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Commentary: Enbridge is pretending fix is in

The green circles mark points where Minnesota Pollution Control Agency staff have identified access concersn. Approximate locations of the four primarily examined proposals are also identified. (Map courtesy of Friends of the Headwaters)

Enbridge has been very busy pretending that their expanded and relocated Line 3 is a fait accompli.

We get it — when a foreign conglomerate is trying to manufacture Minnesota consent for an oil pipeline carrying products that are particularly hazardous to water, the deception requires a massive public relations effort, evidenced in the fact that Enbridge spent over $5 million lobbying Minnesota's public officials during 2017. (

However, if the recommendations of independent experts hired by the Department of Commerce (DOC) matter, the Enbridge pipeline proposal is still unlikely to get approval from the state of Minnesota. (

Friends of the Headwaters (FOH), an all-volunteer group dedicated to keeping new oil pipelines away from Minnesota's clean water, has been an intervenor in the pipeline approval process since 2014 when we realized through our educational sessions and meetings with landowners that the pipeline approval process needed more opportunities for public input.

In August 2014, FOH presented our maps to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), resulting in an additional comment period on the Sandpiper and ratifying commentary for our concerns from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources.

In December 2014, FOH went to the Court of Appeals for an EIS on oil pipelines in Minnesota. In September 2015, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in our favor. (Upheld by the Minnesota Supreme Court in December 2015.)

In August 2016, after spending the spring of 2016 in the scoping process required by the EIS, Enbridge and Marathon placed the Sandpiper on indefinite hiatus, citing their impatience with "unprecedented" procedural delays.

In September 2017, independent experts hired by the DOC declared that a new pipeline was not needed. Recommending that the old Line 3 be mothballed, they concluded that no new pipeline capacity is needed to ensure "future adequacy, reliability and efficiency of energy supply."

On April 23, 2018, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will share deliberations about whether Enbridge should get a certificate of need. The judge's recommendations are based on evidence provided by the applicant, intervenors, the public and expert witnesses on oil spill scenarios and the economics of global oil markets.

In June, the PUC will issue a decision about whether Enbridge gets approval for their proposed Line 3.

The expanded and relocated Line 3 is not a public utility. Minnesota just happens to be in the geographic crosshairs of a big corporation that wants to build a profitable pipeline across Minnesota en route to refineries and export markets. Despite Enbridge's wishful thinking and the recent overtures of their legislative cronies, Minnesota is not going to roll over so a foreign conglomerate can build a profitable pipeline through some of the cleanest water in Minnesota.

Despite Enbridge's efforts to pretend that the fix is in, nothing is over. And Friends of the Headwaters is still here, waiting on the ALJ's recommendation and the PUC decision, still trying to keep oil out of Minnesota's clean water.