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Letter: We need to slow down on oil pipeline plans

Minnesota is a water-rich state and we fortunately have some wild lands left which, in an economic sense, are the goose that lays the golden egg. We are jeopardizing these treasures at an alarming rate. Minnesota is being crisscrossed by oil pipelines. Enbridge is moving ahead with a 30-inch pipeline that will cross Mississippi Headwaters State Forest a dozen miles downstream from Itasca. The pipeline follows the eastern boundary of Itasca State Park, from Park Rapids it goes to Superior. This oil comes from the Bakken deposits in North Dakota.

We need to slow down. There is an estimated 2.65 billion barrels in the Bakken and 3.73 billion under the Three Forks, totaling 6.8 billion barrels. This may sound extraordinary, but it will only supply the U.S.’s oil needs for half a year. Consider the tar sands oil from Alberta and the looming Keystone; this oil is all, or nearly all, going overseas. We are led to believe by oil companies and Enbridge that we need this oil here. The reality is the oil companies are becoming richer as we export as much as we import.

When the Bakken dries up, existing pipelines will be carrying tar sands, the most corrosive oil on earth. With the Casselton, N.D. rail accident, oil companies and Enbridge are pushing for more pipelines for safety reasons. Prior to Casselton, in the last decade, pipelines have spilled 474,441 gallons while 2,268 gallons have spilled from rail. Pipeline spills tend to be greater than rail. In the last two years, North Dakota has had almost 300 spills, and none were reported to the public. In 2012, 50,000 gallons were spilled near Grand Marsh, Wis. In 2010, 843,000 gallons spilled into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, and in 2002, 48,000 gallons spilled west of Cass Lake – all from Enbridge. Bakken oil is the most explosive oil on earth. Tar sands is the most corrosive.

North Dakota has decided to make itself a sacrifice state. Do we want Minnesota to do the same? The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which is too amiable to power and energy companies, has voided Minnesota environmental review for all utility projects. As citizens, our only input is through the Minnesota PUC process which is speeding along. Remember, Bemidji is the first city on the river. The river is literally our lifeblood. We are down river; we are all connected.

Barry W. Babcock