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Enbridge Line 3 environmental review delayed

The release of a draft environmental review of the proposed Line 3 pipeline project tentatively scheduled for this week is pushed back at least another month.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce stated additional time is needed to complete the draft environmental review, in the works for more than a year, which had been tentatively scheduled for public release on April 3. The state says that won't happen until at least May 15.

Enbridge Energy Limited Partnership has applied for a certificate of need and a route permit from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to construct and operate the proposed Line 3 pipeline replacement project. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) directed the Minnesota Department of Commerce (DOC) to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

"The proposed Line 3 project presents significant issues," Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said in a statement released Monday. "Additional time allows the department to prepare a thorough draft environmental impact statement that provides effective, meaningful public review and comment. The Public Utilities Commission has an important decision to make for Minnesota, and the Commerce Department is committed to providing the best information possible for them to use in the decision-making process."

The Line 3 Replacement Project would do just that — replace an old pipeline that the company says is nearing the end of its practical life moving Canadian oil into the U.S. The company announced the $7.5 billion project in 2014 and had hoped to have it under construction by now. The 1,031-mile Pipeline No. 3 would replace the company's 1968-vintage Line 3 and would bring more Canadian tar sands crude oil into the U.S.

Enbridge proposes following the existing Line 3 from the Minnesota-North Dakota border to Clearbrook and then across about 337 miles of Minnesota, including parts of Hubbard and Clearwater Counties, to the company's major terminal and storage hub in Superior.

Rothman said the time will be used for consultation with tribal governments, additional information gathering, coordination with stakeholders, and technical analysis and review.

A spokesperson for Enbridge said at this point it is not clear how this six week delay will impact the company's schedule.

"Enbridge is disappointed to learn that the Minnesota Department of Commerce (DOC) has delayed the issuance of the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the Line 3 Replacement Project by six weeks," said Jennifer Smith, community engagement manager for Enbridge in Duluth. "Enbridge is equally concerned with the DOC letter filed today in which DOC notes that it "...anticipates issuance of the DEIS on May 15, 2017." The letter is devoid of any rationale for the cause of the delay or how the DOC intends to avoid similar delays in the future."

Smith stated Enbridge has complied with every requirement request made by the Department of Commerce, within all set timeframes, throughout the Minnesota regulatory process with little to show for it.

"The prompt replacement of Line 3 is an essential project for Minnesotans that will ensure the safety and environmental protection of our important natural resources as well by ensuring the safe transportation of crude oil to refineries in Minnesota, the Midwest and beyond," Smith said.

Release of the draft EIS will be followed by a public comment period which includes a minimum of 22 public information meetings, one in each county through which the route is proposed. The meetings will provide the opportunity for public participation and comment to inform the final EIS, which will be used by the PUC to decide on Enbridge's certificate of need and route permit applications.