Union official: Sandpiper project at risk
GRAND FORKS -- An official of the union representing workers who hope to help build an oil pipeline through northern Minnesota is raising alarms over regulatory delays.
GRAND FORKS - An official of the union representing workers who hope to help build an oil pipeline through northern Minnesota is raising alarms over regulatory delays.
David Barnett, a special representative to the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe-Fitting Industry, said Wednesday a recent decision by a Minnesota regulatory board to look into alternate routes could put Enbridge’s Sandpiper pipeline in jeopardy.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted earlier this month to study the environmental implications of six system alternatives for the pipeline, which would carry Bakken crude oil from western North Dakota to Clearbrook, Minn., and then Superior, Wis.
“We want it to be the best environmental route for the state of Minnesota,” Barnett said. “But we don’t think that this course of action is geared at finding the best environmental route.”
The PUC also separated the Certificate of Need application from the route-permitting process, which are typically considered jointly.
Enbridge spokeswoman Lorraine Little stopped short of saying the $2.6 billion project was at risk, but said the company expects it to be delayed.
“Once we get more clarification on what the changes in the regulatory process mean and how that affects timing, we’ll be in a better position to talk about exactly what that means for the project,” Little said.
Barnett said some of the system alternatives the PUC voted to examine are not feasible because they go hundreds of miles out of the way and don’t connect to terminals.
The project has faced scrutiny from environmental groups that worry about its effect on the lake regions of Minnesota. Barnett said opposition is rooted in anti-oil views, rather than against the pipeline itself.
“Stopping the pipeline is not going to stop the oil,” Barnett said. “It’s coming through on the trains.”
Calls to representatives of environmental groups MN350 and Honor the Earth were not returned Wednesday afternoon.
Barnett, who visited the Grand Forks Herald editorial board Wednesday, said the Sandpiper will create about 3,000 well-paying jobs, boost local economies and help ease crude-by-rail traffic. He added that pipelines are safer today than in the past.