Even though we call this “Fact Check Friday” we will be going a different route (no pun intended) this week. Instead of checking and correcting things said by others, we will be reaffirming a fact that is 100% valid. That fact being that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) staff said this week that the Line 3 Replacement project should get the state’s approval, and that the proposed route would have the least impact on the environment.

Staff members at the PUC each have extensive knowledge and experience related to the regulation of energy facilities. This team of close to 50 individuals are trusted experts within the industry who have been selected by the state to keep Minnesotan’s best interests in mind when making recommendations.

The Line 3 Replacement project is not a topic that they go about lightly. They have put in years of research, thought, and educated discussions about the project before coming to this conclusion that was released earlier this week.

Since many people do not have the time to read a report that is 46 pages long, below are highlights of what was included in the briefing papers:

  • Staff believes the record shows that these alternatives were properly evaluated and that the Commission can make a determination that the criteria set forth under Minn. R. 7853.0130(B) have been met. (Truck/Rail/SA-04)
  • Staff notes that the ALJ found that all of the “No Action alternatives” to the Project (truck, rail, continued operation of existing Line 3, or some combination of these), had just as significant or worse environmental impacts. Given this record, Staff believes that this factor could alternatively be considered by the Commission to weigh in favor of the Project, not against it.
  • Staff does not believe that the ALJ’s recommendation to grant a certificate of need contingent on selecting a certain route is binding. Staff believes the simple fact that a new state-of-the-art pipeline will replace a 50-year-old pipeline with significant and known integrity issues that pose significant environmental risks is a more favorable consequence than the consequence of not replacing the line without regard to which of the four possible routes for the pipeline is best.
  • Staff believes the ALJ’s efforts to single out one route as a necessary condition for the Commission to find there is a need for the Project does not comply with statute, rule, the Commission’s past practice.
  • Staff agrees with all of the modifications recommended by the Department, with the exception of limiting the pipeline to no greater than 34 inches in diameter. Staff does not believe there is sound evidence in the record that would warrant this recommendation. In fact, the record demonstrates just the opposite:
    • A 36-inch diameter pipe is more efficient and requires less energy to transport oil than does a 34-inch pipe
    • A 36-inch diameter pipe is being used in both the North Dakota and Wisconsin segments of the Line 3 replacement.
    • DOC-DER asserted that Enbridge is designing the project with a 36-inch diameter pipe to obtain extra capacity although there is no evidence in the record supporting the assertion. Even if the assertion was true, any additional capacity greater than an average annual capacity of 760 kbpd requested by Enbridge in its application would require additional and separate Commission approval

For an issue such as the Line 3 Replacement project, which will affect millions of people, it is crucial that we make decision based off of hard facts and advice from established industry experts. We hope that people who oppose or are on the fence about the replacement project see this credible report and recognize that in addition to the scientific facts, that staff took into consideration what was best for all of Minnesota. That being that there is a need for the Line 3 Replacement project along the preferred route.