ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Canadian oil-pipeline company spent more than $11 million last year lobbying leaders in Minnesota, where the company is fighting to replace its aging Line 3 pipeline despite opposition from tribes and environmentalists, according to new state data.
The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board released data this week showing that nearly all of Enbridge Energy Partners’ lobbying money was used advocating before the Public Utilities Commission. It marks the second consecutive year the company has outspent all other groups lobbying in the state, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.
The company gained the commission’s approval last year for its $2.6 billion project to replace the Line 3 oil pipeline across northern Minnesota with a larger pipe along a different route. Enbridge has argued that the company needs to replace the pipeline because of corrosion and cracking.
The decision elicited angry opposition from American Indian tribes and climate-change activists who argue that the project threatens fragile areas, including where tribes harvest wild rice. Ojibwe Indians, or Anishinaabe, regard wild rice as sacred and central to their culture.
The pipeline now runs from Alberta, Canada, across North Dakota and Minnesota, to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior.
Much of the debate has centered on whether Minnesota and Midwest refineries need the additional oil in light of the country’s greater reliance on electric cars and renewable energy.
“Enbridge has poured a lot of money into greasing the wheels to get this project approved,” said Mysti Babineau, an organizer with environmental group MN350. “The reason they have to spend that kind of money is because they’re facing such strong opposition from across Minnesota.”
MN350 spent $20,000 advocating before the Public Utilities Commission.
Juli Kellner, a spokeswoman for Enbridge, said the company’s lobbying spending was necessary to present information about the Line 3 project to state officials, “and to give voice to the thousands of women and men across Minnesota who support the replacement of Line 3.”
Many of the other big lobbying spenders in Minnesota were also energy companies and utilities, such as Xcel Energy, CenterPoint Energy and Freeborn Wind Energy.