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PUC sets outline for MN Sandpiper pipeline route process

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Monday released expected guidelines for the process for approving a route for Enbridge Energy's proposed Sandpiper oil pipeline.

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ST. PAUL - The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Monday released expected guidelines for the process for approving a route for Enbridge Energy's proposed Sandpiper oil pipeline.

The order will require the Minnesota Department of Commerce to study the cumulative environmental impact of locating two new pipelines in one new corridor - the Sandpiper line and the so-called Line 3 replacement - as the company has proposed.

The PUC order Monday won't delay Enbridge's expected schedule of having a route for the new oil line approved in 2016 and the line moving oil by 2017, said Loraline Little, Enbridge spokeswoman.

'"It's restating the route process, laying it back out going forward,'' she said.

Opponents to the pipeline contacted Monday said they hadn't had time to digest the PUC order.

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The all-new, 616-mile Sandpiper pipeline is proposed from near Tioga in northwestern North Dakota's Bakken oil field to Superior. About 300 of those miles are across northern Minnesota. The company hopes to begin work on the line in 2016 and have it moving oil by 2017 - about 375,000 barrels, or nearly 15.8 million gallons, across Minnesota each day.

Opponents are concerned about any possible oil spills in the water-rich environment of northern Minnesota, noting it would cross many streams and wetlands. Enbridge company officials and other supporters said the $2.6 billion pipeline is a safer and less expensive way to move oil than by rail.

In June the PUC unanimously granted a so-called certificate of need for the Sandpiper line for Enbridge subsidiary North Dakota Pipeline Co.

The proposed Line 3 replacement is not as far along in the regulatory process. Enbridge already is working on expanding its Alberta Clipper pipeline from northwestern Canada to Superior, adding more pumping capacity without adding any new pipeline. The company also has announced plans for an all-new pipe to replace its aging Line 3 from Alberta to Superior to help carry that extra oil.

First announced in March 2014, Enbridge hopes to have the $7 billion, 1,031-mile new Line 3 replacement project moving oil by late 2017 - and it could end up following whatever route is decided for Sandpiper.

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