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Polk County Board of Commissioners: Minnesota must not delay pipeline approval

CROOKSTON — It is very concerning that the public comment period for the Sandpiper Pipeline project through Minnesota has been reopened and extended beyond the end of the original period.

Any delay in the approval process must be avoided. This project needs to be decided on its merits and by compliance with all existing rules and regulations, not extended and/or delayed because of the highly organized efforts of a few opponents who keep repeating their views at every possible hearing and opportunity.

The Sandpiper is the best method for the delivery of oil to refining facilities at Superior, Wis., and to the East. The proposed route of this pipeline crosses the entire width of Polk County.

The message we are hearing from residents is that there is strong support for the project. The only concern that we hear — one that we as commissioners share — is that all existing rules regarding safety and the protection of the environment are followed.

The nation needs the Sandpiper, along with the Line 67 upgrade and the Keystone XL pipeline, as a way to provide jobs, bolster the economy and eliminate all importation of oil from countries that would do us harm.

Polk County needs the Sandpiper, too. Enbridge is the top property taxpayer in the county at close to $2 million a year. This is about 10 percent of our total county tax levy.

With the construction of the Sandpiper, tax revenues for local governments — and this is by Enbridge Co. estimate — could increase by $4 million in the first year alone. This revenue would go a long way toward providing better services without a tax consequence for our property owners.

While opponents are citing situations — most of which are no more possible than lightning strikes — that could cause environmental damage, we believe the frequency of these possibilities is highly unlikely and that pipelines are the safest and most efficient method for moving the needed oil product.

Should the oil that is scheduled to be delivered to the Superior terminal be shipped by truck alone — with the Bakken now producing a million barrels a day — we could see 1,300 trucks a day going down U.S. Highway 2 … right through Polk County, and right through many of the lands that opponents want the oil to avoid.

Beyond the serious safety issue that this would present is the fact that the heavy traffic would raise havoc with road systems all the way across the state.

The use of railroads to transport oil is not a good option, either. Beyond the safety issues that have occurred recently is the fact that the extensive use of rail for the movement of oil has created a very serious problem for agriculture in that it has become extremely difficult to arrange trains to move grain to market.

Because of this, huge amounts of last year’s crop still remain in storage on the farm or at our country elevators. Virtually all existing storage is full. There is no room for this year’s crop. And this already-critical situation is only going to get worse until another method of moving oil to refineries is in place.

The safety record and efficiency of pipelines makes it the best alternative. Minnesota needs to keep the approval process on schedule to make it happen within all existing rules and regulations, not allow the procedure to be extended beyond the normal process or otherwise be delayed.

Craig Buness

Warren Strandell

Nick Nicholas

Warren Affeldt

Don Diedrich

Diedrich is the chairman, Strandell is the vice chairman and Buness, Nicholas and Affeldt are the other three commissioners on the Polk County Board of Commissioners.