The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is deliberating whether it should grant a certificate of need for the Sandpiper Pipeline project. This follows an administrative law judge’s recommendation in April that the certificate of need be granted after conducting public hearings across Minnesota earlier this year and weighing significant testimony from all sides.
Sandpiper will transport light crude oil from North Dakota to Enbridge terminals in Clearbrook, Minn., and Superior, Wis., From there, it will be transported via existing pipelines to refineries that produce fuel for our vehicles and other products. The pipeline also will help domestic energy producers reduce our reliance on imports from countries that are unstable and unfriendly to U.S. interests.
Sandpiper has broad and deep support throughout Minnesota. We are grateful for the supporters who attended public hearings on the project earlier this year and for the thousands of others — including 65 Minnesota legislators and the majority of the county commissions along the route — who have expressed their support for Sandpiper. Likewise, Enbridge has secured easement agreements with 95 percent of the private landowners along the proposed route.
The project will be important economically to Minnesota by helping to create jobs, generate tax revenue and boost northern Minnesota economies. Sandpiper will create 1,500 family-sustaining construction jobs, while providing an economic boost to the region’s businesses during construction through the purchase of goods, services, lodging, food and other supplies.
Enbridge expects to pay an additional $25 million in annual Minnesota property taxes following Sandpiper’s first year of operation. All told, Enbridge is making a private investment of $1.2 billion (about the cost of a new Vikings stadium) for Sandpiper in northern Minnesota.
The safest and most economical way to transport oil is by pipeline. Between 60 and 70 percent of North Dakota crude oil is transported by rail or truck — much of it through Minnesota. Sandpiper’s capacity of 225,000 barrels leaving North Dakota equals 1,710 rail cars every day. According to a University of Minnesota study last year, rail congestion cost Minnesota agriculture $100 million in reported losses in the spring of 2014 alone. And other industries — such as power, mining and paper — have experienced similar congestion challenges.
Protecting the environment is important to all of us, and numerous factors went into developing a project that is commercially viable while at the same time sensitive to environmental considerations. Enbridge’s proposed Sandpiper route provides the best balance for Minnesota, taking into account impacts to both people and the environment. It is the shortest and most energy-efficient route, will affect fewer landowners, cities and towns, and fewer natural resources overall. More than 75 percent of the Sandpiper route follows existing pipelines or electric transmission lines.
Enbridge has operated crude-oil pipelines in northern Minnesota for more than 65 years, delivering the energy we need to fuel vehicles, power our agriculture industry and grow jobs.
We agree with the strong evidence-based recommendations provided in the administrative law judge’s report. We trust that the certificate of need will be granted so that we can continue to work cooperatively with the regulatory and permitting authorities, state agencies, elected officials and the public as we proceed to the next step of the permitting process.
Paul Eberth is project director for Sandpiper Pipeline, Enbridge, Superior, Wis.