State regulators to hear public comments on Line 3 pipeline project once again

Opponents and supporters of the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline file up stairs.
Opponents and supporters of the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline filed up the stairs into a hearing room inside the Minnesota Senate Building in St. Paul in November 2018. On Friday, they'll return for a public comment session on the pipeline project's revised environmental study.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2018

State utility regulators are once again preparing to make a decision on the Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved Enbridge Energy's Line 3 project, which would replace the aging oil pipeline that runs across northern Minnesota, in June 2018.

But last summer, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that the project first needed a revised environmental study in order to move forward. The court said the project’s original environmental review didn't adequately address the potential impact of a spill in the Lake Superior watershed.

On Friday, the PUC will meet in St. Paul to take public comment on the revised study. On Monday, PUC commissioners will decide whether to accept it — and whether they will again approve the controversial project.

The proposed Line 3 route takes a winding path across Minnesota
The proposed Line 3 route takes a winding path across Minnesota
William Lager | MPR News graphic 2018

The new pipeline would replace one of the five Enbridge pipelines that carry oil across northern Minnesota. It has drawn strong opposition from environmental groups, tribal groups and some tribal governments and climate change activists.

Enbridge says the project is necessary — that the current Line 3 pipeline has been transporting oil across northern Minnesota from Alberta, Canada, since the 1960s and needs to be replaced. Labor and industry groups support the project for the construction jobs it would create. Local government officials tout the benefits of the tax revenue it would generate for the counties it crosses.

But opponents argue that a new pipeline would enable more oil to be transported — and then burned — worsening the effects of climate change. They say they are concerned about the risk of oil spills in a part of Minnesota replete with lakes and rivers.

If the project is approved, Enbridge has said it hopes to begin construction later this year. The controversial project has already attracted several legal and other challenges, and more are expected.

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