Crow Wing County Board: Enbridge discusses Line 3 replacement

Representatives from Enbridge provided information to the Crow Wing County Board Tuesday on its oil pipeline replacement project planned through central Minnesota.

Several audience members listen as representatives of Enbridge present to three Crow Wing County commissioners and assistant highway engineer Rob Hall on the company's Line 3 pipeline replacement project. Chelsey Perkins/Brainerd Dispatch
Several audience members listen as representatives of Enbridge present to three Crow Wing County commissioners and assistant highway engineer Rob Hall on the company's Line 3 pipeline replacement project. Chelsey Perkins/Brainerd Dispatch

Representatives from Enbridge provided information to the Crow Wing County Board Tuesday on its oil pipeline replacement project planned through central Minnesota.

The proposed route for the Line 3 replacement pipeline traverses 1,031 miles, from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wis. Although most of the route follows along the current path of Line 3, Enbridge wants the replacement pipeline to forge a new path south from Clearbrook and east across Hubbard, Wadena, Cass, Crow Wing, Aitkin, Carlton and Douglas counties.

Enbridge is seeking to replace its currently operating Line 3, said Jennifer Maleitzke, community relations consultant, because the nearly 50-year-old pipe requires more maintenance than is cost-effective.

"Line 3 can continue to run safely for as long as we continue to run the maintenance program," Maleitzke said. "We're looking to replace it because we have to do a lot of digs. ... We deemed that it was going to be more effective to replace it than to continue to dig."

Maleitzke said an evaluation of the pipeline showed the company could expect to complete 4,000 digs over the next 15 years along right-of-way crossing many private properties.


The preferred route is the same as the one proposed for the Sandpiper oil pipeline, which was deferred in September. Seven miles of the route dip south across the Cass-Crow Wing county line, before continuing eastward through Cass. Although the vast majority of permitting and regulatory matters are handled through the state and federal governments, Enbridge must also work with counties, cities and townships on areas where the pipeline will cross roads or other public infrastructure. In Crow Wing County, three road crossings are expected-County Highway 56, County Highway 43 and Bulldozed Road, a Gail Lake Township road.

Rob Hall, assistant county engineer, said the highway department discussed the pipeline crossings with Enbridge three years ago, when the project was first proposed. Hall said there's a permitting process in place, addressing "liabilities and future issues." He added the county would also work with Enbridge concerning possible wear and tear on roads during the construction phase, when hauling will occur.

"We drafted a haul route designation for bonding requirements, should those deliveries do a little more damage to our roadways than we anticipate," Hall said. "I'm sure we'll be renewing those discussions as this gets near."

The current timeline for the necessary approvals and permits places construction to begin in the summer of 2019. The project is currently undergoing its review for an environmental impact statement. If the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission finds the EIS adequate, the next steps are approval of a certificate of need and a routing permit. Maleitzke said she expected a final decision on the pipeline to occur in April 2018. Several public meetings and comment periods will be issued during this time, she added.

Safety, design discussed

The likelihood Enbridge will face pushback from environmental and tribal groups along with other critics is high, given the outcry and prolonged review process the company faced with its Sandpiper proposal. Ten people showed up at Tuesday's committee of the whole meeting, which typically has an audience consisting only of presenters and the press.

Much of what concerns those skeptical of the Route 3 replacement project is the sensitivity of the environment through which Enbridge is proposing its pipeline follow, including its proximity to the Mississippi River headwaters.

The replacement pipe will be 1 foot deeper than the current Line 3 in most places, and "significantly deeper" near railroads and waterways, said Rachel Johnson, crossing coordinator for the Line 3 replacement. Johnson added the company's preferred route will follow pre-existing electric transmission corridors 75 percent of the time east of Clearbrook. Johnson said the company is deviating from the current Line 3 route, which also contains five other pipelines, because of congestion and growth along the corridor causing construction challenges.


Commissioner Rachel Reabe Nystrom peppered the Enbridge representatives with a number of questions concerning the characteristics of the pipeline, the company's spill record and its safety procedures.

A hefty public relations packet containing a number of publications was distributed among commissioners, including a large, colorful report on the company's safety. Of the 2.8 billion barrels of crude the company delivered in 2015, 279 barrels were spilled. Of those, 264 barrels were on Enbridge property.

