Duluth Mayor Don Ness on Wednesday waded into the controversy over the growing web of oil pipelines across northern Minnesota as he endorsed Enbridge Energy's pipeline expansion plans.
Calgary-based Enbridge recently proposed its largest pipeline project ever to transport more Canadian tar sands heavy crude to the U.S. through northern Minnesota.
Meanwhile, state regulators are hosting public hearings this week on another Enbridge plan to expand the pumping capacity of its so-called Alberta Clipper line.
Environmental groups are mobilizing to stop Enbridge, arguing spills could potentially dump oil into lakes and rivers. Ness, though, joined Mayor Bruce Hagen of neighboring Superior, Wis., to voice support for Enbridge, which employs about 750 people in the Duluth-Superior region with an annual payroll over $60 million.
Pipelines are a safer alternative than trains or trucks to transport oil and emit less carbon, Ness told reporters, adding, "the debate on whether or not that crude should be coming out of the ground, that's not in my mind a debate that we're weighing in on."
Piping in more oil, however, contributes to climate change, said Andrew Slade with the Minnesota Environmental Partnership.
Ness, he added, "has some learning to do about some of the carbon impacts, and I think he missed an opportunity for Duluth to really step ahead and take leadership on this."
Enbridge hopes to expand two of its five lines that carry crude from the Alberta oil sands region in Canada. It also hopes to build a new line called Sandpiper that would transport oil from the Bakken region of western North Dakota.