A House committee has moved forward a bill that would allow Enbridge to build a new oil pipeline across northern Minnesota without approval from public utility regulators.
Gov. Mark Dayton has indicated he would veto such legislation. Dayton said Tuesday he would oppose “end runs” around the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission by the Legislature “to give special interests what they want.”
The controversial new Line 3 proposal has been winding its way through the regulatory process for three years, and is now in the home stretch. A final decision by the PUC is expected in late June.
The bill introduced by Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, would terminate the regulatory process, allowing Line 3 to go forward without a “certificate of need” and route permit from the PUC.
The House Job Growth and Energy Affordability and Finance Committee, on a voice vote Tuesday night, sent the bill to the House floor. A similar bill is pending before the Senate Energy Utilities and Finance Committee.
Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge wants to build a new pipeline across northern Minnesota to replace its current Line 3, a 1960s-vintage pipeline that is corroding. Line 3, one of six Enbridge pipelines that carry oil from Canada to Superior, Wis., operates at only 51 percent of its capacity due to safety concerns.
Environmental groups and American Indian bands who oppose the pipeline say the new route opens a new region of lakes, rivers and wild rice waters to degradation from oil spills.
Fabian said most people in his northern Minnesota district support the $2.6 billion pipeline project.
“I live in the real world and this project will create many jobs and much economic activity,” Fabian said during the committee meeting. “If we don’t act, the PUC will decide the fate of Line 3.”
Opponents of Fabian’s measure said that is exactly how it should be: The PUC has built a voluminous public record on Line 3 — both from supporters and opponents — and it shouldn’t be thrown aside.
“I don’t think we want a process that is a sham and joke,” Andy Pearson, a coordinator for the environmental group MN350, testified before the committee. “This bill would be a joke.”
Winona LaDuke, executive director of the environmental activist group Honor the Earth, told the committee that the legislation would “shove [the pipeline] down our throats. … We want a system that works, and this would entirely circumvent it.”
Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Jessica Looman testified against Fabian’s bill, as did more than a dozen citizens.
The Department of Commerce has concluded that there is not enough need for the pipeline to justify the possibility of oil spills and other negative effects.
Fabian, in an interview with the Star Tribune, said the need for the pipeline “should be determined by the market, not by the bureaucrats at the Commerce Department.”