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John Myers, Forum News Service, Published March 17 2014

Hearings set for Enbridge pipeline expansion

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is holding public hearings this week on the second phase of a proposed expansion of the Enbridge Energy Alberta Clipper pipeline.

Part of a $1.2 billion expansion project for the line, the proposed upgrades would increase the line’s capacity about 40 percent to 800,000 barrels per day, mostly by increasing capacity at several pumping stations.

The Alberta Clipper expansion, which is controversial because the 1,000-mile line would move tar sands oil from northern Alberta to Midwest refineries, is one of three major pipeline projects Enbridge has crossing northern Minnesota.

Enbridge also is proposing the all-new $2.6 billion Sandpiper pipeline from western North Dakota to Superior, Wis., part of it along new routes from past lines, mostly to handle oil from the Bakken oilfields. And earlier this month, Enbridge announced plans to nearly double capacity of oil shipped from northwestern Canada to Superior by replacing an old line, No. 3, a $7 billion proposal just getting underway. A specific route for that project has not yet been proposed.

The original $1.2 billion Alberta Clipper line, also called Line 67, was completed in 2010 with the pipeline big enough to handle the planned expansion. A smaller expansion of the line, which raised capacity to 570,000 barrels per day, received PUC approval last year, said Lorraine Little, an Enbridge spokeswoman.

The PUC now is deciding whether to issue a certificate of need for the second phase of the expansion project to 800,000 barrels – about 33.6 million gallons of oil daily.

Enbridge supporters say the expansion will help maintain a supply of crude oil for the region’s energy needs. Opponents say the oil being shipped is dirtier than other alternatives and will increase carbon emissions that spur climate change.

Enbridge also needs a federal Presidential Permit through the State Department for the expansion’s second phase.

State PUC meetings on the Alberta Clipper expansion are set for:

  • Tuesday: 6: p.m. in Hallock City Hall, Upstairs Auditorium.

  • Wednesday: 10 a.m., Thief River Falls Best Western Inn, Summit A&B Rooms.

  • Wednesday: 6:30 p.m., Cass Lake Pike Bay Town Hall.

  • Thursday: 10 a.m., Floodwood Downtown Fair Center, 107 W. 7th Ave.

  • Thursday: 6:30 p.m., Duluth Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites, Lake Superior & Lake Michigan rooms.

  • April 3: 3 p.m., St. Paul, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, Large Hearing Room, 121 Seventh Place E.

    Public comments will be accepted through 4:30 p.m. April 14 to: The Honorable Eric L. Lipman, Office of Administrative Hearings, P.O. Box 64620 600 N. Robert St., St. Paul, MN, 55164-0620. Refer to PUC Docket No. PL-9/CN-13-153 OAH Docket No. 8-2500-30952. Comments can be emailed to RouteComments.OAH@state.mn.us or sent by fax to (651) 539-0300.