Environmental groups working on moratorium for new MN pipelines while Sandpiper debate continues

By KBJR News 1

Credit: MN Dept. of Commerce

Environmental groups working on moratorium for new MN pipelines while Sandpiper debate continues

August 17, 2014 Updated Aug 17, 2014 at 10:50 PM CST

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Enbridge spokesperson Lorraine Little says, to be successful, the Sandpiper Pipeline needs to take crude oil from the Bakken fields of North Dakota to the Clearbrook Terminal, and then to Superior.

Little compares Superior's importance as an oil hub to the Delta Airlines hub in the Twin Cities.

"Planes go there to connect so people can get off and get on different flights, and that's where the oil goes to connect to get on different pipelines to get to the markets it needs to go to," said Little from her Duluth office.

Of the 53 route modifications being considered by the state PUC for a Comparative Environmental Analysis, Little says 23 were proposed by the Alberta–based company.

Little says they came about from the 18 months, and 150,000 hours of ground time, examining routes and talking to people.

The one near–total system alternative that went forward for comparison, however, was proposed by groups outside of Enbridge.

"...so no opportunity to get out and talk with people, or see what the route looks like," added Little.

System Alternative 03 would take the North Dakota crude to the Clearbrook Terminal, and then shoot down through Chisago County before shooting back up to Superior.

Little says it would add at least 60 miles to the pipeline, and threaten the economics of the $2.6 billion project.

She adds that the original Sandpiper proposal would be a big tax boost for impacted counties.

"Aitkin County, for example would see about $4 million worth of property tax revenue as a result of the Sandpiper project."

Meanwhile, Alyssa Hoppe of the environmental group Honor the Earth says the PUC's decision was a step in the right direction, mainly because it's buying time in a relatively quick moving process.

The new considerations will provide more public comment opportunities.

"And we also have more time to find experts who can provide us the testimonies we need," said Hoppe, during an event in Duluth Saturday calling on Northlanders to voice their concerns over the original Sandpiper route.

Hoppe says many environmental groups and Tribal leaders are concerned about the Sandpiper's original route through wild rice wetlands, and the headwaters of the Mississippi.

Honor the Earth is currently working on a joint strategy for a moratorium on new pipelines north of the I–94 corridor.

"...which would prevent any destruction to untouched areas in northern Minnesota," added Hoppe.

Hoppe says, rather than a new pipeline, lawmakers should be more focused on stricter regulations of oil tankers carrying crude by rail.

But Little says a pipeline would only clear the railroads for farmers who have been backed up on grain shipments due to the bottle-necking of oil.

"This oil finds its way to market because the market wants it," said Little. "Refineries in North America want North American crude oil."

"We expect this to go to the federal level," said Hoppe.

The PUC is also offering people the opportunity to provide legal basis for why other route alternatives should be considered to move forward, which could add even more time to the process.

Little says people have until August 21st to file their legal arguments on system alternatives.

Billy Wagness
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