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Governor visits Enbridge

Lee Monthei, center, a Vice President of Major Projects Execution at Enbridge, watches as Becky Haasi, left, a spokesperson for Enbridge, takes a photo of Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker, with her cell phone after Walker picked the orange Enbridge hat before a press conference at Enbridge in Superior on Thursday. Gov. Walker toured the facility prior to the press conference. (Jed Carlson/

John Myers Maria Lockwood

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker took a tour of Enbridge Energy’s Superior terminal Thursday, two days after the company announced it plans to build yet another new oil pipeline into the Northland, on top of two expansion projects already in the works.

“To see that this is a place that is really, literally fueling a major portion of the rest of this country that’s happening right through Superior is impressive,” the governor said. “It’s equally as impressive to see the growth.”

Enbridge has about 800 employees in the Twin Ports. Another nearly 90 people are constructing new tanks and a new pipe rack at the terminal in Superior. That number will swell to more than 200 this summer, with the new 600,000 barrel tanks set to open in mid-summer. Another two tanks of the same size are in the midst of the permitting process. Regardless of whether proposed pipeline projects come to fruition, the additional storage is needed to keep product from mixing, according to Enbridge spokeswoman Becky Haase.

Walker said he was “thrilled to see not only crews out there, but thrilled to see Manitowoc cranes, which of course are made right here in Wisconsin, as part of that.”

Mark Sitek, Enbridge vice president, major projects execution, said company representatives wanted to stress to the governor how important the company is to the local, state and national economy.

“He’s supportive of industry; supportive of business,” Sitek said. “He was interested and we appreciate that.”

Enbridge said it plans to end service of its aged Line No. 3 from Alberta to Superior and replace it with a larger-capacity line to bring northwestern Canadian oil into the U.S.

The proposal is in addition to the proposed expansion of the Alberta Clipper line from Canada and the all-new Sandpiper line from North Dakota to Superior as Enbridge moves to build more pipeline capacity at a dizzying pace to keep up with the huge volume of oil coming out of western North America.

The company hopes to have the $7 billion, 1,031-mile new Line 3 Replacement project moving oil by late 2017, said Enbridge spokeswoman Lorraine Little.

The current Line 3 is 46 years old and has been undergoing almost constant maintenance. Its original capacity was 750,000 barrels per day but has been reduced to 410,000 barrels per day because of restrictions on the pressure in the pipe, Little said.

The new line would allow the full 750,000-barrel capacity, Little said, for an increase of 340,000 barrels per day of Canadian crude entering the U.S. — or about 14.3 million additional gallons per day.

“There comes a point where it makes sense to entirely replace the pipe than to keep making repairs,” Little added.

The company will need approval from the U.S. State Department — called a presidential permit — and approval of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, among other agencies, before work can begin on the new line.

The Line 3 Replacement probably will follow the existing route from northern Alberta to Clearbrook, Minn., Little said, but then could follow either the Alberta Clipper or old Line 3 route to Superior or move south and follow the route where Enbridge wants to build the new Sandpiper line.

“The route options still haven’t been determined. We have had discussions with the Department of State but we have not applied for any permits as of this point. We’re just announcing this,” she said.

It was immediately noticed by some environmental groups that the new Line 3 will allow for increased shipment of tar sands crude oil from northern Canada into the U.S. — the same substance proposed to move on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that many U.S. groups have urged President Obama to halt.

The same groups already are rallying to stop what they are calling an Enbridge expansion, not simply a replacement.

“Enbridge’s plan to increase capacity on another pipeline in the Great Lakes basin is both absurd and insulting. Enbridge needs to call this project what it is … another tar sands pipeline expansion and not a replacement,” Beth Wallace of the National Wildlife Federation said in a statement.

Doug Hayes, Sierra Club staff attorney, said pumping more tar sands crude oil will only add to the carbon dioxide buildup that’s causing global climate change.

As with the “Alberta Clipper pipeline expansion, Enbridge will need a new presidential permit for the project. And the same climate test the president set for the Keystone XL pipeline will apply,” Hayes said in a statement. “Will this new pipeline ‘significantly exacerbate’ carbon pollution? Of course it will.”

But Little said Enbridge is simply responding to the demand of oil producers and refineries that are seeking the abundant and relatively cheap western North American crude now in production. The company said it already had secured agreements from oil companies to pay surcharges to pay for the project.

“We build these things because there’s a demand from our shippers,” she said. “The more we can access Canadian supplies and North Dakota supplies, the less we need to pull in water-borne imports from less-stable foreign countries.”

When asked about the safety aspects of the business, Walker said the state is always looking out for public health and safety.

“Today, physically being here, seeing the precautions they put in place, very impressive; seeing the multiple layers of precautions that they have, and with new construction that’s something that’s going to be greatly enhanced …” Walker said.

The governor squeezed the visit into a full day of activities, including a troop deployment in Madison Thursday morning and manufacturing conference in Chippewa Falls that afternoon.

He said Enbridge is an important company for the state.

“We’re a state that’s heavily committed to manufacturing and so having cost-effective, reliable sources of power all over the state is important,” Walker said. “Overall this fits in with our focus on trying to help grow the economy.”

Enbridge’s parent company is based in Calgary. Its U.S. subsidiary is in Houston. The company has greatly expanded its Duluth-Superior offices, which now include hundreds of employees and contact staff, as the proposed projects move forward.