Sandpiper gains one of two Minnesota approvals
Enbridge’s Sandpiper pipeline achieved a victory in Minnesota when the state’s Public Utilities Commission approved its certificate of need, but an approval for the route is likely to be subject to some changes.
The PUC voted 5-0 June 5 to conditionally endorse the $2.6 billion pipeline which would carry crude oil from the Bakken to Superior, Wisconsin, where it could then reach refineries on the East Coast and Midwest. The PUC said it may reroute the pipeline away from environmentally sensitive bodies of water, but did not specify where. It also is requiring a study of the impacts of both the Sandpiper and Enbridge’s proposal to replace its aging Line 3 which carries oil from Alberta’s oil sands region to its terminal in Superior, potentially running some of that replacement pipe along the Sandpiper route.
While Enbridge is still subject to a lengthy review process, it continues aiming for a 2017 operating target. The pipeline could transport up to 225,000 barrels per day from North Dakota to Clearbrook, Minnesota, and up to 375,000 bpd from that point to Superior, an amount equivalent to approximately five trains of crude oil, every day.
But the day after the PUC’s decision, opponents of the project staged a protest through downtown St. Paul to the state Capitol, calling for the cancellation of the proposed pipeline project, claiming that the spills risk is too great for the state’s pristine waters. Organizers estimate 5,000 protestors took part in the peaceful march which included national speakers such as Sierra Club President Aaron Mair and 350.org founder Bill McKibben.
“The fossil fuel industry has been winning for 200 years, but their winning streak is over,” McKibben told protestors, calling Minnesota “ground zero” in the climate fight.
North Dakota regulators have already approved Sandpiper.
- Maxine Herr