Enbridge tells EPA it’s already started to decommission the old Line 3 pipeline

Enbridge has reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it began purging the old Line 3 pipeline of its tar sands crude oil on Oct. 1, according to an EPA statement to Healing Minnesota Stories. Enbridge expects to complete the purge by Nov. 5,

Enbridge told the EPA it began cleaning the pipeline with a “cleaning pig” on Oct. 2. It expects to finish the cleaning work by Sept. 30, 2022, the statement said.

If Enbridge meets those goals, it would be in compliance with a 2017 federal Consent Decree.

The EPA provided the following statement:

“EPA has been actively monitoring Enbridge’s compliance with the 2017 Consent Decree (“CD”) with the assistance of a team of experts known as the Independent Third Party (“ITP”). Communication with Enbridge regarding compliance with Section V.II.B (“REPLACEMENT OF LINE 3”) of the CD includes the following:

  • EPA and the ITP frequently hold meetings and calls with Enbridge regarding decommissioning Original Line 3, including monthly update meetings;
  • EPA and the ITP review Semi-Annual Reports submitted by Enbridge pursuant to Section IX. (“REPORTING REQUIREMENTS”) of the CD, and
  • ITP in-person monitoring of Original Line 3 decommissioning activities.”

This apparently good news comes with a caveat. Enbridge convinced the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to approve a “Landowner Choice Program.” This allows Enbridge to offer landowners a one-time payment to leave the old and decaying pipeline in the ground rather than removing it. Many landowners have accepted the deal.

This deal appears to have saved Enbridge hundreds of millions of dollars, shifting the environmental problems to future generations of Minnesotans. The problems go further than the rotting pipeline itself. The old Line 3 could have had small, undetectable leaks. Small leaks over many years could leave a lot of pollution in the soil surrounding the pipeline.

If Enbridge doesn’t remove the pipeline, those crude oil spills won’t get detected and cleaned up.

As for the new Line 3, it could represent excess capacity in Enbridge’s Mainline Corridor through Minnesota, according to Honor the Earth attorney Paul Blackburn, who tracks these issues.

“While it seems likely that tar sands production will increase marginally over the next year or two, if oil prices stay high … it is doubtful that the tar sands industry will grow in the face of EV [electric vehicles] and climate policy adoption and competition from lower cost oil producers,” Blackburn wrote.

“It does not surprise me that Enbridge claims it has already begun decommissioning old line 3,” he wrote. “With new Line 3 finished, it has at least 400,000 bpd [barrles per day] of unused capacity, so it doesn’t need the old pipeline, nor does it wish to continue paying to maintain it.”

Line 3 is one of six pipeline in Enbridge’s Mainline Corridor through Minnesota. Blackburn prepared the chart (below) suggests that the Mainline Corridor might not need Line 3’s extra capacity. The brown shaded area shows the amount of oil moving through the system. The line above it shows the Mainline Corridor’s capacity.

Chart shows Mainline imports leveling off at the same time Line 3 will be coming on line.

The Mainline Corridor’s economics could get worse if the new Trans Mountain Pipeline in Canada gets built, Blackburn wrote. Demand to ship tar sands crude on Enbridge’s Mainline system, “could drop dramatically, rendering the new capacity … permanently redundant,” he wrote.

The Trans Mountain pipeline runs from Alberta to Canada’s Pacific Coast. The project would expand Trans Mountain’s capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels, or an increase of 590,000 barrels per day.

“If oil flows through the Enbridge Mainline fall permanently, I would expect Enbridge to decrease or stop use of Line 2, which it is planning to do,” Blackburn wrote.

Just because Enbridge is reportedly shutting down the old Line 3, it doesn’t mean the new Line 3 is a done deal. The public will continue to pressure financial institutions to divest from Enbridge, and on insurance companies to drop Enbridge policies. Lawsuits are still pending, too.

For the Future: Stop Line 3 Rally, Friday, Oct. 29

Friday, Oct. 29, International Indigenous Youth Council – Twin Cities, Rainforest Action Network, and other groups have organized a Stop Line 3 rally at 3 p.m. at Concordia and Lexington in St. Paul.

The event is being done “in coordination with the ‘Free The Future 10/29 Day of Action,’ where young people across the world are rising up to demand an immediate end to the funding of fossil fuel! Join us in taking action, standing in solidarity with water protectors, and calling out funders of the Line 3 pipeline!” according to the Facebook Event Page.

2 thoughts on “Enbridge tells EPA it’s already started to decommission the old Line 3 pipeline

  1. Nothing about their brutalizing Indigenous women and girls, beating up the men and boys, destroying their livelihoods or quality of life. Infuriating responses by the feds.


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