Proposed oil pipeline meets resistance in northern Minnesota
DULUTH, Minn. — A proposed pipeline that would bring oil from Alberta, Canada through Minnesota and to Superior, Wis., is running into resistance.
There’s predictable opposition from property owners trying to protect their land right-of-way. But an environmental group is also fighting the Enbridge Energy pipeline, arguing the process used to harness the oil runs contrary to Minnesota’s stated goals on energy efficiency.
Next month, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy will present its objections to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which has to sign off on the 1,000-mile pipeline project before it can go ahead.
The group said extracting the oil from Canada’s tar sands is extremely energy intensive and harmful to the environment.
"If Minnesota is going to permit this and become a player, it’s our argument that we need to take a step back and think about the consequences," said the center’s Janette Brimmer. "Especially in light of the fact that our governor and our Legislature are in many ways trying to take us in the other direction — to be more energy conscious, to be more careful about greenhouse gases."
Denise Hamsher, a spokeswoman for Enbridge Energy, said the group’s argument is off base.
"The matter before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is about the pipeline, it’s not about the production source," Hamsher said. "When those projects are proposed, they undergo their own environmental permitting. And Alberta has gone through a very extensive environmental permitting effort."
Hamsher said stopping the pipeline does nothing for Alberta or global warming.
"The oil sands are going to be produced, with or without this pipeline," Hamsher said. "But without this pipeline that Enbridge is now proposing, that production will just go to other parts of the United States, or other parts of the world."
Bob Cupit, manager of the Public Utility Commission’s Facilities Permitting Unit, said there is no established requirement to consider the source of the oil in the pipeline. He said the PUC will balance the environmental costs of construction with the expected benefits.
The PUC will hold a hearing on the project beginning May 13. The regulatory commission is also due to consider a second, smaller line that would carry a product north, from Chicago to the Alberta oil fields, to dilute the heavy crude recovered in Alberta.