Enbridge Energy spent more than $11 million on lobbying activities in Minnesota last year, almost entirely on its push for regulatory approval of its controversial Line 3 oil pipeline project.
The Calgary-based company spent nearly $11.1 million on lobbying in the state in 2018, by far the largest amount of any group, according to data provided by the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the second-greatest spender last year, reported $2.2 million spent on lobbying last year.
In 2018, Enbridge more than doubled the amount it spent on lobbying compared to 2017. Enbridge still outspent everyone else in 2017 with nearly $5.3 million going to lobbying efforts.
Enbridge spokesperson Julli Kellner said Tuesday that "legal representation and related support" accounted for much of the total, which need to be reported as lobbying expenses in Minnesota.
Of the $11.1 million, just $200,000 was classified in the "general lobbying amount" while the rest, almost $10.9 million, was spent on boosting Enbridge's efforts before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
Kellner said that the money was spent "primarily" on its Line 3 project, which received key approvals from the PUC last year.
"These necessary expenditures were to ensure the facts about Enbridge's operations throughout Minnesota, and our safety-driven replacement of Line 3 could be fully considered by State regulatory agencies, and to give voice to the thousands of women and men across Minnesota who support the replacement of Line 3," Kellner said.
Several groups opposed to the pipeline's construction - Sierra Club North Star Chapter, MN 350 Action, Friends of the Headwaters, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and the Leech Lake Reservation Business Committee - reported a total of $475,405 spent on PUC lobbying activities.
Opponents of the pipeline on Tuesday criticized the amount spent by Enbridge.
"Nobody expects the democratic decision-making process to be perfect, but this unprecedented level of spending by a Canadian fossil fuel interest is a form of political pollution," Kevin Whelan, executive director of environmental group MN350, said. "This is yet another example of big oil distorting public discourse and ignoring the concerns of average Minnesotans."
While the PUC has fully approved a certificate of need and route permit for Line 3, numerous other permits are still being weighed by other organizations.
Permitting will likely conclude in November, the state said earlier this month. Enbridge now hopes to construct the pipeline in 2020.
The controversial pipeline is set to replace the 50-year-old Line 3 and carry 760,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to the Enbridge terminal in Superior.