What are the Risks of a Line 3 Tar Sands Crude Oil Spill? Government Analysis Fails to Give Clear Answers

Last in a series of critiques of the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s final environmental impact statement (EIS) on Enbridge Line 3, a proposal to expand and reroute a tar sands crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. Commerce is taking public comments on the adequacy of the EIS until 4:30 p.m. Oct. 2. To learn how to submit comments, click here.

People packed the hall in Bemidji to comment on the draft EIS.

For the last installment, let’s look at how the environmental impact statement (EIS) discusses the risks of a major Line 3 pipeline rupture and what impact it would have on recreation areas, clean waters, wild rice areas and Minnesota tribes. That’s covered in Chapter 10 of the EIS where Commerce analyzes spills.

Chapter 10 is highly technical and seems intentionally opaque, failing to provide readers with any kind of a meaningful summary. It does a very poor job of communicating so people can understand what is at stake and effectively engage in the debate.

This is doubling disturbing since the public hearings on the pipeline’s Certificate of Need and Route Plan already are underway around the state.

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Tar Sands Pipeline Opponents Rally, March, and Pack the Hearing; Line 3 Backers Offer Easily Refuted Arguments

Those seeking to stop Line 3 greatly outnumbered its supporters at a Sept. 28 public hearing in downtown St. Paul. Instead of applause, Line 3 opponents waved blue hankies to signal support for speakers.

Efforts to Stop the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline are in the home stretch. Those seeking to stop the pipeline had a great showing Thursday, rallying at the Capitol, marching down Cedar, and packing a public hearing held at the Intercontinental Hotel.

It was a standing room only crowd, with testimony against the pipeline far outweighing supporters. Still, let’s take a minute to address and respond to the pro-pipeline testimony. Here are the main arguments Enbridge and allies put forward, and quick responses:

Argument 1: Job Creation: Enbridge touts that this project will create 4,200 full-time but temporary construction jobs in Minnesota (yet only half of those jobs are expected to be filled by Minnesotans). This project is not supposed to be approved based on the number of jobs it creates. The question is “Do we need this pipeline or not?” and the answer is “no,” according to testimony from the Minnesota Department of Commerce. The United States already is a net exporter of refined petroleum products and our exports are growing. Further, Line 3 job creation is massively expensive if you factor in the environmental and public health costs from tar sands mining and transportation. (More below.)

Argument 2: The Old Line 3 is Falling Apart, a New One Would Be Safer: There is no dispute that the current pipeline is in bad shape. Building a new one is not the safest option. Approving the pipeline would be repeating a mistake. We don’t need this pipeline; if we approve it, in another 30-50 years we will have another old and decrepit pipeline rotting in the ground.

Argument 3: Pipelines are Safer than Rail: On one hand, Enbridge argues if the permits for the new Line 3 are denied, it would keep using the old and failing Line 3. On the other hand, it raises the specter of more crude oil moving by rail and truck. That ignores the safest choice: no pipeline, no rail.

More on all three of these arguments below.

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Native Youth Interrupt Governor’s Water Quality Town Hall; Dayton Promises Private Meeting, But Still Neutral on Line 3

Youth interrupted the Governor’s Town Hall Meeting on Water Quality to speak out against the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline, saying it was a threat to water quality. In the photo, Dayton responds. (The young girls in the front table were not part of the protest.)

Ten or so youth interrupted Governor Mark Dayton’s Water Quality Town Hall meeting in Minneapolis for about 10 minutes Wednesday night to bring attention to indigenous opposition to the proposed tar sands crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. The pipeline — Enbridge Line 3 — threatens the state’s clean waters and wild rice areas and violates treaty rights that allow Anishinaabe to hunt, fish and gather on lands the pipeline would cross.

The youth who took the stage included some of the Native youth who are part of the Youth Climate Intervenors working to stop Line 3. The group was recognized by the Public Utilities Commission as an official intervenor because of the members’ youth — they would be living with the consequences of this pipeline for most of their lives. They will be allowed to provide testimony as the process moves into a more legal format. Continue reading

Business Lobby Ad Buy Tries to Put Clean Face on Pipeline’s Dirty Tar Sands Crude; It Fails

Perhaps you’ve seen a TV ad supporting the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline expansion project through northern Minnesota. The Consumer Energy Alliance announced the ad buy Sept. 17.

Here’s what you need to know about the Consumer Energy Alliance. It’s not about consumers the way you and I see ourselves as consumers, individuals making small purchases in a grocery store. The Alliance represents large corporate interests. The players and organizations involved in the Alliance would not have to live with the consequences of a northern Minnesota oil spill. The Alliance does not appear to be concerned about the project’s broader environmental impacts. It is looking at spread sheets, not communities.

