Enbridge Energy has announced a series of public meetings in December to explain plans for its proposed reconstruction of a pipeline from Canada to Superior, including the company’s preferred route across northern Minnesota.
The 1,031-mile Pipeline No. 3 would replace the company’s 1968-vintage Line No. 3 and would bring more Canadian tar sands crude oil into the U.S.
The company hopes to have the $7.5 billion project underway in 2016 and completed by 2017.
Enbridge recently revealed a preferred route for the new Line No. 3 that would follow the existing route from North Dakota to Clearbrook, Minn., and then — instead of following the old Line 3 along the historic Enbridge corridor paralleling U.S. Highway 2 — the new line would dip south through Hubbard County and then across Cass, Aitkin and Carlton counties, before meeting up with the old line near Wrenshall on its way into the company’s Superior terminal.
The new route is very similar to the company’s proposed Sandpiper line, which has raised concerns for its many water crossings. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has slowed approval of the Sandpiper line because of the new route. Public hearings on the need of the Sandpiper line will begin in January. But hearings on the route have been delayed until next spring because of environmental concerns.
“Many of us — Friends of the Headwaters, Carlton County Land Stewards, Honor the Earth, the White Earth Ojibwe Band and others — have always thought the company would not stop at one pipeline in their proposed new energy corridor. They are proving us right,” said Richard Smith, an opponent of the southern Sandpiper route.
Lorraine Little, an Enbridge spokeswoman, said it’s too early to tell if the fate of the Sandpiper route would affect the Line 3 project.
“They are two separate projects that will be decided on their own merits,” Little saidWednesday.
Enbridge has informed the Public Utilities Commission of the proposed Line 3 project but won’t formally submit the preferred southern route until 2015, Little said.
The Line No. 3 replacement, unveiled in March, is the company’s third major project in the region. It comes in addition to Enbridge’s all-new Sandpiper line from North Dakota across northern Minnesota and the nearly doubling of capacity of the company’s Alberta Clipper Line that runs from Alberta to Superior.
The current, 34-inch Line 3 is 46 years old, and has been undergoing almost constant maintenance. Its original capacity was 750,000 barrels per day but has been reduced to 410,000 barrels per day because of restrictions on the pressure in the pipe, Enbridge has said.
The new, 36-inch line would allow the full 750,000-barrel capacity, for an increase of 340,000 barrels per day of Canadian crude entering the U.S., or about 14.3 million additional gallons per day.
The open house meetings are set for:
— Wednesday, Clearbrook City Hall Gymnasium, 4-7 p.m.
— Thursday, Thief River Falls, Ralph Engelstad Arena, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
— Thursday, Hallock, Kittson County Courthouse, 4-7 p.m.
— Dec. 10, Park Rapids American Legion, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
— Dec. 10, Pine River Railway Depot, 4-7 p.m.
— Dec. 11, McGregor Community Center, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
— Dec. 11, Carlton County Transportation Department, 1630 County Road 61, 4-7 p.m.
“The Project will allow the Line 3 pipeline to safely achieve historical operating parameters necessary to meet the growing demand from refineries for reliable and efficient supplies of North American crude oil,” Enbridge said in a statement announcing the meetings.
For more information, go to enbridge.com/Line3ReplacementProgram.aspx.