Energy encounter: Enbridge Energy Co. hosts open house about its ongoing projects

BEMIDJI -- With the Line 3 replacement project becoming more and more of a reality, a host of Enbridge Energy professionals descended on Bemidji Tuesday to share information about the company's operations.

Kyle Bridell, an operations project coordinator with Enbridge Energy, talks with attendees at an informational open house held by Enbridge on Tuesday at the Sanford Center. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- With the Line 3 replacement project becoming more and more of a reality, a host of Enbridge Energy professionals descended on Bemidji Tuesday to share information about the company’s operations.

The company hosted a community open house at the Sanford Center to speak to landowners, activists and the general public about the company as a whole, as well as its Line 3 project specifically. Tuesday’s event was one of approximately 15 that Enbridge hosts annually throughout the Midwest. The company uses the meetings to keep local residents informed about everything from the nuts and bolts of its technology to its position on environmental responsibility.

“These are focused on our existing operations,”Jennifer Smith, Enbridge community engagement manager, said about the event. “When the new Line 3’s in service south of Clearbrook, we’ll come back.”   

The event included representatives from across the company, such as engineers, safety professionals, and climate policy advisers, each ready to provide brief snippets of the company’s larger projects.

On one table, they had a handful of bottles filled with the different oil products the company produces. On another table, an engineer was using a series of pipes, valves and tanks of water to demonstrate how the company transfers product from one location to another.


In another display, they showed a device that essentially flows through the oil in the pipeline and takes readings to make sure everything is operating correctly.

Beltrami County Commissioner Craig Gaasvig was one of those attending the event. He said he appreciated the company reaching out to keep the communities it works with informed.

“They are really doing their darndest to get the information out there -- and going to great expense to do that,” Gaasvig said. “I think it’s something we need, and I would like to see it finally move forward.”

In addition to the open house, the company held a presentation for area officials and law enforcement personnel about the company’s safety procedures and how they would respond to an emergency situation.  

The event also drew the attention of activists who have raised concerns about the company’s pipeline projects. Rita Chamblin is the Bemidji liaison for Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, which advocates for building a “just and sustainable world.”

While she opposes the company’s pipeline project, she said the event was a good opportunity to learn accurate information and meet people. On top of that, she said it’s important for both sides to be able to disagree while still recognizing each side’s basic human decency.  

“They’ve offered us an opportunity to talk to them and to learn, and I think it’s the right thing to do,” Chamblin said. “It doesn’t change my opinion about the new Line 3 or about Enbridge’s desire to push this through at any cost.”

Although Bemidji has been the site for various environmental demonstrations, Enbridge Climate Policy Manager Edwin Makkinga said the company believes in the effects of climate change and has been making efforts to be environmentally sustainable.


“Enbridge recognizes that there’s multiple pathways to the energy transition,” Makkinga said. “What we’re really trying to say today is that we’re not just a crude oil pipeline company -- that we’ve got natural gas, and that we’ve got renewables, and that we recognize that energy has to diversify over the long term.”

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