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Minnesota legislators 'frustrated' by Commerce Department ruling on Enbridge project

The Department of Commerce's recent analysis that an Enbridge pipeline project is unnecessary defies common sense, northwest Minnesota legislators said this week.

The state agency recommended that Canadian pipeline company Enbridge not be given permission to build its Line 3 oil pipeline, which would replace a decades-old pipeline that ships oil from Alberta to Superior, Wis. The 1,000-mile project and old line both cross several Minnesota counties.

The pipeline's benefit to Minnesota would not outweigh the risk, according to the Commerce Department, which also said "it is reasonable to conclude that Minnesota would be better off if Enbridge proposed to cease operations of the existing Line 3, without any new pipeline being built."

But state Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, and Sen. Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, disagree with the department, saying Tuesday in a joint news release Gov. Mark Dayton's administration is "siding with environmental extremism instead of common sense."

"Shutting down this pipeline will have a substantial impact on rural Minnesota," Fabian said in the statement. "Our local counties, school districts and townships will lose critical property tax revenue, and what's more, jobs will be affected and there will be fewer workers patronizing local businesses like our grocery stores and motels. Plain and simple, bureaucrats in St. Paul are advancing policies that hurt Greater Minnesota."

The two noted that Canada and Wisconsin are moving forward with the $8.2 billion project, echoing local support.

"I am frustrated the Dayton administration and Department of Commerce are once again dragging their feet on this project and throwing roadblock after roadblock in the way of this critical pipeline replacement," Johnson said in the statement. "It seems they are more interested in working for special interests instead of supporting citizens, industry and good-paying jobs."

In late August, Johnson, Fabian, Rep. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston, and 50 other state legislators signed a letter of support for the project.

"The Department of Commerce's recommendation to shut down and not replace Enbridge Line 3 is another example of policymakers in St. Paul ignoring common sense and the priorities of Greater Minnesota," Kiel said in a statement Thursday. "It's time the Dayton Administration put the people of Minnesota first instead of special interests."

Rep. Steve Green, R-Fosston, also criticized Gov. Mark Dayton and his administration.

"The governor's administration has once again catered to the environmental extremists at the expense of the people in our region," Green said in a statement. "They are jeopardizing our safety, standing in the way of thousands of good construction jobs and potentially putting taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars. It is absurd a state agency is trying to kill a private investment of more than $3 billion in Minnesota that would do more to protect our water and, at the same time, provide economic benefits to the people of our region and beyond that could really use a lift."

The PUC is expected to make a final ruling next year on whether to issue a certificate of need to Enbridge as required to begin work replacing 337 miles of decaying pipeline across northern Minnesota.

Dayton said in a statement he plans to wait until the 30-day commenting period is put on the record before expressing his views.

Public comment may be submitted to the Public Utilities Commission through Nov. 22 at

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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