Enbridge Inc. has won the first of two Minnesota regulatory contests over its $9 billion pipe replacement program for its Line 3 oil export conduit across Western Canada and the U.S. Midwest.
By a 4-1 majority, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) voted to uphold its economic need, environmental and route approvals for the state’s $2.9 billion, 340-mile leg in the project by denying petitions for reconsideration.
Enbridge Vice President Vern Yu called the decision “yet another important step forward.” Management added that the project “is immediately poised to provide significant economic benefits for counties, small businesses, and Native American communities.”
Canadian oil shippers, led by the country’s top natural gas user, Alberta thermal oilsands production, are forecast to gain 370,000 b/d of export capacity because the new pipe would enable the line to increase operating pressure.
The MPUC majority rejected protest claims that Covid-19 has eliminated the need for the new pipe, saying consumption cuts due to the virus pandemic are a temporary emergency instead of a drastic change to the long range outlook for oil traffic.
The second state regulatory contest over Line 3 is to be later this summer or in the fall, at a permit hearing called by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to review technical environmentalist objections.
“This additional step will strengthen the MPCA’s decision record,” Yu said. “We have planned for various permitting scenarios with the objective of accelerating and completing construction of this important safety and maintenance driven project within six to nine months after we receive final permits.”
Minnesota allows court appeals against regulatory agency decisions. Participants in the MPUC case predicted a further lawsuit is likely.
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