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ENERGY: Meeting brings out people in favor, opposed to pipelines

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- Bemidji, Minn., area residents were able to share their opinions Monday on two proposed oil pipelines designed to pass through northern Minnesota.

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Theresa Olson (left), of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, answers questions for Marti Lundin on Monday during the open house portion of a Minnesota Public Utilities Commission public meeting in Bemidji. (Maggi Stivers / Forum News Service)

BEMIDJI, Minn. - Bemidji, Minn., area residents were able to share their opinions Monday on two proposed oil pipelines designed to pass through northern Minnesota.

The public meeting at BSU was scheduled by the Minnesota Department of Commerce as part of the Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, process for the Sandpiper Pipeline and the Line 3 Replacement Pipeline, both projects of pipeline company Enbridge.

The Department of Commerce, along with the Public Utilities Commission, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, are holding a series of public meetings that will help determine whether the PUC issues a certificate of need and a route permit for each project.

The first of the two proposed pipelines, the Sandpiper project, calls for a new 616-mile oil pipeline extending from south of Tioga, N.D., to Clearbrook, Minn., and then extending across the state to Superior, Wis.

The project includes 303 miles of new pipeline passing through Polk, Red Lake, Clearwater, Hubbard, Wadena, Cass, Crow Wing, Aitkin and Carlton counties.

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The other project is a replacement for Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline to address safety and integrity issues with the existing unit, according to a Department of Commerce release. The new pipeline would follow a similar route as the Sandpiper, this one being 363 miles long with 337 miles in Minnesota including the counties of Kittson, Marshall, Pennington, Red Lake, Polk, Clearwater, Hubbard, Wadena, Cass, Crow Wing, Aitkin and Carlton.

During Bemidji's meeting, held at the Hobson Memorial Union at BSU, a crowd of nearly 40 residents attended, some in favor of the pipeline projects and some opposed.

One of the issues raised in favor of the projects was the need to alleviate congestion on rail lines by the high amount of oil moving by train cars. Additionally, speakers in favor said the pipelines were a safer method than moving oil by rail.

"Carrying oil by pipeline is enormously safer than carrying it by railcars," said Bill Batchelder. "I'm pleading with you, expediently, get this done."

Another speaker in favor of the pipeline projects said they will create additional construction jobs and tax revenue.

Those opposed to the projects raised concerns about potential spills over lakes and rivers and the resulting pollution.

Another speaker said the EIS needed to include what the potential economic impact would be if there were a spill, as well as what will happen to the former Line 3 pipeline if the new one is built.

"What about the groundwater or surface water? What about the Mississippi River? Who's going to be up here for polluted waters?," said Harry Hansen, speaking in opposition. "There are so many alternatives in this country. We need to leave it (oil) in the ground."

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Monday's event at BSU was one of several meetings already held or scheduled in northwest and north-central Minnesota. Meetings were held last week in Crookston and Thief River Falls, while others are scheduled today in Park Rapids and May 10 at the Rice Lake Community Center south of Bagley. Meetings also will be held later this week in Carlton and next week in McGregor and St. Paul.

A public comment period also is open until May 26. To submit a written comment, residents are asked to send their remarks to Jamie MacAlister at 87 7th Place East, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN, 55101. Comments can also be made via email to pipeline.comments@state.mn.us .

After the comment period, a draft of the EIS is set to be completed in early 2017 and public hearings will be held regarding the draft. A final EIS is scheduled for spring 2017 and commission route permit decision is expected in fall 2017.

Related Topics: ENVIRONMENT
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