The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has approved the certificate of need for replacing the 60-year-old Enbridge pipeline 3 and accepted most of the preferred route across the northern third of Minnesota. I want to share some initial comments on what lies ahead for our area.
The PUC’s decision was long overdue. It is a positive step in protecting public safety by transporting crude oil in the safest manner possible which is by a modern new pipeline. The decision eliminates the threat of 20 crude oil trains per day having to transit back and forth through the cities of Brainerd, Deerwood, Aitkin, McGregor and Tamarack. It’s a good decision for both public safety and protecting our environment.
This project replaces Line 3, which was installed in the 1960s and is one of Minnesota’s oldest operating crude oil pipelines. The line continues to age and operates at about half of its original capacity. While more work is required to finalize construction permits, construction could start late this fall or early winter. The sooner we replace this aging pipeline the better with respect to protecting our environment.
The PUC’s modification does impact the route that transits northern Aitkin County. Most of the path approved by the PUC still follows Enbridge’s preferred route. The PUC adjusted the route in Aitkin County by moving it farther away from the Big Sandy Lake area as it crosses Aitkin County.
The pipeline will pass north, rather than south of Big Sandy Lake. The PUC has directed Enbridge and the Fond de lac Tribal Government to work out final details of whether that route adjustment would also include transiting along the current Line 3 route through the center of the Fond de lac Reservation or a new route along the southern edge of the reservation.
Now that the decision has been made, we as Minnesotans should conduct ourselves in a peaceful manner. I am very disappointed to already hear threatening rhetoric calling for a Standing Rock-type response from some. I would ask all parties to respect the safety of the workers, government regulatory officials and law enforcement personnel that will be involved in the project.
The terrible mess left in the wake of the Standing Rock episode resulted in unnecessary damage to the environment and a million-dollar bill to clean up the mess left by the encampment inhabitants. I believe we can avoid repeating that mistake by working together in a positive manner to ensure we replace the aging pipeline with a new one that will provide much better protection of our environment not just today but for many decades to come.