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Department of Commerce wants Line 3 approval reconsidered

DULUTH — The Minnesota Department of Commerce formally requested the Minnesota Public Utilities Commision reconsider its decision to approve the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline replacement Tuesday, Sept. 25.

The Department of Commerce, which has long opposed the pipeline project, argued the PUC did not base their decision to approve Line 3's certificate of need on future demand for crude oil and instead largely based it on the safety and integrity of the existing Line 3. The PUC's order "contains legal errors and ambiguities," the Department of Commerce said.

"No forecast of demand for crude was provided by (Enbridge), and therefore, the (PUC) could not meet is statutory obligation to evaluate it," Department of Commerce attorney Peter Madsen wrote.

In a statement Wednesday, Enbridge said Tuesday's petitions "are an expected part of this very thorough regulatory process."

"The Line 3 Replacement Project is a safety and maintenance driven project that is intended to protect the communities and the environment in northern Minnesota," Enbridge said.

In late June, the five-member Public Utilities Commission unanimously granted the project a certificate of need, but requested Enbridge make additional compliance filings, or modifications, on the parental guarantee for environmental damages, landowner choice program, decommissioning trust fund, neutral footprint program, and general liability and environmental impairment liability insurance.

The Department of Commerce has long opposed the pipeline and any proposed modifications.

In September 2017, the Department of Commerce also determined Enbridge failed to demonstrate that the state needed a new pipeline.

In July, Commerce's Division of Energy Resources recommended the PUC not approve the company's decommissioning trust fund, a condition guiding the removal of the old Line 3, because it didn't fit into current law.

In early September, the Department of Commerce said Enbridge's Line 3 liability insurance would not cover an oil spill.

The PUC was set to consider the company's decommissioning trust fund, liability insurance and other modifications at a meeting earlier this month, but pipeline opponents managed to shut it down.

Dan Wolf, the PUC's executive secretary, said Wednesday that the meeting had not been rescheduled.

On Tuesday, the Sierra Club, Youth Climate Intervenors, Friends of the Headwaters, and Honor the Earth also filed formal requests to reconsider the pipeline.

Enbridge still has to obtain a number of permits before construction can begin.

Once completed, the pipeline will carry 760,000 barrels of oil per day across northern Minnesota on its route from Alberta to the Enbridge terminal in Superior. Enbridge began working three years ago to get the project approved.

Though the company maintains the new pipeline is needed to replace the existing and aging Line 3, opponents argue the line contributes to climate change, violates indigenous rights and is ultimately unnecessary.

Jimmy Lovrien

Jimmy Lovrien is a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. He spent the summer of 2015 as an intern for the Duluth News Tribune and was hired full time in October 2017 as a reporter for the Weekly Observer. He also reported for the Lake County News-Chronicle in 2017-18. Lovrien grew up in Alexandria, Minn., but moved to Duluth in 2013 to attend The College of St. Scholastica. Lovrien graduated from St. Scholastica in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in English and history. He also spent a summer studying journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

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