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Nolan wants Enbridge Sandpiper route moved south


Mike O’Rourke

Forum News Service

BRAINERD — U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan voiced opposition Thursday to Enbridge Energy’s proposed Sandpiper pipeline route, which would cut across northern Minnesota.

Citing environmental and economic concerns, the Minnesota Democrat issued a statement in which he spoke of potential threats to environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands, porous sandy soil, drinking water sources and what he termed some of the cleanest lakes in the state.

A spokeswoman for Stewart Mills III, his Republican opponent for the 8th District seat, accused Nolan of having his cake and eating it too.

The Sandpiper pipeline would transport crude oil from the Bakken field in North Dakota to refineries in Superior, Wis., and beyond.

Nolan said in a letter to a state official that the pipeline could be moved to address concerns.

“There’s no compelling reason why the Sandpiper pipeline can’t be rerouted to avoid environmentally fragile areas,” Nolan said in a letter to the environmental manager of the Minnesota Department of Commerce, who is evaluating the project’s application. “From my meetings and communication with agencies and local advocacy groups, it’s clear there are several alternative routes out there that would take the pipeline south of this region, and thereby prevent a devastating ecological disaster in the event of a pipeline spill.

“Our way of life is tied to water in Minnesota, and we can’t be in the business of disregarding the people who actually live near these lakes, rivers, and wetlands; or the sport-fishermen, resort owners, and guides who assist tourists; or the small farmers who rely on healthy soil for their livelihood,” Nolan added.

“A pipeline spill in a region so dependent on outdoor recreation and tourism could have devastating economic consequences for years to come.”

Mills could not be reached for comment late Thursday. His communications director, Chloe Rockow, released the following statement:

“It looks like once again, Rick Nolan wants to have his cake and eat it too,” she said. “We’ve seen too many instances where Rick claims to support projects like Keystone, Polymet, or Twin Metals but then turns around and supports the very regulations that stop them from moving forward. This is just another example of Rick’s extremism stopping a project that could really benefit the 8th Congressional District.”

Rockow said she did not know whether Mills supported the current proposed pipeline route.

Nolan, in a phone interview late Thursday afternoon, said he wanted to see the project go forward but that his job is to balance the various interests involved.

“If they could just run a straight line between two points, they would,” Nolan said. “Our job is to balance private profits with the public interest. My job is not to see what is most profitable for Enbridge. My job is to balance the interests and find what’s best for Minnesota and Enbridge. There’s a way to do this.”

Nolan did not specify a route in his statement but said he would continue to advocate for a less harmful route. In his statement, Nolan cited local assessments that maintained the proposed Enbridge Sandpiper route would cross at least 28 rivers, lakes and wetlands that cannot be accessed from existing roads, making a cleanup operation in the event of a pipeline spill extraordinarily difficult and costly.

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