Did the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission build in adequate financial protections should a new Line 3 crude oil pipeline burst? Minnesotans should worry.
Enbridge Inc., a giant Canadian crude oil pipeline company, has a history of trying to use a corporate shell game to avoid responsibility for the clean-up costs from a major crude oil spill.
Liability coverage is a significant point of contention around the proposed Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. The proposed 340-mile pipeline route would cross more than 200 waterbodies and pass through more than 75 miles of wetlands, according to project documents. It would pass through and near wild rice beds. It would pass near drinking water sources. The question is: should this pipeline get built, could Enbridge cover clean-up costs from a major spill?
Let’s be clear. A Line 3 spill would be disastrous and impossible to clean up fully. Tar sands crude oil is heavy and sinks, making it difficult to clean up. The tar sands crude is viscous and difficult to pump through pipelines. Producers add toxic chemicals to help the tar sands crude oil flow. A spill would release those toxic additives into the environment. A spill in a fragile ecosystem such as a wild rice bed would do long-term damage.
Money would not solve the spill. Still, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) sought to ensure Enbridge would be on the hook for clean up costs.
It did a poor job.