Throughout June and across the state, the Minnesota Department of Commerce held 22 well-attended public meetings about the draft environmental-impact statement for Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 replacement project. As the project’s sponsor, it’s a good time to reflect on the meetings and what we heard. But first, it’s important to recognize and thank the employees and contract staff of the Commerce Department, in addition to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The hard work of these folks and the coordination of their collective leadership allowed interested parties to share important views from all across Minnesota.
Additionally, I want to thank our supporters and Enbridge employees and contractors who came to many of the public meetings to demonstrate the importance of this project to the economic health and well-being of northern Minnesota and North America.
Several points from the public meetings bear repeating.
First, Enbridge is responsible for Line 3 and all of its energy transportation facilities, active or not. The existing Line 3 will be permanently deactivated in place, following the regulatory approval and construction of the Line 3 replacement pipeline. Leaving a permanently deactivated pipeline in place is the safest option as it reduces the risk of soil stability issues, avoids major construction activities and reduces the potential risk to existing pipelines from heavy equipment. Enbridge has deactivated more than 400 miles of pipeline in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan with zero incidents. We will continue to monitor the right of way and be responsible for the pipeline. Impacts to public safety, the environment or land use associated with our deactivation will be mitigated appropriately. Landowners will never be responsible for Enbridge’s deactivated pipelines.
Second, this is not a new pipeline. We are replacing the 1960s-era Line 3 with a modern pipeline. This is not a new corridor: from North Dakota to Clearbrook, Minn., we co-locate with 98 percent of our existing right of way. From Clearbrook to Superior, Wis., we follow existing pipelines, transmission lines and railroad lines for approximately 75 percent of the route.
We chose this route for several reasons:
The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe has stated time and again: The corridor across the band’s reservation is too full. Accordingly, an alternative route was developed.
We believe the preferred route provides the best balance, avoiding sensitive resources and minimizing potential impacts to both people and environmental resources while also respecting the Leech Lake band’s sovereignty.
The existing corridor between Clearbrook and Superior has become congested, with pipelines, railroad, power lines and highway all closely located, while communities such as Bemidji, Cass Lake and Park Rapids have grown around the corridor the past 50 years.
Third, safety and integrity drive how Enbridge constructs, operates and maintains its facilities, including the Line 3 replacement. To safely operate the current Line 3 would require thousands of maintenance digs as well as other operational safeguards in the next 10 to 15 years, meaning numerous disruptions to communities, landowners and other stakeholders. It simply makes more sense to replace Line 3 with a modern system that takes advantage of higher-quality steel, advanced pipe coating and better construction techniques. Minnesota deserves that peace of mind when it comes to safe energy transportation in northern Minnesota.
Lastly, I believe the economic benefits of the project are understated. Enbridge’s Line 3 project is one of thousands of infrastructure projects — including pipelines, power lines, highways, railroads, waterways, airports and ports — active in the U.S. today. Infrastructure projects like these provide the basis for our modern society. While some claim these are “temporary” jobs, I and many employees and contractors have made a successful career out of these “temporary” jobs. Future generations will come to not only enjoy the benefits of these projects, but appreciate building them as we have.
In closing, it’s important to remember that fossil fuels provide about 80 percent of the primary energy supply we use every day for electricity, heating and cooling, cooking and transportation. The energy we transport makes life better — from the clothes we wear to the food we grow to the homes we live in to the medicines we take and even the phones we use.
Enbridge has been part of the Minnesota fabric of life for more than 65 years. We are proud to live here and deliver North American energy safely and reliably. And with the Line 3 replacement project, we’re going to keep doing just that, safely and reliably.
John Swanson is vice president for major projects at Enbridge Energy.