Presidential permit needed for Enbridge pipeline expansion

In a quiet corner of northeastern North Dakota, Enbridge is facing a massive traffic jam -- and it needs the former CEO of ExxonMobil to speed things along.

Enbridge added capacity to its Superior terminal to handle an expected increase in daily oil volume should the federal government grant its request to send an additional 300,000 barrels per day from Alberta to Superior via the Alberta Clipper/Line 67 pipeline. News Tribune file

In a quiet corner of northeastern North Dakota, Enbridge is facing a massive traffic jam - and it needs the former CEO of ExxonMobil to speed things along.

The Line 67 pipeline, also known as the Alberta Clipper, was built to carry 800,000 barrels of heavy crude oil per day between Alberta and Superior. However, it was permitted to handle just 500,000 daily barrels crossing the international border near Neche, N.D.

Enbridge needs a presidential permit to increase the flow across the border, and that permit is within reach with the recent completion of a draft supplemental environmental impact statement, or SEIS.

The public can now comment on the SEIS, which found "no significant adverse impact" would follow the capacity increase. The comment period closes March 27; a presidential permit could be issued by Secretary of State and former oil executive Rex Tillerson by the end of the year.

Pump stations across Minnesota were expanded and storage capacity added to the Superior terminal in the past several years that allow the flow of 800,000 barrels of oil per day on Line 67. The presidential permit is only needed to allow the pipeline to carry that much oil over a short stretch across the U.S. and Canadian border.


"That three-mile segment is the only part of Alberta Clipper that currently does not transport 800,000 barrels per day, and is the only part of Alberta Clipper that is subject to the existing presidential permit," Enbridge spokeswoman Shannon Gustafson said in an email.

No additional pipeline was or will be built to handle the increased capacity.

The 1,000-mile Line 67 first came online in 2010, sending tar sands oil from Hardisty, Alberta, to the Enbridge terminal in Superior.

The pipeline cuts 285 miles across northern Minnesota and runs through pump stations in or near Viking, Clearbrook, Deer River, Donaldson, Plummer, Cass Lake and Floodwood en route to Superior. It crosses the entire width of the Leech Lake Reservation on its route.

The SEIS, which was completed by the Department of State, said if the pipeline expansion is not granted, the extra 300,000 barrels of oil per day could come by rail.

In a statement, Enbridge urged the Department of State to finalize the review and support the Line 67 expansion as a "safe and efficient way to maintain America's energy security."

Environmental groups MN350 and the Sierra Club sought to block the pipeline expansion in 2014 to stem the flow of tar sands oil and lower greenhouse gas emissions; a judge sided with Enbridge and allowed the project to move forward. Activist Winona LaDuke also led a campaign against the pipeline, saying it carries "some of the dirtiest oil on Earth."

The public can access the Line 67 supplemental environmental impact statement at the Duluth, Cloquet and Superior public libraries or online at . Comments can be submitted at or to Mary D. Hassell, NEPA Coordinator, U.S. Department of State, 2201 C St. N.W., Suite 2727, Washington, D.C. 20520


A public meeting where written and oral comments will be accepted is planned from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. March 7 at the Sanford Center in Bemidji.

Brooks Johnson was an enterprise/investigative reporter and business columnist at the Duluth News Tribune from 2016 to 2019.
What To Read Next
Get Local