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Regulators attempt to streamline Sandpiper proceedings

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Monday sided with Enbridge Energy and rejoined the need and route permit proceedings for the proposed Sandpiper Pipeline after previously splitting them up.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Monday sided with Enbridge Energy and rejoined the need and route permit proceedings for the proposed Sandpiper Pipeline after previously splitting them up.

The commission also authorized an environmental study of the project. Since the environmental impact statement, or EIS, is "combined," it will study the ecological implications of both allowing the pipeline to be built in general and the specific route of the pipeline in particular.

In September, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled the Minnesota Environmental Protection Act required that the PUC should have had an EIS completed before it approved the project's certificate of need.

Enbridge argued that recombining the two proceedings would make "more efficient use of resources and adding regulatory consistency to the process" and that keeping them split "would add layers of additional regulatory and legal complexity, and unnecessarily increase the delay," the PUC's order said.

The Carlton County Land Stewards, the Friends of the Headwaters, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Honor the Earth, and the White Earth Band of Ojibwe argued for keeping the proceedings split, the PUC said.

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The Department of Commerce can strike out or add different possible pipeline routes for consideration, with the PUC's okay.

"Finally, as proceedings in the routing matter develop, the department may choose to eliminate or to increase the route alternatives being considered," the PUC said. "The commission asks that the department return to the commission for approval of the alternative route or route segments selected."

In addition, the PUC sent the Sandpiper matter back to an administrative law judge for new "contested case proceedings." The PUC plans the EIS to be finished and available to the parties in the case prior to the submission of intervenor direct testimony.

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