Enbridge clears last hurdle on $9-billion Line 3 pipeline project
Enbridge Inc. has cleared the last remaining hurdle before it can begin construction on replacing its $9-billion Line 3 pipeline project running from Edmonton to Superior in Wisconsin.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted 3-1 on Monday to both accept a revised environmental impact statement and to issue a ‘certificate of need’ for the Line 3 pipeline replacement project through the state, which resolves the last remaining regulatory hurdle before the 390,000-barrel-per-day pipeline project.
“There is no dispute that the current pipeline was built in the 1960s and is corroding and operating at about half its normal capacity,” said Commissioner Valerie Means as she prepared to vote in favour of the granting Enbridge a certificate of need for the pipeline.
“I think replacing an aging pipeline with a new pipeline is the most rational option,” she said.
The lone commissioner to vote twice against the project was Matt Schuerger, who said concerns about climate change required action and requested his fellow commissioners vote down the certificate of need.
“The science on climate change is entirely clear. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report and the national agencies’ reports make it abundantly clear that action must change and we must take actions to reduce climate change,” Schuerger said as he voted against the project.
PUC chair Katie Sieben said Monday’s vote was not about climate change but was necessary because “there is a deteriorating, decrepit old pipe” through the state that needs to be replaced. The commission voted to allow Enbridge to replace that pipe, and construction is expected to begin on the new Line 3 this year.
Enbridge, which did not respond to request for comment on the decision Monday, is proposing to build a new Line 3 pipeline between Alberta and Wisconsin to replace an aging pipeline, but the project has been delayed due to opposition in Minnesota. The state’s PUC previously approved the project but had to reconsider after court challenges.
“Enbridge has not provided the long-range demand forecast required by Minnesota law,” said Katherine Hinderlie, the assistant attorney general, representing the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
The state’s department of commerce has opposed the project, despite other state government departments supporting the replacement of Line 3, on the grounds that future oil demand in the state is expected to decline over time.
Enbridge’s case for the pipeline, Hinderlie and others opposed to the pipeline argued Monday, relies on a supply forecast for Western Canada Select oil production over time not a demand forecast for the United States.
“The facts and the law demand that you deny the certificate of need,” said Akilah Sanders-Reed of the Youth Climate Interveners.
While the department of commerce, environmental organizations and multiple Indigenous groups in the state opposed the project, unions and industry advocacy groups and a handful of Indigenous groups who want the Line 3 pipeline moved off their reservations.
“We don’t need another 50 years of studies to know that climate change is real and we don’t need another 50 years of studies to see this pipeline should be replaced,” said Kevin Pranis, representing the Laborers International Union of North America.
Much of the hearing Monday centred on whether or not the outlook for oil demand in Minnesota, and across North America, had changed since the PUC first approved the project in 2018.
Eric Swanson, a lawyer acting for Enbridge, referred to requests for more information about Canadian oil supply and oil demand as it relates to the project as “an endless do-loop,” requiring the applicant to continuously provide new information.