PUC permits did nothing to hold the company accountable
When the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved the new and expanded Enbridge Line 3 pipeline in 2018, it let the company skate on its responsibility to clean up the old and deteriorating pipeline it was replacing.
It was going to cost Enbridge $1.2 billion to remove the old pipeline and do the necessary restoration work. It was a price the company did not want to pay.
Instead, Enbridge proposed abandoning the old Line 3 in the ground, widening its existing right-of-way, clear cutting more trees, and installing a new Line 3 in a brand new trench.
Line 3 critics opposed the proposal. At a basic level, they said Enbridge should follow the First Rule of Kindergarten: Clean up your old mess before making a new one. Further, if the PUC was as focused on job creation as it seems, requiring Enbridge to remove the old pipeline would create 50 percent of the jobs as the new Line 3 construction work.
Instead, Enbridge proposed the Landowner Choice Program, which would give property owners the choice between 1) having the old pipeline removed or 2) taking a one-time payment to leave it in the ground. (Essentially, it incentivized landowners to take a short-term gain and pass the pipeline problem to future owners.)
As it did on most issues, the PUC sided with Enbridge. It approved Line 3 permits with the understanding that Enbridge could file the details of the Landowner Choice Program later. The PUC included no accountability measures or sanctions in the Line 3 Certificate of Need should the company fail to live up to its promises.
Landowners are now saying Enbridge is shirking on its obligations and petitioning the PUC for help.
It’s just the latest example of the state’s flawed regulatory system that seems to favor corporations over residents. Specifically, it raises questions about why the PUC is so chummy and trusting with Enbridge.
Enbridge has not only been disrespectful of Indigenous treaty rights, but also the promises it made to landowners of any race or background who own land along the line.
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