PUC says Enbridge must disclose Line 3 oil spill projections

Markets Associated Press

Enbridge Energy must publicly disclose its projections for potential oil spills from its proposed Line 3 replacement pipeline across northern Minnesota, regulators decided Thursday.

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The modeling data set includes the probability of large spills at seven water crossings. Enbridge submitted it to the Minnesota Department of Commerce for the project's environmental impact statement but had the agency redact the data from the public version of the document, citing trade secrets and security reasons. Enbridge said the data could be used by "bad actors" intent on damaging the pipeline, thus threatening the nearby environment.

But the Public Utilities Commission voted 3-0, with two commissioners absent, to release the spill information. The commissioners agreed with an administrative law judge who determined that the data should be public and that the information is not likely to cause a security threat, the Star Tribune reported .

Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge is seeking PUC permission to replace the portion of its aging Line 3 pipeline that crosses northern Minnesota. The pipeline, built in the 1960s, runs at just over half its original capacity for safety reasons. The pipeline begins in Alberta, clips a corner of North Dakota, then crosses Minnesota to Enbridge's terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. Construction on the project, which would cost $7.5 billion overall, is already underway in Canada and Wisconsin.

The replacement would follow much of Line 3's current corridor, although Enbridge wants to use a more southerly new route across much of northern Minnesota that would cross the Mississippi River headwaters and the pristine lake country where Ojibwe bands harvest wild rice and hold treaty rights.

Environmentalists and tribal groups are fighting the project, and tensions are rising.

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The PUC canceled two public hearings that had been scheduled for Thursday in St. Cloud, citing "logistical and safety issues" after protesters cut short a hearing on the project in Duluth last week. And a judge in Clearwater County this month took the unusual step of allowing four climate change protesters involved in closing valves on two Enbridge pipelines near Clearbrook last year to use a "necessity defense" in their upcoming trials.

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com