Friday, March 20, 2009

Enbridge pipeline hits snag crossing Indian reservation

DULUTH, Minn. - Along a 1,000-mile Enbridge Energy pipeline proposed to move Canadian crude oil to a tank farm in Superior, Wis., one 13-mile stretch through the Fond du Lac Indian reservation has proven the most difficult to plot.
Enbridge and Fond du Lac officials have been unable to negotiate a settlement on the crossing in recent months, leading Enbridge to propose a 21-mile detour around the reservation.
On March 19, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission denied Enbridge that detour, at least for the time being.
PUC commissioners, meeting in St. Paul, agreed to delay final action on the pipeline route until a deal is reached or until an ongoing federal Environmental Impact Statement is completed by the U.S. State Department, probably in May.
The pipeline detour around the reservation was opposed by environmental groups, the Fond du Lac Band and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. They said the best route would run through the reservation - alongside an existing Enbridge pipeline - to have less impact on the environment.
Sara Van Norman is acting as attorney for the Fond du Lac band on the issue.
Lorraine Grymala, community affairs manager for Enbridge, said the PUC decision won’t necessarily delay the pipeline project if a final decision comes quickly.
“We’re disappointed. But this could still work out assuming the commission can take quick action when the federal EIS is approved,’’ Grymala said.
Enbridge and the Fond du Lac officials have failed to find an agreeable price for a 20-year easement to cross the reservation. Short of that deal, Enbridge would need an act of Congress to cross the property without Fond du Lac approval, PUC staff said. While the PUC can use eminent domain to run pipelines across other lands, the state does not have that right on tribal land.

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