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Letter: Sandpiper - It's not over, folks

I have been following the application for a permit by Enbridge for the Sandpiper pipeline corridor across Minnesota lake country since February of 2014. The Department of Commerce (DOC ) has held several public comment opportunities at which I testified about my environmental concerns.  Hundreds of other concerned citizens across the state also brought up environmental concerns. In addition the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Pollution Control Agency (PCA) weighed in with their own environmental concerns with the proposed Sandpiper route. The PCA stated that a route with easier access and fewer wetlands would lessen the magnitude of the possible impact of a rupture or spill.  On April 13, Judge Eric Lipman apparently disregarded all of these concerns and recommended approval of a certificate of need for Enbridge’s proposed route for the Sandpiper, stating that all other alternate proposed routes should not be considered. He further went on to chastise the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for allowing the process to be “harder than it ought to have been”, deriding the large public comment opportunities held in venues “more suitable to rock concerts and sales conventions.”  One has to wonder if he was working for Enbridge or the State of Minnesota. We have learned this past week that Judge Lipman has be “reassigned”. The PUC Commissioners will make their decision in June as to the approval or denial of the Certificate of Need for the Sandpiper.  Several years ago the approval of pipelines in Minnesota was removed from the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (MEQB) and given to the DOC and PUC, a poor decision indeed, especially in light of recent developments. Pipelines are NOT a public utility like an electric transmission line. Pipeline approval needs to be returned to the MEQB where, working with our environmental agencies, the best route can be worked out, based on environmental needs, not the need for the cheapest route for the oil company.  The proposed route of this Sandpiper pipeline would cross eight state forests, three wildlife management areas, 13 trout streams and will cross the Mississippi river TWICE.   This pipeline would carry 375,000 barrels of Bakken crude PER DAY. If approved, Enbridge plans to add a second pipeline (twice as big) to transport tar sand oil from Alberta. Over 1.1 million barrels of oil would be transported across this most fragile environment. THIS IS MORE THAN THE KEYSTONE XL! And it is going right across Minnesota’s most precious water resources.  Contrary to what Judge Lipman stated in his recommendations, this pipeline does little for Minnesota.  Minnesota’s two refineries will not see a drop of this oil. Also, oil transportation experts conclude this pipeline will NOT lesson shippers’ preference for the flexibility that transport by rail allows them (so the 100 tanker car trains crossing Minnesota every day will continue.) And we should not build something just because it provides construction jobs, especially something with the capability for catastrophic harm to our environment. Not when so many other infrastructure projects (roads and bridges) have been identified for repair.  Enbridge is a company whose safety record is so bad that, in a document from May 6, 2014, the Federal  Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) held it up as the industry model of what NOT to do.   This Sandpiper corridor needs to be subjected to a thorough, objective Environmental Impact Study.  It is only through this sort of rigorous analysis that citizen health and environmental concerns can be fully addressed. Anything less and we are not being good stewards of the earth. The recent quickie “environmental review” conducted by the DOC for the Sandpiper was totally inadequate.  We are at a critical juncture for all Minnesotans. This whole pipeline approval process needs attention. The regulatory process allowing for public comment, both from citizens as well as agencies responsible for protecting our resources, is not working. Under the current process, Enbridge pipelines could jeopardize Minnesota’s land, lakes, and livelihoods.  I recently sent Governor Dayton, much of what you see in this letter. If you feel strongly about this issue, I urge you to contact him also.

Jeff Mosner, Park Rapids