Enbridge delays pipeline for at least a year

Enbridge Energy Partners is delaying the Sandpiper pipeline project through Minnesota for at least a year.

The Calgary, Alberta-based company disclosed the delay in a filing Tuesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Enbridge says the $2.6 billion crude oil pipeline was expected to be ready to begin service in early 2016. But because of a "longer than expected permitting process" in Minnesota, the company now estimates the pipeline won't be in service until 2017.

Minnesota regulators recently requested an expanded study of possible routes for the pipeline through the state. By a 3-2 vote, the state Public Utilities Commission called for further study of the environmental impact of six possible routes suggested by critics of Enbridge's planned route, which crosses many rivers, lakes and wetlands. Enbridge says the alternative routes would be longer and more costly. Most of them don't end in its intended destination of Superior, Wisconsin.

• Related: Horseback protest objects to pipeline route
• Earlier: State agencies, citizens ask for alternatives to route

Enbridge wants to build the 610-mile pipeline through northern Minnesota to carry North Dakota oil to Wisconsin.

North Dakota regulators in June approved the construction of the state's portion of the Sandpiper pipeline that would move 225,000 barrels a day of North Dakota oil to Minnesota and Wisconsin. The capacity of the pipeline is equal to about four oil trains daily and the biggest project yet to come before North Dakota regulators to move oil from the rich Bakken and Three Forks formations in the western part of the state.

"Obviously, we've done our part," said Brian Kalk, who heads the North Dakota Public Service Commission. "Now it's up to Minnesota."

Kalk said the three-member North Dakota panel is watching with interest on how any action by Minnesota regulators may change the pipeline route and where it meets the line in North Dakota. The PSC would have to amend its approval "if the Minnesota route doesn't match the North Dakota point," Kalk said.