PROCESSWEST Magazine Online

Regulator weights potential environmental hazard of Line 3

Don Horne   


A Minnesota regulator considered on Monday whether the state has adequately assessed potential risks of a spill from a replaced Enbridge Inc Line 3 pipeline, with opponents saying the consequences could be “catastrophic.”

Line 3, built in the 1960s, carries oil from Alberta to Superior, Wis. Because of age and corrosion, it carries less oil than it was designed to transport.

According to Reuters, Enbridge has argued that replacing it will reduce the chances of leaks.

Replacing Line 3 would allow Calgary, Alta.-based Enbridge to double its capacity to 760,000 barrels per day, providing relief to congested pipelines carrying Canada’s oil.


A shortage of pipeline capacity has forced the Alberta government to curtail production to reduce a glut in storage.

“I see continuous permitting and continuous risk,” said Frank Bibeau, representing the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. “It’s just giving them something for free at our risk and peril. We don’t think in a big way that we’re being watched out for.”

The Minnesota Department of Commerce revised its environmental impact statement for the project after the Minnesota Court of Appeal ruled last June that the original statement was insufficient. The court found the original statement lacking regarding a single issue, assessment of a potential spill on Lake Superior and its watershed.

A spill would be “catastrophic” to Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and its way of life, including its wild rice harvesting, said Benjamin Benoit, the band’s environment director.

Enbridge lawyer Christy Brusven argued the revised environmental statement is adequate and achieves what the court ordered – addressing a spill impact on the watershed. Opponents’ arguments that modelling should have been done at more than one location go beyond the court’s ruling, she said.

Oil can also spill if it travels by rail, the main alternative to pipelines, Kevin Pranis, a spokesman for Laborers International Union of North America, which supports the project because of the jobs it would create, told Reuters.

The purpose of opposition “is indefinite delay,” he said.

The Line 3 project is one of three, along with TC Energy Corp’s Keystone XL and the Canadian government-owned Trans Mountain, that have been stalled for years by opposition worried about possible spills.

If the commission decides the environmental statement is adequate, it will consider whether to reissue a certificate of need and route permit for the pipeline.



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