Both houses of the Minnesota Legislature approved bills this week that allow Enbridge to build a controversial new oil pipeline across northern Minnesota without regulators’ approval.
By a 35-32 vote, the Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would terminate a three-year regulatory process that is nearly complete. Enbridge could then go ahead and build a new Line 3 pipeline. The House passed a similar bill Monday on a 74-51 vote.
Gov. Mark Dayton has threatened to veto the legislation. “It would destroy the integrity of the process designed to protect the public interest that has been in place for 43 years,” he said in statement Wednesday.
Enbridge’s existing Line 3 pipeline is aging, corroding and operating at just over half of its capacity due to safety concerns. Calgary-based Enbridge wants to replace the pipeline — a $2.6 billion project — with a new Line 3 that would run on a new route.
Environmentalists and Indian tribal groups oppose the pipeline and the new route, saying it would open a new region of lakes, rivers and wild rice waters to degradation from possible oil spills.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is expected to decide in June whether a new Line 3 is needed, and if so, what route it should take. The PUC traditionally rules on new pipelines, power plants, electric transmission lines and other utility infrastructure.
Legislators favoring the bills have said the PUC has taken too long on a decision for Line 3 and that construction of the new pipeline would provide an economic spark in northern Minnesota. Opponents say the bills, with the PUC’s decision so near, would simply be an end-run around regulators.
Line 3 is one of six Enbridge pipelines — all in the same corridor — that carry Canadian oil across northern Minnesota to the company’s terminal in Superior, Wis.