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Department of Commerce says Enbridge compliance filing needs work

The Minnesota Department of Commerce said the Line 3 decommissioning trust fund filed by Enbridge Energy isn't good enough.

In a letter filed Friday, July 20, the DOC's Division of Energy Resources attorney Peter Madsen recommended that the Minnesota Public Utilities Committee not approve the company's decommissioning trust fund, a condition guiding the removal of the old Line 3 set by the PUC last month when approving the certificate of need for the roughly 340-mile oil pipeline across Minnesota, until certain modifications are made. The company's July 16 filing wasn't sufficient and didn't fit into current law, Madsen said.

"Enbridge provided a decommissioning trust fund proposal that would require changes to federal and state law," Madsen wrote.

In an emailed statement, Calgary-based Enbridge said the July 16 filing outlining the decommissioning trust fund was consistent with the PUC's order and is based, in part, on the Canadian National Energy Board, or NEB, requirements.

"That said, there are differences in Canadian law applicable to the NEB-regulated pipelines and the laws in Minnesota and the U.S. Those differences were highlighted as part of our filing for the benefit of the Commission and all stakeholders," Enbridge said.

The DOC said they'd like to see a decommissioning trust fund that ensures Minnesota and federal law don't have to change to accommodate it, has collections over Line 3's 50-year life up to $1.5 billion, is not controlled by Enbridge or any affiliated company and "is established only for the purpose of deactivating, monitoring, and removing the pipeline together with remediation of the soil at the time Line 3 is taken out of service in Minnesota."

"Enbridge is committed to having the Decommissioning Trust established to meet the intent and spirit of the Commission's order," Enbridge said.

The Department of Commerce also determined in September 2017 that Enbridge failed to demonstrate that the state needed a new pipeline.

Enbridge argues that the Line 3 replacement as a necessary infrastructure upgrade that will increase the safety of oil transportation across the state, while opponents say the line contributes to climate change, violates indigenous rights and is ultimately unnecessary.

In an email statement Monday, July 23, Margaret Levin, chapter director of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter, called Enbridge's decommissioning trust fund "last-minute, half-baked concessions."

"It would be an enormous disservice to the people of Minnesota to rush through the details of the trust fund, and we are pleased to see the Department of Commerce advocating for the additional time needed to protect Minnesotans," Levin said.

Jimmy Lovrien

Jimmy Lovrien is a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. He spent the summer of 2015 as an intern for the Duluth News Tribune and was hired full time in October 2017 as a reporter for the Weekly Observer. He also reported for the Lake County News-Chronicle in 2017-18. Lovrien grew up in Alexandria, Minn., but moved to Duluth in 2013 to attend The College of St. Scholastica. Lovrien graduated from St. Scholastica in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in English and history. He also spent a summer studying journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

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