Feds approve Enbridge pipeline from CanadaEnbridge Energy Corp. may start construction on a pipeline from Canadian oil fields to Superior as early as today, after the U.S. State Department approved the project Thursday
By: By John Myers/Duluth News Tribune, Superior Telegram
Enbridge Energy Corp. may start construction on a pipeline from Canadian oil fields to Superior as early as today, after the U.S. State Department approved the project Thursday.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed the permit for Enbridge's Alberta Clipper pipeline, apparently the last major hurdle the company needed to cross before building the line that will carry tar sands oil from Alberta across northern Minnesota to Superior.
Another pipeline will carry refined products back to Canada for use in diluting the thick tar-sands oil.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and Wisconsin regulators already have approved the massive project. The company, which has been stockpiling pipeline, said work could begin immediately.
"This is the latest and biggest milestone for this project," said Denise Hamsher, an Enbridge spokeswoman, "and we will be starting work on the ground as early as [today].'
The project will take about a year and could see as many as 3,000 construction workers hired.
"We expect to have oil moving by mid-2010,' Hamsher said.
The pipeline will carry about 450,000 barrels of oil, or 19 million gallons, a day. That would be in addition to the 1.6 million barrels a day that the company already moves through an existing pipeline along the same route.
The $1.2 billion U.S. segment of the line is part of an $8 billion expansion. The oil could either be refined at the Murphy Oil facility in Superior or piped 450 miles farther to Illinois.
A federal Environmental Impact Statement on the project became final July 6, ending a lengthy public comment period. The State Department was the lead agency because the pipeline crosses an international border.
The project is opposed by Minnesota and national environmental groups, as well as some members of the Leech Lake and Fond du Lac reservations, although elected officials of those bands have approved the project crossing their reservations.
Opponents say that the oil is some of the dirtiest in the world. It's blamed for leaving scarred landscapes and polluted waters in northern Alberta. Tar sand oil also is high in carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and requires more energy to process, opponents say.
Earlier this year the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy filed multiple lawsuits against the pipeline for many of the same reasons. Those suits still have not been decided, but no court order is in place at this time that would prevent construction from starting.
"The State Department has rubber-stamped a project that will mean more air, water and global-warming pollution, particularly in the communities near refineries that will process this dirty oil," said Earthjustice attorney Sarah Burt. "We will go to court to make sure that all the impacts of this pipeline are considered."
Construction work will be done by Global Pipeline Partners, a partnership of Michels Corp. of Brownsville, Wis., Precision Pipeline of Eau Claire, Wis., and U.S. Pipeline of Houston.
Hamsher said the company still is awaiting a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to cross wetlands and rivers in Minnesota and will not build those sections until the permit is in place.