It was a quick stop with a mission to reenergize its supporters and to give an update on a proposed billion dollar project.

Representatives from Enbridge, a Canadian energy delivery company — along with a semitractor-trailer holding a piece of a pipeline for supporters to sign — stopped Wednesday, Jan. 22, at the Brainerd Fire Department along Laurel Street in Brainerd to discuss the $2.9 billion Line 3 replacement pipeline project.

It was Enbridge’s second round of stops of the tour — the first round was in October in cities in northern Minnesota — to talk about the project to its stakeholders and outlined the route.

Barry Simonson, Enbridge director of the Line 3 project, said this is not a new pipeline system — it is a replacement of the existing pipe. Enbridge's proposed pipeline would carry 760,000 barrels of oil or 31,920,000 gallons per day from Alberta, Canada, to the Enbridge terminal in Superior, Wisconsin, and the pipeline is about 360 miles long. The 36-inch diameter pipeline would replace the existing 50-year-old, 34-inch diameter pipeline, but follow a new route through much of northern Minnesota — going through the upper corner of Crow Wing County and a portion of Cass County.

The Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline replacement project has been dogged by controversy, with its proponents claiming it will create jobs and opponents saying it's an environmental risk.

Native American groups also have voiced strong concerns about the project, citing the pipeline’s proximity to lands important to native history and culture.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals in June ruled the environmental review of the proposed pipeline project was "inadequate" because it did not consider the effects of an oil spill in Lake Superior’s watershed. But the court said many other points disputed in the final environmental impact statement, including the pipeline’s impact on tribal resources, met required standards.

Simonson stressed the company will continue to maintain the highest safety standards with the project. Simonson said with current, updated technology, the steel used for the piping is much stronger than what was used in the older pipes and they are adding safeguards, such as its valve locations.

Barry Simonson, Enbridge director of the Line 3 project.
Barry Simonson, Enbridge director of the Line 3 project.

“We have received a lot of input from the public on the route we are choosing,” Simonson said in an interview during the event. Simonson said they have talked this project through with the contractors, the unions, landowners, the Fond du Lac Reservation and the state agencies, including the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota DNR.

“Some of the important topics that are true to Minnesotans are clean water and safety to the environment. ... Pipes need to be replaced just like any infrastructure, like roads and bridges, and it needs to be replaced in a safe and effective manner. We, in Minnesota and the country, utilize crude oil for many projects.”

Enbridge transports 25% of the crude oil produced in North American and moves about 20% of all natural gas consumed in the United States. The company also has committed more than $6 billion in capital to renewable energy and power transmission projects. The company’s renewable projects generates enough green energy to meet the electricity needs for nearly 700,000 homes, based on its net generation figures for projects in operation of under construction, the company stated.

For the final step in the proposed project, Enbridge needs a final authorization for construction from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The commission will host an agenda meeting Jan. 31 and Feb. 3-4 at the Minnesota Senate Office Building at University Avenue and Park Avenue in St. Paul to consider the proposed Line 3 Replacement Project. According to the commission, the entire day on Jan. 31 will be reserved to allow members of the public to present comments to the commission. Oral arguments from official parties will take place Feb. 3-4.

The meeting will also be available to watch on a live webcast, which can be accessed by navigating to www.senate.mn, selecting the Multimedia drop-down, and selecting live video.

Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce President Matt Kilian spoke briefly at the short presentation.

“On behalf of our 1,000 business members we absolutely, unequivocally support this replacement Line 3 project,” Kilian said. “Not only because of the economic impact the $2.6 billion (has for Minnesota alone), but also because you are the best people we know who can have an economic impact while protecting and in some cases even enhancing our natural resources. From a business regulation process, they (Enbridge) are too diplomatic to say it so I will. They have been at this thing for five years and there has been plenty of time for public comments — been over 65 opportunities for public comment and the time is now. The time is now to get behind this and bring the economic impact to our state of Minnesota.”

Roland Hill of the Tribal Engagement Team and member of the Red Lake Reservation, spoke after Kilian and also expressed his support of the replacement pipeline. Hill said Enbridge has invested in the tribal affiliations and government.

“There has been a lot of commitment,” Hill said of Enbridge. “I like what I heard and knew it would be valuable. ... This is the safest and right way to do it.”

Brainerd Fire Chief Tim Holmes said having Enbridge show up at the fire department was a great opportunity for them to show off what they are actually going to do with the pipeline, and the pipe on the semitrailer was a nice prop for them to show people what will be going in the ground.

“They really emphasize the safety aspect of the project which is what we obviously are for,” Holmes said supporting the project.



JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at jennifer.kraus@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5851. Follow me at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl on Twitter.