The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission granted one of two necessary permits to Enbridge for its proposed Sandpiper pipeline at the beginning of the month.
The commission did not determine a route for the pipeline. Enbridge's preferred route through north-central Minnesota is opposed by environmental groups and American Indian tribes who say it will impact sensitive lakes, wetlands and wild rice areas.
The project that has been met with repeated protests in Minnesota.
The certificate of need unanimously granted by the commission verifies Enbridge subsidiary North Dakota Pipeline Company demonstrated a need to ship crude oil via pipeline from the Bakken oilfields to Enbridge's existing infrastructure in Superior, Wisconsin.
The certificate of need approves a 24 in. diameter pipeline - which can carry up to 225 000 bpd of oil from the North Dakota border to the Clearbrook, Minnesota, terminal, and a 30 in. pipeline (375 000 bpd) from Clearbrook to Superior.
Enbridge has estimated the cost of such a pipeline to be US$2.6 billion, and have targeted the summer of 2017 to begin operation.
"Enbridge is pleased with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission's unanimous decision to grant a certificate of need for the Sandpiper Pipeline Project," Enbridge spokesperson Lorraine Little said.
"Sandpiper has broad and deep support throughout Minnesota as evidenced by the supporters who attended public hearings on the project earlier this year and by the thousands of others – including 65 Minnesota legislators and the majority of the county commissions along the route – who have expressed their support of Sandpiper. Minnesotans sharing their personal stories underscored the need for this project and provided numerous statements to the record validating the benefits Minnesota will receive from Sandpiper."
An alternative route for the proposed Sandpiper oil pipeline under consideration by state officials would bring the pipeline across Central Minnesota, including parts of Todd, Morrison, Benton and Mille Lacs counties.
Enbridge opposed the alternative routes because they were longer, more expensive and affected more populated areas.
Edited from various sources by Elizabeth Corner
Sources: SC Times, Pine and Lakes