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Our view: Hoping for no protests over pipeline

So far, protests haven't sprung up along the route of the proposed Enbridge 3 replacement pipeline in northern Minnesota.

Perhaps it would be wise to emphasize two words: So far.

Because if North Dakotans learned anything in 2016, we learned that pipeline protests are real, are serious, and are a place for activists of all sorts to peacock for the media.

A report in Friday's Herald includes quotes from Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, who said "we are still quite a ways" from any protests along the proposed route of the Enbridge replacement. The 1,000-mile line was built in the 1960s and is being considered for replacement so a new, larger pipe can carry more oil to Enbridge's Superior, Wis., terminal.

The line starts in Canada, slips into North Dakota for 28 miles and then heads eastward into Minnesota for 335 miles. After running through Polk County, the replacement would veer south of its current route.

Enbridge first asked for permission in 2014, and preliminary processes continue. This week, the state Commerce Department is expected to stop accepting comments on a draft environmental impact statement — a process that included 27 public meetings since early 2016.

Next, the Commerce Department will give a recommendation to the Public Utilities Commission, whose final decision could come next year.

The problem is that, if approved, the new pipeline will be buried in what many consider an environmentally sensitive region — near the headwaters of the Mississippi River. We understand why this has impact, and we appreciate the concern.

However, if the project passes muster and gains approval from all of the appropriate agencies, we don't see any need for protests when it comes time to bury the new pipeline. Protesters — like supporters — have had numerous opportunities to state their concerns at the dozens of public meetings leading up to now.

Dayton told Forum News Service that Minnesota has an "elaborate process established by law" to ensure the environment is protected before any permits are issued. We trust that process. We also trust pipelines, and we urge readers to remember that literally thousands of miles of pipelines already exist in North Dakota and Minnesota. Oil supplies have grown substantially in this region in the past decade, and new pipelines need to be built or old ones expanded to carry it.

A great truth about oil is that it will, without any doubt, find its way to market; if not through pipelines, then via above-ground modes. We prefer the former.

Enbridge has done its due diligence and, we believe, so has the state of Minnesota. If the PUC approves the project, it deserves to be built — unimpeded by protesters whose efforts will not stop the process anyway.