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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL)

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RELEASE: Rep. Hornstein: Pipelines, Trains Both Present Major Risks

Thursday, September 28, 2017

No basis for claims pipelines are safer

SAINT PAUL, MINN. – Today, State Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL – Minneapolis) provided testimony for the Public Utilities Commission in opposition to the replacement of the Line 3 pipeline. Community and legislative opponents cited surface and drinking water quality, indigenous treaty rights, climate impacts, and the overall need for the project in their opposition. Rep. Hornstein concurred, and also directly refuted a common misconception relating to the safety of pipelines versus rail transport.

Rep. Hornstein stated both trains and pipelines present considerable risks, and cited EIS conclusions that show that exponentially higher amounts of oil can spill into water sources from pipelines than with the use of trains. Rep. Hornstein further stated that pipeline companies successfully lobbied against timely spill response provisions passed into law in 2014. Those timely response provisions apply to rail companies, unlike the exempted pipelines. He released the following comments:

“Thank you very much, Judge O’Reilly and members of the Public Utilities Commission,

My name is Frank Hornstein, I am a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

I would like to address an issue that has been raised by proponents of the project that indicate that a justification for Line 3 lies in the assertion that oil transport via pipeline is (1) categorically safer than transportation by rail and (2) if the pipeline is not constructed, all of the oil proposed for transport via pipeline with move by rail or truck.

There is no factual basis for either one of these claims.

As the chief author Minn Statute 115E.042 in 2014, known as the oil transportation safety act, it was my goal to address the significant safety concerns and hazards posed by transportation of oil both by rail and pipeline. It was and remains my conclusion that both forms of transportation present considerable risks. That belief was further reinforced by my experience as a legislator, having seen that both railroad and pipeline companies have spent considerable resources in opposition to additional state safety regulations.

Please consider the following when addressing this issue:

(1) The Environmental Impact Statement PUC Docket Numbers CN-14-916 and PPL-15-137 indicates that the quantity of spilled oil with regard to pipelines is far greater than that of rail and truck transportation options. The docket states, the average release of oil from a truck incident is 16 barrels (687 gallons) from a train incident, 40 barrels (1688 gallons) and from a pipeline incident, 462 barrels (19,412 gallons).

The exponentially higher amount of oil spilled by pipelines is particularly significant when considering the route permit for Line 3, given a long history of the applicant's and pipeline industry's safety violations and history of spills particularly that of Enbridge's line 6B spill in Kalamazoo Michigan in 2010 where it took 18 hours for the company to respond to that spill. That experience has reinforced that the timely response to a spill is the key factor in determining the overall impact to public health, safety and the environment in the aftermath of a major spill.

The timely response to a spill was one of the key goals of 115E.42, subd 4. It was the determination of the Pollution Control Agency that the state establish standards for timely response to spills by both railroad and pipeline companies. Of particular importance was a provision that required that within an hour of a public first responders’ confirmation of a spill a railroad or pipeline company begin advising local first responders on methods to contain and control such a spill. The legislation as passed by the House required that pipeline and rail companies have a representative on site within 3 hours of a spill. The railroad companies agreed to this provision and other related provisions while pipeline companies including Enbridge opposed the provision. That provision does apply to railroad companies in 115E.42, subd 4. The pipeline industry lobbying resulted in their exemption from these safety requirements.

(2) A claim that all of the oil slated for transport on Line 3 would move by rail or truck is not based in fact and should be rejected.

In conclusion, there is no basis to make a definitive and general conclusion that moving oil by pipeline is safer than by rail. Let me be clear, there are hazards with both forms of oil transportation. Minnesota does not need to expand the infrastructure for transporting tar sands oil by rail or by pipeline, as the need to do so has not been proven.

Thank you your honor and members of the Public Utilities Commission.”

Rep. Hornstein encourages community members to contact him on any legislative issue.  He can be reached by email at or telephone at 651-296-9281.