By Anna Jauhola
DONALDSON — Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project is inching closer to construction in Kittson County and throughout northern Minnesota.
After the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted 4-1 Friday, Dec. 4 to deny a request to stay important project approvals, workers are continuing to gear up for construction.
East of Donaldson on Highway 11, pipes and heavy equipment has been staged and ready for months. The pipeline runs diagonally northwest to southeast through Kittson County, exiting just south of Donaldson into Marshall County.
The route through Minnesota is 337 miles long and Enbridge states it will cost $2.6 billion, which will have residual impacts on tax income for the state, counties, townships and school districts. The project itself will also be a boost to thousands of construction workers amid the loss of employment throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The major holdup in the struggle to approve the replacement of the aging Line 3 crude oil pipeline has been the environmental permitting process. Enbridge has been working for six years for approval, but different groups have opposed it stating it will cause irreparable harm to the environment and the people of Minnesota.
The most recent objections were filed by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa and White Earth Band of Ojibwe to halt the project’s start of construction.
They want to wait until the Minnesota Court of Appeals can handle filed permit challenges. Those opposed to the project also state construction workers will add to the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission disagreed and denied the need for a stay in the project. The commissioners recognized not only the need for the jobs, the boost to the economy and Enbridge’s strict safety procedures regarding the virus, but also the environmental impact should the line not be replaced. The aging pipeline was originally installed in the 1960s and requires replacement due to corrosion and possible leakage. The line has been operating at half capacity for quite some time and the new pipe will provide stronger, safer transportation of oil, according to Enbridge.
By Anna Jauhola