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A League of Women Voters forum about the proposed Enbridge pipeline was well attended. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

Pipeline forum draws large crowd

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A forum Tuesday night provided in depth information about a proposed pipeline that would run through much of Hubbard County.

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The Park Rapids Area League of Women Voters organized the discussion of the Sandpiper Pipeline Project proposed by North Dakota Pipeline Company, LLC (Enbridge).

The pipeline would run from North Dakota to Superior, Wis.

The LWV put together the panel discussion with the goal of providing the public with factual information so people can make their own decisions.

Questions were submitted to the LWV before the event at Northwoods Bank in Park Rapids.

Panel members were Tracy M.B. Smetana, public advisor, Consumer Affairs Office, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission; Lorraine Little, senior manager of public affairs, Enbridge; Winona LaDuke, rural development economist, author, and director of Honor the Earth and Nathan Kestner, regional environmental assessment ecologist, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Division of Ecological and Water Resources, Northwest Region.

“We’re still early in the project development stage,” Little said. “If approved, this project will do a variety of different things, one of which is to deliver oil to the refineries in Minnesota.”

Bakken crude oil will be delivered in the pipeline. The Minnesota portion of the ­project will cost $1.2 billion and create 1,500 temporary pipeline jobs, with about 50 percent being local hires, Little said. The construction schedule would begin in 2014 and end in 2016.

Hubbard County will see benefits from the pipeline, Little said.

“In 2011 alone, Enbridge paid $34 million in the state of Minnesota in property taxes. For Hubbard County that was about half a million. Once the Sandpiper pipeline goes in the estimated property tax revenue for Hubbard County is $3 million,” she added.

Safety is the number one concern that people have, Little said.

“Over the last decade, Enbridge has transported 13 billion barrels of oil. We’ve had a greater than 99.993 percent safety record,” she said. “It’s not at 100 percent and we’re always striving to get to 100 percent.”

Much of the pipeline will generally follow Enbridge’s existing pipeline or other utility right-of-way in North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The project’s initial capacity will be 225,000 barrels per day to Clearbrook and 375,000 barrels per day to Superior.

Little touted the benefits for the area included availability of crude and expanding access with a secure, reliable supply. She said that shipping oil by trucks and trains is not as safe.

Preventive safety measures are done with the pipeline. New pipelines are made with anti-corrosive, high quality materials, Little said.

Smetana, with the PUC, said an application has been submitted for the pipeline and her agency asks two questions:

Is this project needed? Where is it located?

The PUC looks at the environment, looks for alternative routes and does research before accepting the application.

If it is approved, further discussion and research is done and that usually takes between nine and 12 months, Smetana said.

“We rely on others such as the DNR and get information from public comment,” she said.

LaDuke spoke about her concerns with pipelines and the environment.

“I don’t want you to think that I hate pipelines,” LaDuke said. “I’ve just got a problem with what’s going on now. It’s extreme and it’s worrisome.”

She showed a video made by Honor the Earth about the concern her group has with the pipeline.

She questioned the need and the risk associated with the pipeline.

“We’re all concerned about how they’re going to move the oil … it’s very disturbing,” LaDuke said.

Slowing everything down might be the answer, she suggested.

“We’re moving too fast,” she said.

She cited the high volatility of the Bakken crude oil as a major concern. A train exploded in Casselton, N.D., recently that was carrying the oil.

“We have a choice to say no,” LaDuke told the audience.

Kessner, with the DNR, said his agency’s role is to be a resource for the PUC as it looks at the application.

The DNR is providing information on licensing/permitting and environmental assessments.

During the question and answer segment of the panel discussion, someone asked if any taxpayer money would be used if there was an oil spill.

Little said Enbridge would be responsible and no taxpayer money would be used.

The League of Women Voters received several questions about the specific monitoring done on the pipelines.

Little explained that there are several ways pipelines are monitored. They are monitored around the clock in Edmonton, Canada, visual checks are done by flying over the pipelines twice a month and there is a public awareness campaign where property owners are asked to keep an eye out for leaks.

Another submitted question asked what possible alternatives would be besides a pipeline.

“Slow it down a bit,” LaDuke said. “Perhaps business shouldn’t drive policy.”

She also thinks the United States should work to import oil from Venezuela, which has the biggest oil reserves in the western hemisphere.

There isn’t enough oil in North Dakota to justify a pipeline, she said.

Little was asked if the pipeline would only be used for Bakken crude or if it would eventually carry tar sand oil in the future.

It is being built to transport Bakken crude, Little said. However, she doesn’t know what will happen 10 or 20 years in the future, she added.

Another question was asked about what happens to the oil after it reaches Superior.

According to Enbridge, from Superior, the oil will be transported by Enbridge and other interconnected pipelines to refinery hubs in the United States and eastern Canada.

Little said there are rumors that it is exported but it stays in the U.S.

She also dispelled a rumor that Enbridge has a close relationship with Koch Industries, a company that refines oil. Little said she is not aware of a relationship.

The proposed timeline for the project includes planning, design, outreach and permitting through late 2014, with construction beginning in late 2014 through 2016. The pipeline could be operational by 2016.

For more information about the project, call 855-788-7805 or go to www.en bridge.com/SandpiperProject.

Written comments can be emailed to sandpiperpro ject@enbridge.com or Enbridge Pipelines (North Dakota) LLC, Sandpiper Pipeline Project, 1409 Hammond Ave., Superior, WI 54880.

Comments can also be submitted to the PUC at puc.state.mn.us.

Smetana said the next step will be more public meetings if the application is approved.

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Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
(218) 732-3364
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