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Enbridge CEO Al Monaco

Enbridge CEO: 'No assumptions' on Line 3 approval

DULUTH, Minn. — Enbridge CEO Al Monaco said the company is "not making any assumptions" about Minnesota approving 337 miles of new oil pipeline across the state, though denial of the Line 3 replacement would make it a rare case.

"We're not presuming — that's why we're going through the regulatory process," Monaco said Wednesday, Aug. 23, during a meeting with the Duluth News Tribune editorial board. "We believe, and this is why we started construction in Canada, that the line needs to be replaced."

Given that the company has started laying new pipe in Alberta and Wisconsin, and pipes are being stored at future work sites in Minnesota, Enbridge still appears to have a level of confidence in the project moving forward here.

"I don't want to say what we would do or whether there's a Plan B because we're focused on executing the plan right now," Monaco said.

The oil executive from Calgary said he was not aware of any past Enbridge pipeline projects getting downright denied by regulators in Minnesota. (The Sandpiper was long caught up in regulatory hurdles and ultimately withdrawn by Enbridge.)

The Minnesota Department of Commerce confirmed that, with spokesman Ross Corson saying: "As far as we can determine, there has not been an outright denial for an oil pipeline in Minnesota," though route modifications have been made by the Public Utilities Commission.

The $6.5 billion Line 3 pipeline replacement would run more than 1,000 miles from Hardisty, Alberta, to the Enbridge terminal in Superior with a capacity of 760,000 barrels of oil per day. Much of the new pipeline will take a different route across Minnesota from the original Line 3, a roughly 50-year-old pipeline currently running at half-capacity and carrying 390,000 barrels per day.

Critics have said pipes being stockpiled and construction starting outside the state is an "intimidation tactic" meant to deter dissent against the project, which has been growing. Pipeline opponents include tribal groups that see the pipeline as a threat to lands, water and way of life, as well as environmentalists who argue that oil extraction and use speeds climate change and needs to stop altogether.

Monaco contends the regulatory process so far "has been strong; people have had their input."

"This is an upgrade. We are renewing infrastructure, and if anybody wanted to renew a road, airport, bridge or building, most people would say that makes sense," he said. "We're trying to upgrade the safety and reliability of this very critical infrastructure."

The final environmental impact statement was recently released for the project, and comments on the adequacy of that document are now being accepted. The PUC could make a decision on the pipeline as early as next spring following further hearings this fall.