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Enbridge holds multi-agency training in Bemidji on possible oil spill

Officials from Enbridge, along with others from state, federal and tribal agencies, conduct an emergency response pipeline exercise on Wednesday at the Sanford Center. Jillian Gandsey | Forum News Service

BEMIDJI, Minn.—Personnel from Enbridge Energy were joined Wednesday in Bemidji by agency officials at the local, state and federal level for a practice exercise in the event of an oil spill.

The training, labeled a command post response exercise, included personnel from various backgrounds working together on creating an incident action plan that would be used by crews in the field in a hypothetical scenario. In Wednesday's exercise, the hypothetical scenario was a release from one of Enbridge's pipelines into Cass Lake.

At the local level, agencies present Wednesday included emergency management departments from Beltrami and Cass counties, as well as personnel from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

"Yesterday, they walked through a process simulating an incident taking place and today the exercise entered what's called the planning phase of an emergency response," said Stephen Lloyd, Enbridge emergency response manager. "We put those participating in a pressure test. They're broken into sections of operations, planning, logistics and finance and they all work as a team to meet the objectives."

According to Lloyd, those objectives are related to public safety, the scenario's effect on the environment, removing the product from the scene and restoring the location. In addition to having personnel create the incident action plan, Wednesday's training included a joint information center where participants worked on creating press releases for the scenario.

"What we're looking for is the people in different sections to talk to each other," Lloyd said. "It becomes a team event, everyone brings something to the table."

The exercise went from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and was followed by a reflection period where Lloyd said participants could discuss what went well and what needs to improve.

"The reasons we do these is to test our people and our plans as well as test those of the communities and check if our plans are correct," Lloyd said.

Enbridge Energy, a Canadian-based company, currently has eight pipelines across northern Minnesota. Enbridge is proposing to replacing its aging Line 3 that runs through the area with a newer pipeline.

The current Line 3 is 1,097 miles, extending from Edmonton, Alberta, to Superior, Wis. If the new Line 3 was built, it would stretch 1,031 miles from Hardisty, Allberta., to Superior. Once replaced, Enbridge's plan would be to deactivate and continue monitoring the former Line 3, officials said.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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