The public had another chance Thursday to weigh in on Enbridge’s proposed $2 billion-plus pipeline across northern Minnesota, and the debate included comments covering everything from climate damage to construction jobs.
The hearing in St. Paul was one of 18 being held in Minnesota through Oct. 26, all aimed at gathering input over Enbridge’s controversial Line 3 replacement project. The public hearings kicked off Tuesday in Thief River Falls, Minn.
About 250 people attended the afternoon hearing at the InterContinental Hotel in St. Paul, including about 50 supporters — many of them Enbridge employees and construction workers — wearing green T-shirts that said “We Support Replacing Line 3.” Many opponents waved blue handkerchiefs when pipeline foes made a point during testimony.
Supporters of the project include oil shippers that would use the pipeline, as well the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and construction worker unions, whose members stand to gain several thousand jobs if the pipeline is built.
“I believe the investment of several billion dollars in the pipeline will be a great investment for the state of Minnesota, and I am believer in the good middle-class jobs it will create,” said Tim Olson, a business agent for the Operating Engineers Local 49, which represents many heavy-equipment operators throughout Minnesota.
Ulla Nilsen of Minneapolis, a health professional by vocation, spoke against the pipeline, saying that oil is the fuel of the past and that renewable energy is getting cheaper and becoming more widespread.
“I think we should stop using oil as soon as possible,” Nilsen said. “We know we have to transition to renewable energy.”
Gathering before a second evening hearing, an estimated 400 opponents of Line 3 demonstrated at the State Capitol late Thursday afternoon and then marched through downtown St. Paul to the hotel where the sessions were held.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will decide on Line 3’s fate next spring. This round of public hearings is being presided over by Ann O’Reilly, an administrative law judge who eventually will issue a report that is expected to play a key role in the PUC’s decision. The state Commerce Department, which represents the public before the PUC, has concluded that a new Line 3 isn’t needed.
Line 3 is one of several Enbridge pipelines that run across Minnesota, transporting oil from Canada to the Calgary, Alta.-based company’s terminal in Superior, Wis. The 1960s-vintage line is corroding and can operate at only 51 percent capacity.
The new pipeline would restore Line 3’s full flow of 760,000 barrels per day. It would run parallel to the company’s current line to Clearbrook, Minn., then jog south along the route of a non-Enbridge pipeline before heading east to Superior.
The proposed route goes through regions known for pristine rivers and lakes, including wild rice lakes important to American Indian tribes. The tribes oppose the new pipeline, as do environmental groups and some property owners.
Enbridge ‘doing right thing’
Several pipeline supporters, including some Enbridge workers, said Enbridge is making a critical infrastructure investment.
“Enbridge is doing the right thing by replacing aging infrastructure,” said Mel Olson, president of United Piping in Duluth, a pipeline fabricator that counts Enbridge as a customer. “Pipelines are the safest, most cost-efficient way of transporting fluids. I love them and you should, too.”
Many pipeline opponents brought up the specter of climate change, and oil’s contribution to the greenhouse gases that cause it.
“Climate change is not a position or belief,” said Maggie O’Connor of Minneapolis. “It is like gravity — it is there.”