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Anna Erickson, Forum News Service, Published December 22 2013

Forum addresses Minnesota Sandpiper pipeline concerns

PARK RAPIDS, Minn. – Environmental concerns were among the issues addressed last week at a forum about the proposed Enbridge Sandpiper oil pipeline.

About 40 people gathered Wednesday at Northwoods Bank in Park Rapids to hear information about the project.

Park Rapids resident Steve Peterson said he just wanted to do some research and get information out to others about the project. Michael Dahl, representing Honor the Earth, also spoke and challenged others to think about protecting the environment.

Enbridge’s proposed pipeline project would run from North Dakota to Wisconsin, with a portion of pipeline proposed through Hubbard County. The company has submitted an initial application to the Public Utilities Commission.

Under state law, the PUC must approve the project before Enbridge can move ahead.

Peterson described the players involved in the project, including the Public Utilities Commission, Enbridge representatives and residents.

The project is being developed to meet the growing demand for North Dakota crude.

Enbridge’s proposal is for a $2.6 billion, 299-mile pipeline across Minnesota. The pipeline would transport crude petroleum from Enbridge’s Beaver Lodge Station south of Tioga, N.D., to its terminal in Superior, Wis. The Sandpiper Pipeline would be owned and operated by Enbridge Pipelines (North Dakota) LLC.

The main concern for some people is that the new line will pass within two miles of the headwaters of the Mississippi River, and then cross the river, eight state forests, three state wildlife management areas, the North Country Trail and through 13 trout streams, Peterson said. Wildlife could be affected, he said.

Dahl grew up a mile south of Nary in Hubbard County.

“This is my home,” he said, although he now lives in White Earth.

He is part of Honor the Earth, a grassroots organization that wants to protect the Earth. He is part of a group that has been riding horses along several pipelines in the state, both existing and proposed. In November, the group started a ride at the Mississippi headwaters in Itasca State Park.

The ride was to bring awareness and education about Enbridge’s proposed Sandpiper pipeline project, to begin construction in late 2014.

“We’re not protesters, we’re protectors,” he said. “It’s about common sense and doing what’s right.”

According to Enbridge’s application, the Minnesota portion of the ­project will cost $1.2 billion and create 1,500 temporary pipeline jobs. The construction schedule would begin in 2014 and end in 2016, according to the Public Utilities Commission filing.

Peterson said the jobs are only temporary, and that doesn’t help people in the region who are looking for work.

Much of the pipeline would generally follow Enbridge’s existing pipeline or other utility right-of-way in North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The project’s initial capacity would be 225,000 barrels per day to Clearbrook and 375,000 barrels per day to Superior.

According to Enbridge, from Superior, the oil would be transported by Enbridge and other interconnected pipelines to refinery hubs in the United States and eastern Canada.

Peterson said people have an obligation to be informed and voice their opinions.

He urged people to go to the PUC website, www.puc.state.mn.us, and submit comments.

Emails of inquiry or concern can be sent to Tracy M.B. Smetana at consumer.puc@state.mn.us.