Enbridge’s chief executive said the company will continue pursuing a new route for its proposed Line 3 pipeline across northern Minnesota, despite a judge’s recommendation against that route.
Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly issued a report Monday saying that Enbridge had established a need for the controversial new oil pipeline. But the benefits of that pipeline are only outweighed by the costs if the new Line 3 is built along the same route as the current Line 3, she wrote.
Her recommendation also entails pulling out the old Line 3 before replacing it, which would add more than $1 billion to the cost of the $2.6 billion project. O’Reilly’s findings are recommendations, but they could carry significant weight before Minnesota utility regulators when they decide Line 3’s fate in June.
Enbridge CEO Al Monaco said in a statement Wednesday that the Calgary, Alberta-based company is “pleased” with O’Reilly’s recommendation that the aging and corroding old Line 3 be replaced.
“That being said, the ALJ’s suggestion of an alternative route ignores the extensive record compiled by the state of Minnesota … that incorporates input from thousands of Minnesotans who are in favor of our proposed route,” Monaco said. “Most notably, the ALJ’s recommended route ignores the long-standing wishes of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe that the replacement not be constructed across their reservation.”
The current Line 3 and five other Enbridge pipelines cross the Leech Lake reservation and the reservation of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
The Leech Lake band criticized the judge’s recommendation on Tuesday.
O’Reilly’s report notes the difficulty of routing new Line 3 through the reservations, and the state cannot force such a solution.
But the environmental impact is greater, she wrote, if Enbridge builds along its proposed route, which creates an entirely new pipeline corridor from Park Rapids to Carlton, Minn.
Environmental groups and Indian tribes oppose the new route, saying it opens a new region of lakes, rivers and wild rice waters to environmental degradation from possible oil spills.
Monaco also said that under O’Reilly’s recommendation, Enbridge’s Line 3 would be shut down for several months because it would have to be replaced, leading to oil-supply disruptions and possible gasoline price increases in the region.