MN House adds pipeline plan to energy bill

The Minnesota House has advanced a plan to remove regulatory hurdles for an oil pipeline project in northern Minnesota.

Lawmakers amended a larger budget bill Thursday to allow Enbridge Energy to bypass the Public Utilities Commission and begin building its 340-mile replacement pipeline. The amendment vote was 75-57, largely along party lines.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said the multi-billion-dollar project has already been delayed too long. Garofalo said the opposition to the project is “mindless.”

“The environmental extremists who are using the regulatory process to delay decision making on this are hurting Minnesota,” Garofalo said. “They’re putting the environment at risk, and worst of all they’re delaying needed improvements to our economy in greater Minnesota.”

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Environmental activists and tribal members gathered at the state Capitol to protest the plan. They say the amendment would make it difficult for them to fight the pipeline project.

Several DFL lawmakers also spoke against the amendment during the House debate.

Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, DFL-Roseville, said it would cut the public out of the approval process.

"The way you are doing this is not honorable. It is cowardly,” Becker-Finn said. “This language, this free ticket to an oil company was not introduced as its own bill. We haven't had hearings. We haven't had discussion. This is the first time we're debating it."