Twenty northern Minnesota residents and tribal members will try to join environmental groups as parties directly impacted by the proposed Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project.
The 20 have filed paperwork to join the contested case hearing set for November in the Twin Cities, a quasi-legal process that's part of Minnesota's public utility regulations.
The process allows people directly impacted by the project to have a greater say in the approval decision than the more basic public input-public hearing process, said Andy Pearson, a spokesman for the group MN350.org.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce says the draft environmental impact statement on the Line 3 replacement will be released Monday, starting a lengthy public review and comment period. The decision on whether the pipeline should be built, and if so where, ultimately will be decided by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission with input from state Administrative Law Judge Ann O'Reilly who will oversee the contested case hearing and public comments.
O'Reilly will meet with all intervenors in St. Paul Monday and likely decide that day whether to accept or reject the latest petitions for intervention.
The Line 3 project was first announced in 2014.
Enbridge wants a new Line 3 to replace the old Line 3 near the end of its useful life carrying Canadian heavy crude oil into the U.S. The 36-inch pipe would carry 760,000 barrels of oil - nearly 32 million gallons - every day from the tar sands of Alberta to the Enbridge terminal in Superior.
That 1,031-mile line will cost about $7.5 billion to build. About 337 miles of pipe will cross Minnesota.
"Line 3 is a replacement project intended to upgrade and improve the pipeline while restoring capacity to its original volume to meet the demands of refineries in Minnesota and the Midwest," the company said in a recent statement.
Critics focus on two main issues - namely the prospect of a tar sands heavy oil spill in the region's pristine waterways and the increase in climate-changing carbon dioxide created when the oil is burned as fuel. They say the only way to save the planet from climate catastrophe is to leave the oil in the ground.
"Line 3 is not for the public good - it's for private profit," said Mark Herwig, one of the 20 who have applied to intervene in the case. Herwig said he's an avid outdoorsman who owns land in Carlton County along the proposed pipeline route. "This pipeline does not belong in the state's sensitive headwaters area because it will leak, access for repairs will be difficult, and a spill can't be cleaned up."
Herwig said he has rejected Enbridge's offer to pay $20,000 for an easement across the property.