Enbridge responds to critics of its Line 3 oil pipeline replacement

September 28, 2017

Dear Zenith News:

I’m writing in response to your August 15 story about Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project [“Standing Rock comes to Minnesota”]. Starting this month and continuing through the end of October, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will host 18 public hearings in nine cities across Minnesota, with the intent of seeking public input on the need for replacing Line 3, an oil pipeline that runs from Edmonton, Alberta, to Superior, Wisconsin. One of those nine locations is Duluth, where two meetings will be held on Wednesday, October 18 at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center. It is important for people to understand why we believe Line 3 needs to be replaced.   

First and foremost, this is a maintenance and environmental protection project—replacing Line 3 is part of Enbridge’s ongoing pipeline integrity program. Replacement will dramatically reduce future repair activities and result in less disruption to landowners and the environment than would otherwise occur. We anticipate 6,000 “integrity digs”—the method we use to make a visual inspection of the pipeline—would be required in Minnesota over the next 15 years to maintain Line 3. The prompt replacement of the Line 3 pipeline is an essential project that will ensure the safety and environmental protection of our important natural resources while continuing to transport crude oil safely to refineries in Minnesota, the Midwest, and beyond.

Second, our proposed route is not a new corridor, as some have claimed. From the North Dakota border to Clearbrook, Minnesota, Enbridge will co-locate with 98 percent of our existing right-of-way. From Clearbrook to Superior, the route will follow existing pipelines south to near Park Rapids, and then turn east, following transmission lines and railroad lines for approximately 75 percent of the route. We believe this preferred route provides the best balance—avoiding sensitive resources and minimizing potential impacts to both people and environmental resources while also respecting the Leech Lake Band’s sovereignty.

Additionally, the existing corridor between Clearbrook and Superior has become congested with pipelines, railroad, power lines, and a highway all closely located, while communities such as Bemidji, Cass Lake, and Park Rapids have grown around the corridor the past 50 years. Replacing Line 3 in these communities would be disruptive to the public. 

What will happen to the old Line 3 pipeline? Enbridge is responsible for Line 3 and all of its energy transportation facilities, whether they are active or not. The existing Line 3 will be permanently deactivated in place, following regulatory approval and construction of the Line 3 Replacement pipeline. Enbridge has safely deactivated more than 400 miles of pipeline in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan with zero incidents.

The safest option is a deactivated pipeline that is permanently left in place—it avoids major construction activities, reduces the risk of soil stability issues, and reduces the potential risk to existing pipelines adjacent to Line 3 from heavy equipment movements. In deactivation, the pipeline is purged of oil by an inert gas. A combination of pipeline cleaning tools and cleaning solutions are used to wipe and clean the pipelines.


The pipeline is physically disconnected and sealed off from the active operational facilities. Enbridge will continue to monitor, maintain, and be responsible for the deactivated pipeline. Any public safety, environment or land use considerations associated with Line 3 deactivation will be managed as if it were an active pipeline. Landowners will never be responsible for Enbridge’s deactivated pipelines.

There have been suggestions recently that Minnesota does not rely on the energy transported in Line 3. Let’s be clear—in testimony filed with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, Flint Hills Resources, which operates a refinery in the Twin Cities Metropolitan area that provides gasoline and aircraft fuel among other products, stated unequivocally that it relies exclusively on the Enbridge pipeline system to deliver crude oil to its Minnesota refinery, and it expects to be a shipper on Line 3 if the project is approved as proposed.


Line 3 is part of a system that serves a multi-state area, not a single pipeline delivery to Minnesota. The system is critical infrastructure. That is why we need to replace the existing line with the most advanced materials, most up-to-date technology, and using superior construction methods. We’re confident in the Minnesota regulatory process, which requires evaluation of all evidence by an administrative law judge, followed by recommendations to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. After months of analysis and public input, the state’s own Final Environmental Impact Statement released in August concluded that, from an environmental perspective, replacing Line 3 is superior to maintaining the existing line.

Lastly, we believe the economic benefits of the project are understated. If the project is approved, total economic impact for Minnesota is estimated at more than $2 billion, which would create approximately 1,500 family-sustaining construction-related jobs. It’s important to remember that Line 3 is critical infrastructure, relied upon by shippers and millions of customers in Minnesota and the Midwest. This replacement project is necessary to ensure the safe delivery of energy to the area in the years ahead. Fossil fuels still provide about 80 percent of the primary energy supply we use every day for electricity, heating/cooling, cooking, and transportation. The energy we transport makes life better—from the clothes we wear, to the food we grow, to the homes we live in, the medicines we take, and even the phones we use.

Life takes energy and Enbridge has been part of the Northland’s fabric of life for the more than 65 years. We are proud to live and work here, contributing to Minnesota’s economy by delivering North American energy safely and reliably. And with the Line 3 Replacement Project, we’re going to keep doing just that, safely and reliably.

John Swanson
Vice President of Major Projects

Please reload

More from this Author

Archives by Date

Please reload

Archives by Title or Author