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Twin Ports mayors back Enbridge projects

Don Ness and Bruce Hagen held a press conference Wednesday morning to celebrate Enbridge expansion projects and the benefits presented to the Twin Ports.

Enbridge is proposing building an all-new $2.6 billion Sandpiper pipeline from western North Dakota to Superior, a $7 billion replacement of its old Line No. 3 from Canada to Superior, and a $1.2 billion expansion of its Alberta Clipper line from Canada to Superior, in addition to constructing more storage tanks in Superior.

Dan Olson, business manager for Laborers Local 1091, said he anticipates the projects will create more than 1,000 jobs for the construction trades in the region. In fact, about 25 students participating in the laborers OSHA 30 class, required by Enbridge for safety, attended Wednesday’s press conference.

“We know this is a controversial issue in our community and across the region,” Ness said. “And yet, when you look at the debate here on a local level, in supporting Enbridge, which is a great local employer, and you look at the options we have to move domestic oil and domestic crude from Canada or North Dakota. We’re either going to move that by rail, by truck or by pipeline.”

The Twin Ports is fortunate to be one of the largest ports in terms of tonnage in the nation as well as being a hub for trucking, rail and pipeline transportation, said Hagen of Superior.

“That’s who we are; that’s what we are,” Hagen said. “That’s what sustains not only the communities of Duluth and Superior, but the effort we provide here is transported both nationally and internationally.”

Superior is the hub of an elaborate network of pipelines and massive storage tanks for vast amounts of North Dakota and northwestern Canadian crude oil that crosses Minnesota and is then transferred to other pipelines on its way to refineries in the Midwest, East and South.

Hagen said he would like to see a sign in Superior that recognizes the city for what it is — an energy capital of the nation. About 15 percent of the nation’s oil comes through the terminals in Superior, he said.

“I think that’s an honor,” Hagen said. “I think that’s a privilege. I think that’s a successful relationship we’ve been able to have in the Twin Ports.”

Olson, who also serves on the Superior City Council, said the trades are working to be at the forefront of safety for the local communities.

Duluth’s mayor said the debate over whether that oil should be coming out of the ground is not one local government is weighing in on because that decision is made at a much higher level than local government.

Al Richardson of Duluth challenged Ness on the comment.

Ness said there are many layers of debate about the issue, but the issue considered Wednesday was how to transport oil, and from his perspective, pipelines are the best option.

“When we look at options for how to move that crude, pipeline, in my mind, is the safest alternative, as well as requires the least amount of carbon to move the volume of crude across the country,” Ness said. 

Ness said the lack of pipeline capacity in North Dakota is having an impact on infrastructure, something that requires local investment.

“We’re also seeing the impact in our port,” Ness said. “Because so much of the rail freight is being used to transport oil, it becomes much more difficult to get grains from the Dakotas to our port to ship it out.”

Duluth News Tribune writer John Myers contributed to this report.