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'Largest Turnout of the Week' at Duluth's Enbridge Public Hearing

Updated: 03/20/2014 11:05 PM
Created: 03/20/2014 10:56 PM WDIO.com
By: Zach Hammer
zhammer@wdio.com

A day after the mayors of Duluth and Superior threw their support behind Enbridge's proposed pipeline projects, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission says they saw their largest turnout of the week at Thursday night's public hearing in Duluth. 

At issue is what's called the Line 67 Station Upgrade Project.

It would add new pumping units to increase the capacity of the pipeline from the North Dakota oil fields to Superior for refining — but the pipeline crosses through Kittson, Marshall, Red Lake, Clearwater, Cass, Itasca, and St. Louis counties in Minnesota before getting there.

Before Enbridge can move forward with the upgrade to their Alberta Clipper pipeline, an administrative judge must grant a certificate of need. 

"The commission would be responsible for determining if this project was needed," said Tracy Smetana, a public advisor with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. "Citizen input is an important part of the commission's process."

The commission hosted meetings in cities along the pipeline's path Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. 

In Duluth, several who oppose the expansion came to the Thursday meeting wearing stickers and speaking out on what they say is a high-risk, low-reward project. 

"They're using this state and this area to transport their product, and we're not getting anything for it," said Andy Pearson with environmentalist group MN350. "What's more is that we know the product itself poses such a risk to our climate."

Supporters of the project point to the local economic impact of Enbridge.  

The company employs 750 people in the Twin Ports and say more jobs could come if this pipeline expansion, along with two other projects in the permitting stage  the Sandpiper Pipeline, and the Line Three Replacement Program  come to fruition.

Enbridge says their plans are a result of growing demand for North American crude oil. 

The public comment period for the Line 67 Station Upgrade Project ends April 14 at 4:30 p.m.

To submit a comment email RouteComments.OAH@state.mn.us

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