ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Sandpiper pipeline will remain in limbo until the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission can review all outstanding petitions, the body decided Thursday.

The commission denied a motion by the North Dakota Pipeline Co., a subsidiary of Canada-based Enbridge, to reconsider a late August order to review one of several alternate pipeline routes. NDPC argued the particular system alternative in question - designated SA-03 - is unreasonable because it is longer, less efficient and has more of an environmental impact than the company’s original proposed route.

“We still believe our Sandpiper route is the correct route,” Enbridge spokesperson Lorraine Little said. Her company has spent more than 100 hours surveying the route in the field, and she said Enbridge “knows all the environmental factors along that route.”

The original route spans more than 600 miles from near Tioga in western North Dakota to Superior, Wis. The Minnesota portion of the proposed route runs from East Grand Forks south to an existing Enbridge terminal in Clearbrook, Minn., then east to Superior.

SA-03 also would start at East Grand Forks, Minn., but would take a much more southerly route through the state before redirecting northeast to Superior.

The commission earlier this fall asked the Minnesota Department of Commerce to conduct environmental impact studies on six alternate pipeline routes, including SA-03. The paths of the alternate routes vary wildly, with some not even ending in Superior.

Enbridge has filed motions to reconsider including the other route alternatives in future deliberation.

“We’re not surprised the company put forward these reconsideration notices,” said Richard Smith, president of the environmentalist group Friends of the Headwaters that is concerned about the headwaters area of the Mississippi River in northern Minnesota. “They want this process to happen the way they want it to happen.”

The Sandpiper pipeline won’t be the only pipeline project Enbridge officials will be hoping to work on in Minnesota.

Line 3, which carries crude oil from Alberta to Superior, has been operating at a reduced capacity because of concerns about the line’s integrity. Enbridge announced in March it intends to replace the pipeline, which was built in the 1960s.

Line 3 currently runs north of the original Sandpiper route, but Enbridge has proposed Line 3’s replacement meet up along the same route as the Sandpiper line north of Clearbrook. Line 3 would then proceed to the Enbridge terminal in Clearbrook and across northern Minnesota on the same route of the original Sandpiper route.

Little said Enbridge is targeting late 2017 to open the Line 3 replacement.

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