best choice for natural resources.

“It travels along existing utility right of way, is shorter than other proposed alternatives and minimizes impacts on people and the environment,” the statement read.

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