Updated: 03/19/2014 6:37 PM
Created: 03/19/2014 5:19 PM WDIO.com
By: Maarja Anderson
The mayors of Duluth and Superior are throwing their support behind Enbridge Energy's plans for pipeline expansion.
In a press conference Wednesday, the mayors announced their support in front of a room full of those who support and oppose pipeline expansion.
Enbridge says their plans are in reaction to growing demand for North American crude oil.
"We're a large trucking hub, rail hub, pipeline and, of course, the port. That is who we are, that is what we are," said Superior Mayor Bruce Hagen.
Enbridge Energy employs 750 people in theTwin Ports. It's part of that local impact that has Hagen and Duluth Mayor Don Ness supporting future Enbridge projects.
Ness said he knows the pipeline is a controversial topic in the community.
"We're either going to move it by rail, by truck, or by pipeline," explained Ness. "The debate on whether or not that crude should be coming out of the ground is not, in my mind, a debate we're weighing in here."
In terms of Minnesota and Wisconsin, Enbridge has three projects underway in the region.
Lee Monthei, Enbridge's Vice President for Execution for U.S. Major Projects, said the new projects will increase the amount of crude oil transported to the Superior Terminal, forcing the terminal to construct two new tanks.
"It's very important to have the support of our community leaders as we go forward and invest literally billions of dollars," Monthei said.
At the mayors' announcement, supporters of the expansion were in attendance, such as labor students hoping to work on the lines some day.
The opposition was there, too.
"We're talking about a pipeline that crosses the Mississippi headwaters five times and runs very close to Lake Superior. That risk [a spill] needs to be taken into account," said Logan Bailey with the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group.
He said the threat of a spill is too great for a short-term economic benefit.
Monthei said they have invested heavily in new technologies in order to prevent spills, such as the Kalamazoo River oil spill in 2010.
Public meetings regarding the the Line 67 Upgrade Project will be held in the Northland Thursday.
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