Minn. enviros urge against more crude oil transport

Staging area
A construction area of a section of the Alberta Clipper oil pipeline near Bemidji in 2009.
MPR File Photo/Tom Robertson

Some Minnesota environmental groups are urging state regulators to prevent more crude oil from being transported through the state.

Enbridge wants to expand capacity on pipeline 67, also known as the Alberta Clipper. The pipeline, which began operating in 2010, brings up to 450,000 barrels of crude oil per day through northern Minnesota from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada.

Environmentalists want the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to deny Enbridge permission to expand capacity, because they say the methods used to extract the oil harm the environment. Enbridge initially would expand capacity to 570,000 barrels per day, then to 800,000 barrels per day.

"The processing and extraction emits more greenhouse gases, about one and three-quarters times more, than conventional oil, so it just accelerates the climate change problem," said Paul Densmore, with the environmental group MN 350. The group held a rally at the State Capitol on Tuesday.

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The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is taking comments from the public on the proposed expansion, and Densmore said he hopes people will weigh in. Although the extraction in question is not happening in Minnesota, the state has a say in its transport, he said.

"It's coming across our border and going through our land, so all the landowners where the pipeline crosses have a say in whether or not this is approved," he said, adding that Minnesota regulators should instead encourage renewable energy sources.

Enbridge has said the expansion is needed to meet demand. Company officials did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Enbridge has said the expansion is needed to meet demand and increase the country's access to North American crude oil supplies instead of Middle East sources. Company officials said no new pipeline construction is required for the expanded capacity, but upgrades would be carried out at pump stations and terminals.

Although the proposed expansion does not involve laying new pipeline, the U.S. State Department said last week that it may require further environmental review.

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