Nystrom asked what the company's worst disaster was. Maleitzke responded it was a spill of 20,000 barrels into the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Mich., in 2010.

"Openly, our CEO would say it was our worst day," Maleitzke said. "It's one of the big reasons that we've changed our maintenance and techniques so much."

Commissioner Paul Koering asked about the number of train cars that would be required to move the amount of crude oil the pipeline would move. Although the representatives did not offer a specific figure, Maleitzke said it was much cheaper to move crude oil by pipeline and it runs continuously. Based on a previous estimate offered by Enbridge concerning the Sandpiper oil pipeline, the expected 760,000 barrels per day the new Line 3 would move would equal 5,776 train cars.

Koering also asked whether the pipeline would be made from American steel.

"It's no secret that I'm pretty conservative and I'm obviously a big supporter of our country," Koering said. "Where is the steel going to come from for our pipeline?"

Maleitzke said the pipe would use North American steel, using a mill in Canada to roll it. A "great number" of steel would be sourced from Minnesota, she added. Scott McDonald, mainline engineer, added the steel would be 100 percent recycled metal.


Public asks questions

Nystrom asked whether the Enbridge representatives would entertain questions from those in the audience, to which they responded they would.

One man who said he was a Crow Wing County resident asked the commissioners to ensure there was an abandonment plan for the pipeline.

"On Line 3, the abandonment plan is just to leave the line there," the man said. "I think you should require some abandonment plan as to what is going to happen when they shut the pipe down, and not leave it for future generations to deal with."

Maleitzke responded that leaving the deactivated pipe in the ground is the most common method. The plan calls for the company to clean the oil from the pipeline and cap it.

"If we were to go in and (remove) that pipe, we'd be working over six other live lines and taking it out," Maleitzke said.

The man responded he considered the requirements for abandonment minimal and the liabilities would be left for landowners. He said it was an important consideration, because he expected the company to move all six of its pipelines to that corridor at some point.

A man who said he was from Cass County asked whether the pipeline would actually reduce the number of rail cars transporting oil, calling the statistics comparing volumes a "false equivalency."


"Once this is operational, there is going to be X number of rail tankers off the rails?" the Cass County man said.

Maleitzke called that a "tricky question." She said it was up to the companies shipping the oil, not Enbridge, which is a transport company.

"I don't think we can necessarily say based on having this line up and running, they will make a different choice," Maleitzke said.

Willis Mattison, a retired regional director of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said he was a responder to pipeline spills. He said in the 1970s, the original Line 3 resulted in 18 spills in a 12-month period, and the pipe was problematic from its inception. A large spill occurred in Pinewood west of Bemidji, he said, and was representative of an area where the oil was never completely cleaned up.

Mattison said Enbridge's often quoted statistic of transporting 99.9993 percent of its oil safely sounds great, but applying that figure to the 2.8 billion barrels transported annually still resulted in 4 million spilled barrels.

"Will that be on the 7 miles in Crow Wing County?" Mattison said. "Statistics can be misleading. ... No pipe will contain all the oil. No train will contain all the oil."

Koering spoke up to say this was not how committee of the whole meetings were typically conducted, noting it was becoming a public hearing. He addressed Mattison, asking him to leave his information to check and see if it was accurate.

"The reporter is writing down everything you said," Koering said. "I don't know if it's factual, and I'm concerned about that."


Koering then addressed the rest of the audience.

"Does everybody understand here? Are you going home on a horse?" Koering said. "We've got to be realistic here. ... Unless we're willing to give up fossil fuels, which is not realistic, we've got to calm down."

Richard Smith, representing the Friends of the Headwaters group, asked if he could be put on the agenda at a future meeting.

"We're not an anti-pipeline group," Smith said.

Smith said there are alternative routes that could move the pipeline away from the ecologically sensitive part of the state the company's preferred route crosses.

"The union gets to keep their jobs, the state gets to keep its tax dollars, but it gets it away from one of our most precious resources," Smith said.

Smith noted Enbridge "bought into" an alternative route his group suggested for the Sandpiper pipeline, and he hoped the company would do the same with the Line 3 replacement.
Chairman Doug Houge and Commissioner Paul Thiede did not attend Tuesday's meeting. Commissioner Rosemary Franzen told Smith he could contact the chairman about appearing at a future meeting.


Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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