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New wave of protests aimed at Enbridge Line 3 replacement construction


Blockades expected to continue at least through June 8

Enbridge said protests have little impact on construction timeframe

Line 3 replacement still slated for Q4 2021 startup

  • Author
  • Jordan Blum
  • Editor
  • Richard Rubin
  • Commodity
  • Oil

A mix of environmental activists and Native American tribes have launched a new wave of protests against the construction of Enbridge's Line 3 replacement pipeline in northern Minnesota that could more than double crude oil volumes through the system.

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Construction on Line 3 resumed on June 1 after a spring break and, subsequently, several hundred protestors are now back in force aiming to stall construction and win more attention from the White House, including blockading roads and a pipeline pump station on June 7. The so-called "Treaty People Gathering" is expected to continue on June 8.

The group said in a statement that they are willing to put their bodies on the line to "tell the world that the days of tar sands pipelines are over. Only a major, nonviolent uprising -- including direct action -- will propel this issue to the top of the nation's consciousness and force [President Joe] Biden to act. We are rising."

The heavy oil pipeline is more than 60% completed in Minnesota after a two-month spring pause, with plans still on track for a fourth-quarter startup this year.

Enbridge said June 7that it recognizes the "strong feelings" of the protestors, but the project has gone through a thorough regulatory and environmental permitting process for six years.

"Our main focus is the safety of all involved our workers, first responders, and the protesters themselves," Enbridge said in a statement. "To date, protests have had relatively little impact on construction, which is on track across five different construction zones working simultaneously along more than 330 miles replacing Line 3 in northern Minnesota."

After Biden revoked the permitting for the competing Keystone XL Pipeline, the Line 3 project is considered the top pipeline expansion slated to relieve the Canadian pipeline bottleneck slowing the flow of heavy oil into the US. However, the White House has stayed out of the Line 3 debate.

Enbridge's biggest pending project would increase crude pipeline capacity from 370,000 b/d now to 760,000 b/d as it moves Canadian crude from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, although the bulk of the work is in Minnesota.

A federal court ruling also is expected in June on a long-shot bid to halt construction efforts, but Enbridge is not waiting on the status of the litigation before moving forward with construction in Minnesota again.

When it comes online, Enbridge also will ramp up the volumes on its recently expanded Wisconsin-to-Illinois Southern Access crude oil pipeline, with capacity growing from 996,000 b/d to 1.2 million b/d.

As for the ongoing litigation, Enbridge said a decision from the Minnesota Court of Appeals is expected by June 21 regarding challenges to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission's approval of Line 3. The plaintiffs are essentially arguing the commission failed to properly account for environmental impacts and the ongoing energy transition away from crude oil.

Enbridge said June 7 it was confident the three-judge panel will confirm the Minnesota utility commission's review and approval of the project.