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Estimate for Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline replacement jumps 9 percent

DULUTH — Enbridge says its Line 3 replacement pipeline is getting more expensive in the wake of regulatory delays and changes to the project.

The proposed oil pipeline is now set to cost $6.5 billion, which is 9 percent higher than previous estimates.

"(The increase) primarily reflects delays in the regulatory process, scope changes and route modifications as well as other changes that resulted from the extensive consultation process," Enbridge said in a news release this week, noting that a strong American dollar and lower operating costs will "fully offset" the higher building costs. (A figure of $7.5 billion used in some previous reports was in Canadian dollars.)

The new pipeline would replace the existing 50-year-old Line 3 that cuts across Minnesota on its 1,031-mile route between Alberta and Superior, Wis. The project is intended to return Line 3 to its original capacity near 760,000 barrels per day; the current line's capacity has been reduced because of restrictions on the pressure in the pipe, Enbridge has said.

Work started recently on 12 miles of new pipe from the Minnesota-Wisconsin state line to Superior, and construction will start in Canada this summer as well.

Minnesota has yet to approve Enbridge's replacement plan, which includes a new route across the state. A final environmental impact statement will be released next Thursday, and more public hearings are scheduled for this fall. The state Public Utilities Commission could decide the fate of the pipeline as soon as next spring.

The specter of the Dakota Access pipeline protests hangs over the project as critics line up against the pipeline on environmental and tribal sovereignty grounds. Supporters say it will provide thousands of good-paying jobs.

Brooks Johnson

Brooks is an investigative/enterprise reporter and business columnist at the Duluth News Tribune.

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