Construction of Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 replacement oil pipeline is poised to provide thousands of jobs and inject $1.5 billion of direct spending into northern Minnesota’s economy, according to a new study commissioned by pipeline backers.
If approved by state regulators, the new pipeline crossing from the northwest corner of the state to the Superior terminal could provide 4,200 construction jobs - half of which would need to be filled by out-of-area workers - with the potential to support many more jobs in other sectors. Indirectly, the study estimates another $500 million in economic benefit that could support 2,800 jobs in retail and hospitality and 1,600 manufacturing and construction supply jobs.
“Apex supports the Enbridge Line 3 replacement project as it represents a significant investment in infrastructure for the safe transportation of a vital energy product,” said Brian Hanson, CEO of Apex, the local business booster that requested the economic analysis.
The study, prepared by the University of Minnesota Duluth Labovitz School of Business and Economics, looked only at the economic impact of the project and gave the caveat that “this analysis does not consider the social or environmental impacts of the project and should not be viewed as a cost-benefit analysis or environmental impact assessment.”
Those concerns were covered in part by the draft environmental impact statement that was released by the state last month; public hearings on that document are ongoing, and written comments will be accepted through July 10.
The Public Utilities Commission will ultimately decide the fate of the proposed new pipeline crossing Minnesota that would carry 760,000 barrels of oil per day from the tar sands of Alberta to the Superior terminal. The existing Line 3 would be deactivated, cleaned out, left in place and monitored.
Pipeline opponents are decrying the project as environmentally risky, at odds with tribal rights and treaties and setting a new precedent for pipeline routes and abandonment.
“Anything can be mitigated on paper. Once it’s built, who’s going to watch it?” Jim Woehrle said last week at a hearing in Floodwood.
Meanwhile, supporters such as Duluth-based United Piping Inc. held a news conference Tuesday in New Brighton, Minn., to rally people behind the pipeline plan.
“These jobs sustain families while supporting local economic development,” UPI president Mel Olson said in a news release. “And importantly to UPI, this project will ensure long-term safety of the environment and our local communities.”
Across the 15 Minnesota counties where pipeline construction and remediation would take place, the study said, the economic impact would be largest in the first year of construction - possibly as soon as 2019.
Yet despite the big boost the construction would provide, the benefits would be temporary.
“Throughout the project, increased demand for equipment, labor, and transportation will lead to increased economic activity in the affected counties,” reads the study. “After the completion of the project, this additional activity will cease, and the economic impacts will no longer be felt in the region.”