State utility regulators Thursday told Enbridge to provide more information to landowners hosting its old Line 3 pipeline but rejected a call by a landowners' group to go further.
Enbridge, as part of the approval for its controversial new Line 3 pipeline, agreed in 2018 that it would remove the old pipeline — on its own dime — or drain and clean the old pipe, paying landowners to keep it buried.
In May, an attorney representing a dozen landowners, filed a protest with utility regulators saying that Enbridge had failed to provide landowners with enough information to make an "informed decision" on whether to keep or boot the old pipe.
Calgary, Alberta,-based Enbridge — which has called the complaint groundless — is replacing the old Line 3 for well over $3 billion, saying the old pipeline is deteriorating.
New Line 3, approved in 2020 by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will partly run on a new route. The old pipeline will be closed and then drained, cleaned and sealed when the new Line 3 is completed.
Enbridge's "landowners' choice" program — keep the old pipeline or get rid of it — became a condition of its new Line 3 permit.
"The program is not working properly," Evan Carlson, an attorney for the landowners group told the PUC Thursday.
The program allows landowners — at Enbridge's expense — to hire a third-party engineer to help them with questions about pipeline removal and oil pollution remediation.
But the landowners' complaint said that Enbridge has not properly informed landowners of their option for an independent engineer. Nor has it informed them of their rights to negotiate a deal — not just take what the company is offering — and have a mediator involved for free.
"Make them play by the rules going forward," Carlson told the PUC.
Enbridge repeated its position Thursday that the group's claims are false.
"There is not legal or factual basis in granting the relief requested," Christina Brusven, an attorney representing Enbridge, told the PUC. "What you are being asked is to inject yourself into negotiations."
So far, Enbridge has signed 737 agreements with landowners to keep the old pipeline in place at a rate of $10 per lineal foot, according to a PUC filing. Pipeline removal has been requested by landowners of 38 tracts; owners of 227 tracts of land haven't made a decision.
The PUC voted 5-0 to require Enbridge to send a letter to landowners who hadn't yet made a choice, reminding them of the availability of a third-party engineer and of an independent mediator to resolve any disputes.
The PUC also voted unanimously to send a similar letter to landowners who have opted for removal of the pipeline.
But the commission denied a much more detailed information disclosure request from the landowners' group, as well as its call for Enbridge to renegotiate all signed waivers it has already made.
Carlson said in an interview it was "definitely good" that the PUC required Enbridge to send a letter to undecided landowners. "The fact that we got something is perhaps an indication that something was missing."