On Monday in St. Paul, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will hold the first of five public hearings to give Minnesotans the opportunity to offer their views on the proposed Sandpiper pipeline project. As a representative of the company that would build and operate the pipeline, I'd like to explain why we believe Minnesota needs this energy transportation project.

The purpose of Sandpiper is to transport light crude from North Dakota through new terminal facilities at Clearbrook, Minn., and then to an existing terminal in Superior, Wis., where it would be distributed to refineries that produce fuel for our vehicles and other products.

The safest and most economical way to transport oil is by pipeline. The Bakken fields produce 1 million barrels a day, and the majority of that oil is being moved by rail.

Sandpiper would provide the safest, most efficient way to transport that oil to market, while at the same time providing a cost-effective transportation solution to our customers.

Dozens of groups support Sandpiper. Farmers want oil off trains and into pipelines, freeing up rail capacity to move their goods. Skilled laborers want infrastructure projects for the jobs they create. Utility producers and power suppliers need rail to receive coal shipments. And mining companies are being forced to move taconite by truck because oil transports take up so much capacity.

People living on or near our proposed route also support the project. In fact, 92 percent of private landowners have signed right-of-way agreements allowing Enbridge to build Sandpiper on their properties. The majority of counties along our route have either passed resolutions or signed letters of support acknowledging the project's benefits. Once Sandpiper is completed and operational, Enbridge would pay about $25 million in new property taxes in the first year to those counties.

Protecting the environment is important to everyone, and numerous factors are being considered in developing a project that is commercially viable and also sensitive to environmental considerations.

We believe our proposed Sandpiper route provides the best balance for Minnesota. It is the shortest, follows existing pipelines and transmission lines for 75 percent of the route, impacts fewer landowners and high-population areas, and affects fewer natural resources.

Paul Eberth is project director of the Sandpiper Pipeline Project for Enbridge in Duluth.