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Comments on controversial oil pipeline due Wednesday; decision expected in spring

DULUTH — After thousands of noisy exhales and concerted keystrokes, Wednesday, Nov. 22, is the deadline to submit public comments on the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline replacement.

If everything stays on schedule, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will decide by the end of April whether to approve the pipeline and what, if any, conditions to place on approval.

The Line 3 replacement pipeline would carry 760,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to the Enbridge terminal in Superior, Wis. For much of its 337-mile path through Minnesota, the new pipeline would follow a different route than the 50-year-old Line 3 that today carries 360,000 barrels per day, half its original capacity. The old pipeline would be cleaned out and largely left in the ground.

Evidentiary hearings in St. Paul wrapped up last week with intervenors offering their takes on why the project, Enbridge's largest to date, should or should not be built. Supporters say the replacement pipeline provides a needed economic boost and strengthens energy security and pipeline safety; opponents say the risks to the environment and Native American sovereignty are too great, especially as the climate changes.

Pipeline protests have been increasing as construction on Line 3 gets underway in Wisconsin and Canada.

Minnesota's evidentiary proceedings and public comments will be wrapped into the public record on the project, and an administrative law judge will compile a findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommendation that is due this winter. On Dec. 7 the PUC will consider the adequacy of the Line 3 environmental impact statement at a 9:30 a.m. meeting in St. Paul.

It will be up to the PUC if more formal public input will be gathered before a decision is made. Since 2015 there have been 65 public meetings and hearings and five separate windows to submit comments, totaling more than 200 days.

Comments on the Line 3 certificate of need and route permit are due by 4:30 p.m. today.

"Written comments received after that time will be accepted by the commission, and filed as late, up until the commission holds its public meetings to determine whether to approve, modify or reject Enbridge's applications for a certificate of need and route permit for Line 3," said PUC Executive Secretary Dan Wolf.

Comments should include docket numbers 14-916 and 15-137 in the subject line. They can be submitted by these means:



Mail: Scott Ek, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, 121 Seventh Place East, Suite 350, St. Paul, MN 55101

Fax: (651) 297-7073

Brooks Johnson

Brooks is an investigative/enterprise reporter and business columnist at the Duluth News Tribune.

(218) 723-5329