In Show of Hubris, Enbridge Starts Tar Sands Pipeline Work Well in Advance of Minnesota Approvals

Pipelines stored in northwestern Minnesota, near White Earth.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) won’t vote until next spring on whether to allow an expanded tar sands crude oil pipeline to cut through the heart of northern Minnesota, threatening our lakes and rivers. But that hasn’t stopped Enbridge from starting pipeline construction in both Canada and Wisconsin, apparently assuming Minnesota approvals are a done deal.

Also, the movement and storage of pipelines through northern Minnesota has those opposed to Enbridge Line 3 very nervous.

Enbridge is proposing a 1,097-mile tar sands crude oil pipeline, starting in Alberta, crossing the length of northern Minnesota, and ending up in Superior, Wisc. The company wants to leave the old and failing Line 3 pipeline in the ground and install a new and larger pipeline. The plan includes a partial reroute of the line. The reroute  crosses the Mississippi River, twice, and also threatens wild rice areas

The Line 3 expansion is nowhere near approval in Minnesota, yet earlier this week, Wisconsin Public Radio reported that Enbridge is already working on replacing a 12-mile section in Wisconsin — investing $100 million. According to the story:

Elizabeth Ward with the John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club in Wisconsin said she’s surprised construction is already underway in Wisconsin “given that the Minnesota process is still underway and they’re not even really close to getting their permits on the Minnesota side.”

Pipeline opponent Sheila Lamb has posted video on Facebook of a large stack of pipeline now stored in Carlton County along Highway 6, she says. Bill Paulson of Turtle Island Camp in northwestern Minnesota, posted this video on Facebook of pipeline moving by train through Detroit Lakes on July 21. (I haven’t verified that either of these are Line 3 pipes, but it seems likely. I have been trying to find out if Enbridge needs any state permits for staging in Minnesota, but haven’t found the right person to talk to yet.)

The Minnesota Department of Commerce just completed taking public comments a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on the Minnesota section of the project. The draft EIS drew strong public criticism, not the least of which is that it did not  evaluate a “no-build” option. A final EIS is expected to be released in August; that will trigger another public comment period.

The PUC has to vote to approve both a Certificate of Need and a route permit for Line 3. Even if they are approved, Line 3 could face court challenges from Ojibwe bands. Although the pipeline does not cross lands owned by the bands, it does cross lands that have other treaty protections, allowing the Ojibwe to hunt, fish and gather on lands affected by the pipeline.

Enbridge Trying to Cut its Minnesota Property Tax Bill

As Enbridge tries to get Minnesota approvals for its giant pipeline, it also is trying to cut the property taxes it pays on its other Minnesota pipelines.

The Star Tribune ran a story last March, outlining the issue:

Enbridge Energy’s massive property tax challenge may end up costing several northern Minnesota counties millions of dollars. In fact, two counties — Clearwater and Red Lake — could end up refunding more money to Enbridge than they raise annually from all of their property tax payers.

Enbridge has appealed five years of taxes, claiming the Minnesota Department of Revenue unfairly valued its vast pipeline network, resulting in significantly higher payments. …

For previous blogs on this topic, see our Enbridge Line 3 Page.

Note: In an earlier version of the post, Bill Paulson was misidentified as Bill Patterson.

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