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LEE MONTHEI: Sandpiper Pipeline is vitally important to Minnesota, N.D.

Lee Monthei

DULUTH — The North Dakota Public Service Commission approved the Sandpiper Pipeline on June 25. Now, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is reviewing the project and will make a decision soon.

This project is extremely important to Minnesota, perhaps mostly because it will help meet the region’s critical and changing energy demands. It also will bring significant economic value to the state, including hundreds of valuable construction jobs for Minnesotans; millions of dollars in revenue for local retail, restaurant, material-and-equipment and hospitality businesses; and increased property tax revenues in each county crossed by the project.

With Sandpiper in service in 2016, Enbridge’s statewide property tax contributions will surpass $80 million a year.

A large portion of the Minnesota commission’s review focuses on the Sandpiper route. Many factors must be considered to find the best route. First and foremost, impacts to people and the environment must be carefully evaluated. Following existing infrastructure is another important criterion, because it places the pipeline in terrain that is safe for construction and operation.

Last, moving a route from one area to another requires careful consideration. Will the alternative route simply shift the impact to another area? Can the project’s purpose and regulatory requirements still be met?

For the past 18 months, Enbridge has been working with regulatory and environmental agencies, county officials, communities and landowners across Minnesota and North Dakota to develop the Sandpiper route. In the process, we received some extremely helpful input.

For example, Grand Forks’ city leadership told us of the community’s continued southward growth, so the Sandpiper route shifted slightly to accommodate that growth. Ultimately, we revised the Sandpiper route more than a dozen times as a result of this type of feedback.

Sandpiper’s purpose is simple: safely and reliably deliver North Dakota crude oil through the Clearbrook West terminal to Enbridge’s existing Superior terminal — our main pipeline hub in the northern United States — for temporary storage and transfer to connecting pipelines.

Just as Delta Airlines routes hundreds of flights a day through its Minneapolis hub to maximize efficiency, Enbridge must route pipelines through its Superior hub in order to reach refineries in the Midwest and eastern Canada.

Enbridge’s recommended route is the only route that fulfills the Sandpiper Project’s purpose and meets regulatory criteria for approval. Other proposed routes fail to deliver crude petroleum to Superior or traverse farther south or north, impacting thousands more landowners, high-population areas and additional natural resources.

Alternative routes proposed to date fail to meet the Sandpiper Project’s purpose and fulfill regulatory requirements. Enbridge’s Sandpiper route will achieve both. The Sandpiper route travels southward along existing pipelines to Park Rapids, Minn., where it turns east and follows electric transmission lines to Superior. The route avoids larger Minnesota communities such as Bemidji, Cass Lake and Grand Rapids and impacts half as many people as our traditional route, which generally follows U.S. Highway 2. The route crosses no federal lands, bypasses the Chippewa National Forest and an additional 11 miles of Minnesota state forests, crosses fewer miles of wetlands as well as fewer roads and railroads. It also avoids a Superfund site near Cass Lake.

Clearly, the Sandpiper route is not an uncharted path across Minnesota. More than 75 percent of the route follows existing pipelines and infrastructure already in operation.

Enbridge has been safely operating in Minnesota since 1949. Protecting people and the environment is our first priority. We maintain the highest safety standards and best practices to protect our employees, residents and natural resources along our pipelines.

Enbridge designs, builds, operates and maintains state-of-the-art pipelines and facilities to meet and exceed state and federal requirements.

Last, but not least, Enbridge has been and will continue to be a member of communities across North Dakota and Minnesota. More than 800 of our employees live and work here.

We are your neighbors and friends. Our children go to school with yours. Our families enjoy hunting, fishing, swimming and boating on this region’s pristine lands and waters.

For more than 65 years, we have been a positive presence in these states. We value that relationship and all the responsibilities that go with it.

Contact us at (855) 788-7805 or by email at

Lee Monthei is vice president of major project execution at Enbridge Inc.