Proposed replacement of the line 3 pipeline has instigated concerns from environmental and Native American groups and even the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
Line 3 currently transports crude oil from Alberta Canada, through North Dakota and Minnesota before arriving at Superior, Wisconsin. The pipeline was built in the 1960s and is currently carrying around half of its initially intended capacity. Replacement of the line would almost double its current capacity to 760,000 crude barrels per day.
Permits have been granted and construction has already begun on the 12 miles of the line which enter Wisconsin. The construction however, has been met with protests, which resulted in the arrest of 6 protestors for trespassing on a construction site near Superior this August.
Although construction has already begun in Wisconsin, the fate of the line remains unclear. The line would travel 337 miles through Minnesota, where the government has not yet reached a decision on the approval or denial of the project. In fact, the Minnesota Department of Commerce which prepared the Environmental Impact Statement for the project, has recently recommended against the replacement.
In a press release the department said, “Oil market analysis indicates that Enbridge has not established a need for the proposed project; the pipeline would primarily benefit areas outside Minnesota; and serious environmental and socioeconomic risks and effects outweigh limited benefits.”
The project must receive a certificate of need from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to be approved, however, the testimony given by the Department of Commerce based on the Environmental Impact Statement recommended against granting this certificate.
Brad Mapes-Martin, associate professor of political science, said that this recommendation could be more difficult to challenge since it is coming from the Department of Commerce. The recommendation was also based primarily off economic rather than environmental grounds. Mapes-Martin said that the political standstill created by the Department of Commerce’s recommendation, gives a greater chance to environmental groups for defeating the project through sustained attention.
350.org is one of the environmental organizations opposed to the replacement. Zach Jones, natural resource planning major and vice president of the Stevens Point chapter of 350, said that the organization is opposed for a variety of reasons, among these are concerns about damage to wildlife and ecosystems from new construction. Jones is also concerned about the effect of new fossil fuel infrastructure on the climate.
“Climate change is huge issue and it is only getting worse. The more we reinforce the systems which cause climate change, the harder it’s going to be to fix. Investing in renewable energy and things that do not mess up the global climate is always a better decision than continuing to invest in fossil fuel infrastructure,” said Jones.
Jones also pointed to the history of Enbridge, the company which operates line 3, and the spills which have occurred from its pipelines in the past. These spills include the Kalamazoo oil spill of 2010, which the EPA said released hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into local rivers. The Kalamazoo spill was so large because the rupture was not discovered for 17 hours, during which an estimated 843,444 gallons of crude oil were released. An accident report of the Kalamazoo spill by the National Transportation Safety Board said that 320 people reported symptoms associated with crude oil exposure. Most recently there have been concerns about the condition of another Enbridge pipeline, line 5 which runs through the Straits of Mackinac.
Jones said that 350 members plan to attend a public hearing regarding the replacement on Sept. 28 in Minnesota.
“It’s also really important that people from everywhere and not just Minnesota go and show support because this is a national issue,” said Jones.