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Line 3 landowners urged to request pipeline decommissioning fund

Landowners along Line 3 can submit comments to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission until May 19 to request that eventual decommissioning costs are the responsibility of Enbridge.

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Pipe is installed along the Line 3 pipeline replacement route.
Courtesy / Jeff Frey for Enbridge
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BEMIDJI — Minnesotans for Pipeline Cleanup is urging property owners along the route of Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline to contact the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to ensure the pipeline's proper decommissioning, whenever that day may come.

According to a release, the landowners are asked to request that Enbridge be required to set up an adequate pipeline decommissioning fund so those who own the property are not financially liable when the pipeline eventually stops operation.

"Late last year, the PUC opened docket CN-21-823 to take comments about how much funding Enbridge should set aside for the abandonment of the new Line 3 pipeline," the release said. "But broad public awareness among landowners along the new Line 3 route is lacking."

“This issue is so new that most landowners don’t know the risks and costs or even that the PUC is deciding the fate of their properties,” Jami Gaither, a Clearwater County landowner whose land abuts Line 3, said in the release.

However, according to Juli Kellner, Enbridge communications specialist, the company is in regular contact with landowners and has no intentions of leaving any decommissioning costs to landowners now or in the future.

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“Enbridge builds and maintains its pipeline system as a long-life asset,” Kellner explained. “Enbridge is responsible for its pipelines, whether they are in operation or not.”

She explained that when a pipeline is “decommissioned” it is taken out of service safely and permanently after oil is removed. The pipe is then thoroughly cleaned, remaining in place while other existing or new pipelines in the same right-of-way continue to provide service to end users.

“Enbridge uses the same monitoring program in place for active pipelines as we do for decommissioned pipelines,” she added. “Enbridge remains responsible and monitors the decommissioned pipe in perpetuity at no cost to the landowner.”

The Canadian government has required Enbridge to set aside $1.3 billion to pay for any costs related to decommissioning the pipeline, but currently, there is not a fund in place in the U.S.

According to Kellner, in its order approving a certificate of need for the Line 3 Replacement Project, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission directed Enbridge to create and fund a trust for the decommissioning of the pipeline and Enbridge is committed to the establishment of the decommissioning trust.

"It's an ongoing relationship, it's not just a one and done kind of thing for us," Kellner said.

Due to the novelty and complexity of this issue, MPC feels that landowners should request that the PUC initiate a contested case hearing and require that Enbridge notify all easement holders about this docket. Unless a contested case is called, landowners have until May 19 to submit comments on the size and terms of the trust fund.

“Minnesotans have a direct stake in how the PUC will administer this trust fund and how big it will be, and that depends on abandonment planning. Landowners — not Enbridge — should have the final say in what happens on their land after abandonment,” Dave Douglas, whose property in Carlton County is crossed by both Enbridge’s old and new Line 3, said in the release.

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Comments to the PUC must include the docket number 21-823 and can be submitted online at mn.gov/puc/consumers/public-comments , by email at publicadvisor.puc@state.mn.us or by mail to the Public Advisor at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, 121 7th Place East, Suite 350, St. Paul, MN 55101.

Annalise is the editor and a photographer at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is a Mass Communication graduate from Bemidji State University. Her favorite pastime is exploring the great outdoors and capturing its natural beauty on camera. Contact Annalise at (218) 333-9796, (218) 358-1990 or abraught@bemidjipioneer.com.
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