Christine Davis with Enbridge updated the Park Rapids City Council on March 10 about the energy transportation company’s proposed Line 3 pipeline replacement project.

“Enbridge does not extract or refine any fossil fuels, only ships them,” said Davis. “The only energy that Enbridge creates are … wind, solar and geothermal.”

The proposed pipeline route across Minnesota roughly follows the existing Enbridge right of way from the North Dakota border to Clearbrook. From there, it turns south to follow the Minnesota Pipeline Company’s right of way, passing through a pump station to be built near Two Inlets in Hubbard County. Turning east near the Wadena County Line, the new route follows a Minnesota Power powerline until it crosses the state line again near Superior, Wis.

“Oil moves through that line at about walking speed,” said Davis. “Safety is the first priority.”

She showed the council samples from the original Line 3 pipeline from Wisconsin, where the replacement has already been completed, comparing it to a sample of the new pipeline.

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“The new pipe is twice as big as the old pipe,” she pointed out. “That’s the thickness of the pipe most of the distance. The difference is, when we go under a road or a navigable water body, it’s thicker.”

To explain why the pipeline needs to be replaced, Davis said Enbridge has extensively analyzed the integrity of Line 3. “We’ve realized that it would need about 6,000 repairs to keep on running that pipeline safely,” she said, adding that pipeline repairs are very invasive to property and the environment.

Because Line 3 has a soft, tape-like external coating, she said, “the exterior of it has not upheld as well as our older or newer pipelines.”

The new pipeline is already operational in Canada, North Dakota and Wisconsin. “What we’re looking to do is finish that last piece here in Minnesota,” said Davis.

Getting regulatory approval to do that, however, made Line 3 “the most studied pipeline in the history of anything in Minnesota,” she said. “We’re going on the 70th public meeting for this project,” with meetings coming up next week in Bemidji and Grand Rapids regarding Minnesota Pollution Control Agency permits.

“We’ve had the big permits,” she said. “The certificate of need and route permit have been approved at the state level by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. They’ve withstood legal challenges. They’ve been reconsidered. The environmental impact study that informed that decision was legally challenged and upheld, and now the decision was affirmed again back in February.”

Now, Davis said, the project faces 20 more permit approvals from the local and tribal to the federal level.

She also discussed how Enbridge plans to protect the environment during installation of the replacement line, such as using timber mats to protect roads and wetlands from rutting, bridges and special horizontal drills to protect waterways, erosion control and buffer zones, valve placement and soil separation tactics, and hydrotests of pipe soundness that pull water out of lakes, clean it and return it to the same lakes.

Davis said Enbridge plans to have a permanent pipeline shop in Park Rapids, with Jay Himango supervising four pipeliners and a mechanic.

Kent Brock, a citizen attending the meeting, challenged Enbridge’s claims about the need for the pipeline, where the oil is going and the ethics and environmental risk of transporting oil sands.

“I’m really against pipelines,” said Brock. “I think a lot of people are misled.”

He added, “You understand the people of Minnesota, because tar sands (oil) is not for us.”

Council member Erika Randall called a halt to the debate. “I want everybody to be very, very informed about this,” she said. “Because we’ve got to move on with our meeting, I would encourage you to reach out at the Enbridge office because I know that they are more than willing to sit down and answer any questions that anybody has about this.”