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The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has approved the proposed replacement of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline despite the vocal environmentalist opposition. The decision should provide some relief to Canadian oil producers as the new pipeline will allow them to send more crude to U.S. refineries.
The 1,031-mile pipeline was built about six decades ago and runs from Edmonton, Alberta, to Superior, Wisconsin, where Enbridge operates an oil terminal. Because of its age, the pipeline is corroding and cracking, which makes oil transportation riskier—a fact that has forced Enbridge to reduce the flow of oil by about half of the pipeline’s capacity of 760,000 bpd.
One might wonder why replacing a corroded pipeline with a new—hence safer—would cause one would become the object of such strong opposition, but it seems that these days the very word “pipeline” sounds dangerous to certain groups of people.
The Minnesota Utilities Commission’s deciding panel, however, is not among them. It approved the environmental assessment for the project that Enbridge presented earlier this year, and now it has approved the final route of the pipeline.
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The authority has also issued a certificate of need to the company, which carries the condition that Enbridge will guarantee it will foot the bill for any environmental damage from the infrastructure and will remove parts of the pipeline that are no longer in use, at the request of landowners. The new pipeline will not follow the original Line 3 route.
Opponents of the project did not take the news calmly. In fact, a group of them interrupted the PUC meeting, and threats of a repeat of the Dakota Access saga ensued.
“What they have done to us today is egregious,” the head of an activist group called Honor the Earth said. “They have gotten their Standing Rock. We will do everything that is needed to stop this pipeline,” Winona LaDuke said.
The PUC’s decision can be appealed and, in all likelihood, it will be. Yet supporters of the US$7.5-billion project, including business and labor groups, applauded the decision, as US$2.6 billion of the total will be spent in Minnesota.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.