The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has extended by one week the deadline for public comments on permits for Enbridge’s proposed oil pipeline across the northern part of the state and has scheduled call-in “town hall meetings” on the project.
The extension and the meetings by telephone were scheduled after the MPCA recently canceled three public meetings on the permits. The 30-day comment period, originally slated to end April 3, will now run through April 10.
The MPCA last month approved draft permits for the controversial 340-mile pipeline that would carry Canadian crude across northern Minnesota to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wis. It is a replacement for Enbridge’s deteriorating Line 3.
The agency had scheduled public meetings in three northern Minnesota locations for mid-March and April 1. But the MPCA has since postponed or canceled all in-person public meetings and events until at least April 30 due to the coronavirus threat.
The MPCA on Tuesday said it would hold three 90-minute telephone conference calls: at 2 p.m. April 2, 6:30 p.m. April 7 and 10 a.m. April 9.
Also, the MPCA said it will conduct an “informational web presentation” on April 1 to share information on the draft permits. Specific questions submitted via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) to the MPCA by end of March 29 may be included in the presentation, the agency said.
Four environmental groups opposing the pipeline said they had asked the MPCA to extend the comment period. But seven days isn’t sufficient given dislocations caused by coronavirus, and actual public meetings should still be held, they said.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) last month reapproved the $2.6 billion pipeline, which would replace Enbridge’s aging Line 3, but would partly follow a new route.
The PUC is the primary regulator of oil pipelines in Minnesota, including determining risk of oil-spill hazards — in water and on land — of pipelines once they are in operation.
But before Enbridge can begin construction, it must receive more technical permits from MPCA, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
MPCA and Army Corps water-quality permits are necessary as the new pipeline would cross many waterways, and construction would affect wetlands.