By STEVE KARNOWSKI
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Fresh off approval by Minnesota regulators, the parent company of Enbridge Energy says it’s on track to finish building its Line 3 replacement pipeline and put it into service by the second half of next year.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission decided on Thursday the project is necessary and approved the company’s preferred route across northern Minnesota, calling for modifications and conditions that Enbridge considers minor.
In a statement on late Thursday, Enbridge Inc., based in Calgary, Alberta, called that a “good outcome for Minnesota.” The Canadian company said replacing the deteriorating old Line 3 will ensure a critical piece of energy infrastructure remains safe and keep the crude-oil supply reliable for refineries in Minnesota and other nearby states.
But climate-change and tribal activists vowed to keep fighting. Winona LaDuke, founder of Honor the Earth, said they’ll use every regulatory means possible, and she threatened mass protests.
“They have gotten their Standing Rock,” LaDuke said, referring to protests that drew thousands of people to neighboring North Dakota to rally against the Dakota Access pipeline.
After the commission issues a formal written order in the next few weeks, opponents can then file appeals.
Line 3 runs from Alberta across North Dakota and Minnesota to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. The replacement would use part of the same route in Minnesota before taking a more southerly path.
Much of the discussion at the Line 3 hearings over the past several days has been about whether refineries in Minnesota and other parts of the Midwest need the extra oil. Enbridge now runs Line 3 at about half its original capacity of 760,000 barrels a day for safety reasons, and currently uses it to carry only light crude.
Enbridge has already replaced a short segment of Line 3 in Wisconsin and put it into service. Construction is now underway on a short segment of the pipeline crossing northeastern North Dakota and on a longer section running from Alberta to the U.S. border, and Enbridge plans to continue that work. Enbridge has estimated the overall cost of the project to be $7.5 billion, including $2.6 billion for the U.S. section.