Guest Opinion: Minnesota should not approve proposed Sandpiper route
The editorial on Friday, April 10, appears to be very one sided. Readers would expect the Brainerd Dispatch to check information given to them for accuracy and balanced viewpoints. Unfortunately this appears not to have happened before it endorsed the presentation by Paul Eberth of Enbridge to the editorial board.
The proposed Sandpiper route is not the only option to move Bakken oil to market. Several other pipelines are being proposed by Enbridge competitors to move the oil from North Dakota to midwest terminals and to each coast in Canada. Enbridge is a Canadian company and the oil is not needed in Minnesota nor will it stay here. The largest user of the pipeline will be its partner Marathon Oil, which is providing a portion of the capital to build the pipeline. Their refineries are located where interconnects with other pipelines could supply them without going through Superior, Wis.
Both the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Department of Natural Resources have testified and identified alternate routes to the one proposed by Enbridge and have stated that the proposed route is the least preferred and at highest risk of imparting lasting environmental damage. Honor the Earth, Friends of the Headwaters, Carlton County Land Stewards, Pine River Watershed Alliance, Whitefish Properties Owners Association, Association of Cass County Lakes and many other groups are opposed to this routing. These groups are not opposed to pipelines, but I think Minnesota should require Enbridge to place it in a location with the least risk of damage and the easiest route to detect and repair leaks.
If the editorial writer had looked at a detailed map of the proposed route they would have seen that a substantial number of wetlands will be crossed. These wetlands have very limited access in the event of a spill and there is no way to avoid them. Hence, the editorial's plea that Enbridge move the pipeline away from sensitive areas is not possible with this route. In addition the proposed route would cross the Mississippi River twice, wild rice production areas, the Pine River, and could pollute the Whitefish Chain of Lakes. Most of the route is highly susceptible to groundwater pollution with shallow aquifers, threatening the safety of drinking water.
Enbridge would like us to consider the Sandpiper pipeline as a single entity, but it would actually be a new pipeline corridor. They have already applied to the PUC for approval for a second pipeline, which would move Alberta Tar Sands oil through the same route. This would be a replacement pipeline for an old pipeline that goes along Highway 2, but with increased capacity. They will abandon the Highway 2 pipeline and are not required to remove it, which can leave a potential liability for Minnesotans in the future as this pipeline has required extensive repair from leakage. The combined capacity of these two new pipelines would be nearly a million barrels of oil per day. Additional pipelines might also follow and be placed in this corridor.
Enbridge has been very vocal about their safety response to spills and care for the environment. Yet, in the Certificate of Need hearings before the Administrative Law Judge, their subsidiary, North Dakota Pipeline Company, LLC gave testimony that they are the sole party responsible for spills and clean up. NDPC testified that if their insurance was not adequate they would have profits to assist and if that was insufficient there is a Federal Fund for clean-up (i.e., us taxpayers). The Department of Commerce has recently informed the Administrative Law Judge that NDPC's insurance is not adequate for the purposes of this pipeline.
I would hope that in the future the Brainerd Dispatch will do a better job of fact checking before endorsing such a poorly chosen route. Enbridge's proposed route puts Minnesota's highly valuable clean water resources and recreational areas at substantial risk!
Gregory L. Johnson, Backus, is director of the Pine River Watershed Alliance and has been working with many groups in opposition to the proposed Sandpiper route.