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Local View: PUC should approve preferred Line 3 route

Administrative Law Judge Ann O'Reilly's non-binding recommendation to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that the replacement of the Line 3 oil pipeline follow its existing route ultimately was a non-starter. In the real world of environmental protection, tribal objections, and economics, the line will have less of a chance of being built "in-trench," as she recommended.

The better, more-realistic choice for Minnesota and the region is to accept the southerly route preferred by Line 3's owner and builder, Enbridge Energy — as well as the union workers who would build the pipeline. That proposed route follows the existing line from Canada to Enbridge terminals at Clearbrook, Minn., and then turns south to Park Rapids, Minn., where it pivots due east, avoiding the Leech Lake and Fond du Lac reservations' lands.

While tasked with taking into consideration Judge O'Reilly's recommendation, the PUC will make the final decision on whether to issue a certificate of need and route permit for the replacement pipeline project. A final decision is expected this week.

The PUC must weigh all evidence brought to light throughout the regulatory process, including the voices of thousands of Minnesotans supporting the preferred route. We hope the PUC carefully reviews the briefing report by its own commission staff that sensibly stated not only that the replacement is needed but also that the company's proposed route would have the least impact on the environment.

There are substantive reasons for building the new Line 3 in the preferred route. More than 94 percent of landowners along the proposed right of way have signed on with permission for the pipeline to cross their properties. The route passes through no reservation land, which acknowledges the wishes of the Leech Lake and Fond du Lac tribes that don't want another line to cross their lands. And with respect to the environment, the Environmental Impact Statement for the preferred Line 3 route was approved, meaning the route has the least impact on people and the environment.

With regard to safety, the replacement line would reduce the number of rail tanker cars transporting oil in lieu of reduced shipment capacity in the existing pipeline. The demand is there and is forecasted to grow; the new pipeline is needed to meet the economy's demand. The Line 3 project will provide 6,500 jobs for local workers over a two-year period equating to millions of dollars of wages.

Enbridge has been a part of the Minnesota communities in which it operates since the 1960s and will continue to be part of the fabric. The proposed new pipeline will allow an important natural resource to be transported through our state with environmental consciousness and an emphasis on safety.

Line 3 is an important part of the supply chain, and Minnesota plays an integral part in North America's energy infrastructure and in our nation's energy independence.

Minnesotans depend on Line 3 for our way of life. We think the PUC should grant a certificate of need for constructing Line 3 along the proposed preferred route.

Dan Olson is the business manager and financial secretary and treasurer for the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA!) Local 1091 and is a city councilor in Superior. Rachel Johnson is the business development manager at Lake Superior Consulting in Duluth.