Pipelines are safe. Pipelines are dangerous.
Oil that moves through pipelines is needed. Oil is not needed.
Warm cookies are good. An apple is healthy.
Those diverse views are, in short, what state officials must sort out as they decide whether a northern Minnesota oil pipeline should be rebuilt, a Thursday, Sept.28, afternoon and evening public hearing in downtown St. Paul showed.
Backers of the pipeline said that oil is needed, and pipelines are safer than other ways to move it to refineries. Opponents testified in front of hundreds of people attending the hearing that oil contributes to climate change and a new pipeline should not be authorized to promote its use.
“I am sick and tired of being told that pipelines are bad,” Mary Nelson declared.
Many opponents do not live in the northern Minnesota area where the pipeline would be built, she said, but they are making decisions on the matter.
“We have to have this oil,” Nelson said. “There isn’t a person here who rode a horse, not one.”
On the other hand, Maggie O’Connor compared oil to a warm cookie. “I don’t need it, but if it is there, I will eat it.”
She compared a good environment to an apple.
O’Connor said the pipeline would add to climate change, which she said “is not a political position or belief, it is like gravity, it is there.”
Line 3 project director Paul Eberth said Enbridge acknowledges climate change and has been growing its renewable energy portfolio since 2002. However, just 5 percent of its business comes from renewable energy such as wind power.
The hearing was part of a series that began Tuesday in Thief River Falls. They continue next month across northern Minnesota and as far south as St. Cloud. The Public Utilities Commission is expected to make its decision about whether to allow LIne 3 construction in April.
Protests are common against the Enbridge proposal to build 337 miles of pipeline across Minnesota to replace its Line 3 that brings thick oil from Alberta to the company’s terminal in Superior, Wis. The new pipeline would take a largely new route across the state, and the old line would be cleaned out and mostly left in the ground.
The $7.5 billion pipeline would carry 760,000 barrels of oil per day.
Construction is underway in Wisconsin and Canada. Enbridge has not sought final North Dakota approval.
Minnesota’s Dayton administration has come out against the pipeline as not needed for the state.
However, Enbridge spokesperson Lorraine Little said the state would gain in several ways beyond the 8,600 construction jobs that would be created.
Little said that replacing a pipeline built in the late 1960s would make a safer oil transportation system. Also, she said, a new pipeline would add $19 million in property taxes above the current $30 million the company pays.
Another benefit, she said, is the new new pipeline would ensure oil for Minnesota’s two oil refineries.
While Enbridge predicts a new pipeline would be in operation by 2020, that does not take into account lawsuits that likely would be filed by opponents.
Many of Thursday’s testifiers said that besides endangering pristine waters, the pipeline threatens American Indian rights.
Wild rice grows in many of the lakes near the pipeline, Patty O’Keefe testified. The grain is important for many Indians’ spiritual and economic health, she added.
Some witnesses questioned whether an 1855 Indian treaty has been violated as Enbridge moves forward with the plan. Eberth said Enbridge has talked to leaders of reservations that would be affected.
Some testifiers brought up pipeline safety, recalling legislative debates about the need to improve oil train safety.
“Pipelines are not safer than rail,” Buddhist priest Shado Spring said. “Rail has more accidents, but they are caught quickly and they are much smaller. Pipelines have larger accidents because they are not found as fast.”