The state of Minnesota announced yesterday it is approving several permits for Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 replacement project crossing the state from the Canadian border to Duluth. It will nearly double the amount of oil capacity of the existing pipeline.
The pipeline does not cross the St. Croix River watershed, although earlier route proposals would have directed it across the upper Kettle River, a wild tributary of the St. Croix. The approved route avoids the St. Croix, but does cross other significant waterbodies including the Mississippi and St. Louis Rivers, as well as many of the state’s valuable wild rice lakes.
“The MPCA has used sound science and thorough analysis to ensure that necessary safeguards are in place to protect Minnesota’s waters. The 401 certification requires Enbridge to meet Minnesota’s extensive water quality standards instead of lower federal standards,” said MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop.
But Line 3’s impacts may not be limited to Minnesota. The pipeline is is part of a system of Enbridge pipelines in the western Great Lakes region, and its expansion could still impact the St. Croix without even crossing the river basin. That’s because the new pipeline’s increased capacity may mean new pipeline proposals crossing the St. Croix.
Currently, Enbridge operates Line 61 in a corridor with other lines, passing under the upper St. Croix and tributaries the Eau Claire, Totogatic, and Namekagon Rivers, as well as uncounted other streams.. Line 61 was constructed in 2009 and expanded significantly in 2014.
Enbridge has been in the early stages of surveying and planning a new line to follow the Line 61 route, currently dubbed Line 66/67, that would be able to handle increased oil transportation demands.
“The MNPCA has clearly avoided a hard scientific look at the cumulative impacts from Line 3 on 212 stream crossings and thousands of acres of wetland crossings, and water quality,” said Winona LaDuke, co-founder and Executive Director of Honor the Earth.
Oil pipelines passing under rivers and streams have caused numerous spills in recent decades, killing fish and other aquatic life, and coating riverbeds in oil. In 2010, an Enbridge pipeline in Michigan ruptured and contaminated 36 miles of the Kalamazoo River, forcing a complete closure of the river for two years during clean-up.
Pipelines owned by other companies caused two catastrophic spills in the Yellowstone River in Montana in the last decade.
Construction on Line 3 could begin later this month, though several environmental and indigenous groups are considering legal action to prevent it. If the project moves ahead, stay tuned for what it might mean for the St. Croix River and its tributaries.