Enbridge is a Decade Away from a Lease Crisis in Minnesota; Line 3 Reroute is its Escape Hatch

It turns out Enbridge might reroute a number of its pipelines through the Mississippi River headwaters.

An under reported aspect of the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline debate is how the state’s Line 3 decision will affect the four other crude oil pipelines in Enbridge’s mainline corridor — a corridor passing through both reservation lands and treaty territory.

This debate isn’t just about Line 3, but Lines 1, 2B, 3, 4 and 67, all crude oil pipelines. (A sixth pipeline, Line 13, carries diluent north to Alberta, a product used to make the tar sands flow more easily through the pipes.)

Enbridge faces an easement crisis in the mainline corridor in a little more than a decade. Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly says in her recently released report and recommendations to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC):

In 2029, Enbridge’s easements with the federal government, allowing it to run six pipelines through the two Indian Reservations [Leech Lake and Fond du Lac], will expire. Thus, sometime before 2029, [Enbridge] will need to either renegotiate those easements with the Tribes and the federal government; or remove those lines from the Reservations. Approval of the Project, as proposed, would result in a partially new oil pipeline corridor being created in the State where Applicant could someday request to relocate its other pipelines. This is especially true if negotiations with the Tribes before 2029 are unsuccessful. (page 10)

We wrote in an earlier blog that Enbridge quietly started plans to relocate multiple pipelines in this new corridor: Enbridge’s Secret: It Has Easements Allowing for More Pipelines in the New Corridor. By rerouting Line 3, Enbridge seems to be trying to create a new route for all of its pipelines and avoid the 2029 lease negotiations. It’s highly unlikely that Leech Lake and/or Fond du Lac would approve new leases.

This is no argument to approve the new route. This is making transparent Enbridge’s plans to build lots more pipelines through our cleanest waters and then abandon them in the coming decades as the fossil fuel industry dies out. It’s also important to note that while the new Line 3 would not cross reservation lands, it would still cross treaty protected lands where Ojibwe have rights to hunt, fish and gather — rights that the pipeline would impact.

The PUC is expected to vote on Line 3 by late June.

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