A 2016 Consumer Energy Alliance media release lists board members. They were:

  • Wayne Zemke, Alliance Chair, a marketing executive with Caterpillar, Inc.
  • Brett Vassey, Alliance Vice Chair, president and CEO of the Virginia Manufacturers Association
  • Brain Welch, Treasurer, managing director at Wortham Insurance & Risk Management in Houston
  • John Heimlich, vice president and chief economist for Airlines for America
  • Mark Pulliam, solution partner with Sabre Airline Solutions
  • John Eichberger, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Convenience Stores
  • Jennifer Diggins, Director of Public Affairs at Nucor (with the tagline: “North America’s largest recycler”)

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Commerce Offers Rushed and Incomplete Responses to Draft EIS Criticisms

Fifth in a series of critiques of the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s final environmental impact statement (EIS) on Enbridge Line 3, a proposal to expand and reroute a tar sands crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. Commerce is taking public comments on the adequacy of the EIS until 4:30 p.m. Oct. 2. To learn how to submit comments, click here.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce got swamped with comments to its draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Appendix T of the Final EIS chronicles the hundreds of pages of comments received and the hundreds of pages of the Department’s responses.

The final EIS is inadequate because some of the department’s responses do not adequately address the questions and criticisms raised by the public and government officials. Let’s look at a few examples.

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Ways You Can Support Minnesota Water Protector Camps; Enbridge’s Latest Safety Problem; Island Returned to Grand Portage Anishinaabe

A group called Camps A Rising has created a website to facilitate support for water protector camps in northern Minnesota working to stop the Enbridge Line 3 — a tar sands crude oil pipeline that would threaten our state’s clean rivers and lakes as well as Anishinaabe treaty rights. According to the website, its mission is:

To support peaceful actions that will direct the fossil fuel industry toward proven renewable energy sources. We do this by distributing necessary gear and supplies to established camps of water witnesses and protectors. …

Camps A Rising comes out of the experience of the Standing Rock Water Protectors Camp. We learned that great numbers of people care about the health of our water. The success of that camp is spreading all over the country with new camps establishing coast to coast. As the movement grows, so must the logistics and funding of gear and supplies. With so many additional camps it’s essential resources are managed well.

Camps A Rising is volunteer run, and exists to aid regional Water Protector Camps by collecting and distributing supplies where needed…

The site supports camps in Minnesota and Michigan, including:

Winter is just around the corner and camps will need the cold weather supplies.

Click on the links above for more information and to donate. Remember, there is a rally and march against Line 3 set for Thursday, Sept. 28. The rally starts at the Minnesota Capitol at 4 p.m. The group will march through downtown St. Paul to the Intercontinental Hotel, 11 E. Kellogg, where the Public Utilities Commission will be taking testimony from 6-9 p.m. on Line 3’s Certificate of Need. See you there. Continue reading

Enbridge Tries to Sneak a Line 3 Expansion Through Under the Guise of a Replacement Project

Fourth in a series of critiques of the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s final environmental impact statement (EIS) on Enbridge Line 3, a proposal to expand and reroute a tar sands crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. Commerce is taking public comments on the adequacy of the EIS until 4:30 p.m. Oct. 2. To learn how to submit comments, click here.

Enbridge’s proposed tar sands crude oil pipeline expansion has a basic contradiction that never gets addressed in the environmental impact statement. Here are excerpts from the first three paragraphs of the Executive Summary:

Enbridge Energy, Limited Partnership … has submitted applications to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission … to construct a new 340-mile, 36-inch-diameter pipeline in northern Minnesota to replace the aging 282-mile, 34-inch Line 3 oil pipeline …

The existing Line 3 pipeline has operated for approximately 50 years. It requires extensive maintenance and is currently restricted to a capacity of 390,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Enbridge’s proposed new 36-inch-diameter pipeline would be capable of carrying up to 760,000 barrels of Canadian heavy crude oil per day, which was the original design capacity of the existing Line 3.
If Enbridge’s goal is to have a pipeline that has the same carrying capacity as the old Line 3, why does it propose using a larger pipeline? It’s no trade secret that a larger pipeline can carry more oil. So let’s look at the Enbridge Line 3 Certificate of Need Application. On page 8-3 it says that the project’s full design capacity is 844,000 barrels a day. That’s an 11 percent increase over the 760,000 barrel a day capacity of the original Line 3.

Keep reading on that same page, and the Certificate of Need application says the “ultimate design capacity for the pipeline considering its diameter, wall thickness, steel grade, and crude slate” is an annual average of 915,000 barrels a day. That’s 20 percent more than the old Line 3.

It seems like a basic question, but the EIS does not address why there is a need for a 36-inch pipeline to maintain the capacity of the old 34-inch pipeline. Further, did the Department of Commerce consider spill analysis scenarios with the higher volume carrying capacities? If it didn’t, then the EIS is inadequate.

It seems like Enbridge is using the old sleight-of-hand, “nothing-up-the-sleeve” bumarooski. On one hand, it talks about this as an “replacement project” but in reality it is a larger pipeline with a larger capacity. Once it gets the state OK, what’s to stop Enbridge from cranking up the volume? The EIS needs to address this.

Lastly, since the final EIS came out, Minnesota Department of Commerce submitted expert testimony from its energy consultants saying there isn’t even a need to replace the capacity from the old pipeline. (See earlier blog: Minnesota Dept. of Commerce: Enbridge Has Not Established Need for the Tar Sands Pipeline; Risks Outweigh Benefits.)

There is no reason for the state to approve this pipeline, and there certainly is no reason to approve a larger pipeline.