A Minnesota regulator on Thursday approved a certificate of need for Enbridge Inc to rebuild its Line 3 oil pipeline, angering environmentalists but offering hope to Western Canadian oil producers that have struggled to move crude oil to refiners.
The hearing room was tense as commissioners explained their problems with - and, ultimately, their support for - the pipeline, which will cross about 340 miles of northern Minnesota on its route from Alberta to the Enbridge terminal in Superior, Wis.
But Guy Jarvis, Enbridge's vice president of liquids, pipelines and major projects, said Friday morning, June 30, that he still expects the project to obtain an authorization to construct in November so work on the pipeline can begin and finish within 2019.
Jarvis said that work includes securing at least 29 state, local and federal permits.
Enbridge Chief Executive Al Monaco said in a statement that he was pleased with the commission's decisions, and said the project's cost was materially unchanged.
"Once you have all of that it's still several months of mobilization before you're actually out doing significant construction", Jarvis said.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said those permit approvals "are by no means assured" and that state agencies will hold the company to "Minnesota's highest standards" for protecting its environment, natural resources and cultural heritage.
Enbridge wants to replace the aging 1,031-mile (1,660-km) pipeline that runs from Alberta in western Canada to Wisconsin. Enbridge has said it needs to replace the pipeline because it's increasingly subject to corrosion and cracking, and that it would continue to run Line 3 if regulators rejected its proposal. Refiners in Minnesota and surrounding states say Line 3 is necessary to increase crude supplies.
The path of a short stretch near Fond du Lac reserve will be determined by negotiations between the tribe and Enbridge.
Margaret Breen of Youth Climate Intervenors - a group of young activists who have been working to oppose the pipeline - says that her organization remains motivated to stop the project, too.
Minnesota Public Utilities Commission chair Nancy Lange, right, gets emotional as she and vice-chair Dan Lipschultz, left, deliberate the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline replacement project during a meeting Thursday, June 28, 2018 at its headquarters in St. Paul. "Faced with what we are faced with now, we will stand our ground - and we feel that the State of Minnesota has declared war upon us", LaDuke says.
"They have gotten their Standing Rock", she said, referring to protests that drew thousands of people to neighbouring North Dakota to rally against the Dakota Access pipeline. Cathy Collentine of the Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign says that the Sierra Club is exploring options to halt the pipeline's progress, such as petitioning for a reconsideration of the decision.