Exceptions to an administrative law judge's recommendation that the Enbridge Line 3 replacement pipeline follow the existing route across Minnesota were filed with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Wednesday.
Enbridge and several northern Minnesota bands, including the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, pushed back against the judge's non-binding recommendation filed last month that called for the route to pass through two reservations - Leech Lake and Fond du Lac - instead of around them, as Enbridge had proposed.
These exceptions are the last regulatory filings before the PUC is scheduled to vote June 21 on whether to approve the contentious oil pipeline.
If approved, the Line 3 replacement would cross 337 miles of northern Minnesota carrying 760,000 barrels of oil per day, and Enbridge's prefered route differs from the original line for much of that journey.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Guy Jarvis, Enbridge's executive vice president of liquid pipelines and major projects, said the company won't even consider a pipeline route that isn't its preferred route.
"We're not focused on any other alternative other than our preferred route right now and I guess if the PUC arrives at a decision later in June that is contrary to that, we'll have to evaluate it at the time," Jarvis said, but added later that it could cost up to $1.3 billion to remove the existing pipeline and take it out of service.
Following the existing route would also force the pipeline to shut down for periods of time, Jarvis said.
"Constructing the ALJ route in-trench would require lengthy pipeline outages, which would cause extended supply disruptions, leading to potentially higher gasoline prices impacting Minnesota and the surrounding region," Jarvis said. "The requirement for this shutdown is contrary to the finding that the pipeline is needed to meet the state's energy supply and reliability needs."
In its filing, Fond du Lac proposed a "No-Build" or "No-Action" alternative to any Line 3 route: "No-Build Alternative speaks for itself as the most reasonable and prudent alternative."
The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe was more blunt in its exception: "The alternative recommended by the ALJ is actually the worst of all route alternatives because it completely disregards both the Band's sovereignty and the real safety and environmental issues posed by in-trench replacement along the Mainline Corridor."
Bands have the ability to stop the project if the PUC approves the judge's recommendation. Leech Lake promised to do just that.
"We'll have no choice but to defend ourselves by any means necessary from this unjust process," the band wrote.
Enbridge, based in Calgary, wants to replace its aging Line 3 with a new oil pipeline between Alberta and the company's terminal in Superior. Minnesota regulators have been reviewing the proposal and taking public comment since 2015.
Enbridge planned to leave the old pipeline in the ground after cleaning it and sealing it in parts.
Construction for the entire 1,031-mile replacement is already underway in Canada and Wisconsin, but it still needs to pass the review process in Minnesota.