Fact Check Friday – Why Minnesota should prefer the preferred route for a rebuilt Line 3.
Throughout the process to rebuild Enbridge’s Line 3, there have been a lot of questions that need to be answered before the final decision gets made. As someone who has spent most of my career building and maintaining pipelines and the systems needed to make sure pipelines work, there have been two questions that really matter to me.
The first was answered this week. The Administrative Law Judge announced in her opinion that Line 3 is “old, needs significant repair, and poses significant integrity concerns for the State.” Replacing Line 3 is “reasonable and prudent.”
The biggest question now is where a rebuilt Line 3 should go.
The ALJ has recommended one way for the Public Utilities Commission to answer this question while Enbridge has proposed a different way and a far better route. The route that Enbridge and others prefer is clearly the only viable way we can rebuild Line 3.
The ALJ’s route recommendation creates more risk, harm, conflict, challenges, and would take the entire project and Minnesota backward at a time when we have a route that has been studied and nearly ready for construction.
Here are just a few reasons Minnesota and the Public Utilities Commission should prefer the preferred route.
The preferred route infringes on fewer people and population across Minnesota than what the ALJ has recommended. The ALJ’s recommended route would impact more communities and 75% more acres of populated land (20,807 acres) than the preferred route (4,814 acres).
Respecting tribal communities and avoiding tribal land
The preferred route respects tribal communities and clearly avoids tribal land while the ALJ’s recommendation will create unresolvable and unnecessary conflicts. Governor Dayton says he doesn’t see any viable way (and neither do I) areas of the ALJ’s recommended route could be attempted or should be attempted because it goes through the two tribal lands. The preferred route acknowledges the legitimate concerns and respect for Tribal Nations and was created by using significant input from stakeholders as well as all of Minnesota.
Water quality and Minnesota lake impact
The ALJ’s recommended route exposes 80% more acres of drinking water resources (2,942 acres) than the preferred route (501 acres). The ALJ route would also impact approximately 11 acres of Minnesota Lakes of Biological Significance, while the preferred route would not impact any!
Ignoring past work and taking the project backward
The preferred route has been studied, cleared and is ready for construction while the route recommended by the ALJ has not been studied. Her recommended route has significant issues that would take months – if not years- to be reviewed to identify impacts and develop plans for mitigation. The preferred route is shovel ready and the Final Environmental Impact Statement has deemed adequate by the PUC in March, allowing the much-needed construction work to start upon approval by the PUC.
Creating other unnecessary risks
The ALJ-recommended route would require rebuilding Line 3 in a trench area close to other operating pipelines. This would create unnecessary, un-needed safety, environmental and economic risks that are bad for Minnesota. If the ALJ’s route was approved, it would cause SUBSTANTIAL and extended oil supply disruptions leading to higher gasoline prices impacting Minnesota and the surrounding region. Replacing Line 3 along the preferred route would not create these risks and not cause ANY disruptions in supply.
The best way to protect the environment NOW and Minnesota’s economy NOW.
For years we have known Line 3 needs to be replaced. As we discover more data and information through this process, the need to replace Line 3 in the best and most expeditious way becomes more pressing.
The ALJ’s recommended route would take about 3 times longer to complete, impact MORE land and force Line 3 to shut down for almost TWO YEARS. This method of replacement cannot be accomplished without taking old line 3 out of service completely until the new line in place. It is impossible. Using the preferred route would not force the existing Line 3 to shut down during construction.
While little work has been done to get the ALJ-recommended route ready for construction, Enbridge has already secured easements from landowners for 95% of the right-of-way for the preferred route that are needed before construction can happen.
Forcing Line 3 to shut down would put un-needed stress on Minnesota’s economy that will create more risk, raise the cost of gas, and increase congestion on railroads when more oil is moved by rail cars “through” the heart of many communities. These facts are indisputable!
We know that Minnesota needs to rebuild Line 3. It should also be extremely clear to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission that using the preferred route instead of what the ALJ has recommended will be a faster, better, safer way to replace an aging pipeline in a way that also protects Minnesota, its water, and its economy.