GRAND FORKS — Enbridge Energy Partners is confident a replacement of an aging oil pipeline that cuts across northern Minnesota will be completed, despite recent delays over the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.
Enbridge plans to replace almost all of its 1,097-mile Line 3 pipeline, which runs from Edmonton, Alberta, to Superior, Wis. The project will nearly double the line’s capacity to 760,000 barrels per day. The pipeline was constructed in the 1960s, and the company hopes to have the new line in service in 2019.
Before then, it will need to go through the regulatory process in Minnesota, which provided some challenges for Enbridge’s Sandpiper, a new pipeline that was to run from western North Dakota to Superior. The company shelved that project in early September after low prices caused a slowdown in oil production.
The Sandpiper decision also came after Enbridge and Marathon Petroleum Corp. announced plans to invest in the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has been delayed by months-long protests near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The U.S. Department of the Army handed protesters a victory Sunday by announcing it would not approve an easement for the pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe.
Still, Paul Eberth, project director for Enbridge, said the company remains confident in the success of the Line 3 project. The Canadian government signed off on it last week.
The new pipeline would cross a section of North Dakota’s Pembina County before running from Kittson County in northwest Minnesota to northern Wadena County, where it would cuirve east toward the Duluth area.
“It’ll improve the safety and efficiency of transportation in Minnesota,” Eberth said.
Asked whether he was worried that Enbridge’s Line 3 project could attract the same kind of opposition that has hampered the Dakota Access Pipeline, Eberth said, “You’re always worried about the risks that could threaten your project. But in our case, if a stakeholder is significantly opposed to our project, our response will be to increase the engagement to see if we can’t reach a mutually agreeable solution.”
The current Line 3 route runs through the Leech Lake Indian Reservation and the Fond du Lac Reservation, Eberth said, but the new route is set to bypass those reservations. It would run near the White Earth Indian Reservation, where Minnesota Public Radio reported many people who attended a public hearing on the project in August 2015 opposed it.
A message left at White Earth’s legal office was not returned Monday afternoon.
The fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline stemmed from objections raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which argued the project’s construction would disturb sacred sites and contaminate drinking water if it leaked.
Honor the Earth, a Native American environmental group, has called on members of the public to raise concerns to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission over Enbridge’s plans to abandon the existing Line 3 pipeline. Enbridge filed applications for a route permit and certificate of need to the PUC in April 2015.
An issue summary posted on Honor the Earth’s website said Enbridge would “leave behind what is likely a Superfund site,” a reference to a federal program aimed at cleaning up contaminated land.
Eberth, however, denied abandoning the pipe would result in contamination. He said the deactivation process involves cleaning out the pipe and disconnecting it from operating facilities.
“That’s typical with pipelines when they reach the end of their useful life,” he said. “That said, if there are situations where the decommissioned pipe poses a threat to either the environment, public safety or inhibits the continued land use of where the pipeline is, then we may look at removing it in places. But it would be a very small segment of the overall project.”
Enbridge is responsible for its pipelines whether they are active or inactive, according to its website. The company will continue to monitor the deactivated pipeline and maintain the right of way.