Line 3 Pipeline Abandonment What You Need To Know

Enbridge Energy has proposed to shut down and abandon its Line 3 crude oil pipeline, without addressing soil and water contamination or removing the pipe. This would pass on an enormous financial liability to landowners along the line, and to our children and grandchildren. The State of Minnesota has no plan to deal with this dangerous situation or to protect landowners from that liability. But community members across the north are coming together to demand that the State of Minnesota take action, so that individuals do not have to face this alone. Enbridge has a responsibility to put hard working Minnesotans to work cleaning up its mess. Our property rights, land, and fresh water are at stake.

Line 3 is one of 6 pipelines in Enbridge’s Main-line system. It ships tar sands crude oil from Alberta to Superior, WI, crossing Northern Minnesota for 300 miles. Line 3 was built in l96l and is now at the end of its life. According to Enbridge data, it currently has over 900 “structural integrity anomalies,” including corrosion and long seam cracking. As a result, it has experienced a number of failures during its 55 years of history. Enbridge is now operating the line at reduced volumes and pressures, to reduce the chances of a catastrophic rupture. Fixing these “anomalies” is very expensive, so Enbridge wants to decommission and abandon the pipeline, walk away, and build a new one in a new corridor.

The pipeline likely has many sites of contaminated soil and water around it already, from old leaks and spills. There is likely also contamination from residual oil, lubricants, treatment chemicals, and pipeline coatings. When discovered, this could become the responsibility of landowners. And as it corrodes, the pipe will eventually become a water conduit that could easily drain a wetland or small lake, or flood a farm field.

The US has vague, inadequate laws on pipeline abandonment, so the responsibility to protect landowners rests with the states. However, Minnesota has no abandonment regulations. The MN Public Utilities Commission does have the authority to regulate abandonment as part of the new Line 3 permitting process, but they will only do so if landowners demand it. Otherwise, if Enbridge is not required to remove the pipeline and restore the damaged ecosystems, there may never be a full accounting of the existing and future contamination. And this has never happened before in Minnesota, so if approved, it could set dangerous precedent that would then allow Enbridge to abandon the other 3 ancient pipelines in its Mainline corridor. In contrast, the National Energy Board of Canada thoroughly regulates all aspects of pipeline abandonment, and has ordered Enbridge to set aside nearly $1 billion to pay for future removals and cleanups. Minnesota could do the same, and that is an investment we deserve too.


What You Can Do

Minnesotans for Pipeline Cleanup has been representing the interests of landowners throughout the Line 3 regulatory process, demanding that the abandonment issue is heard and resolved before Enbridge is permitted to go build another pipeline somewhere else. We testified at hearings across the state last fall, bringing abandonment to the attention of ALJ Judge O'Reilly and raising this as a serious concern during the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) deliberations over permitting the new Line 3.

In April Judge O'Reilly issued her recommendation report to the PUC, and in it she recognized the urgent issue of abandonment - we are beginning to be heard! Now, while we wait for the PUC decision regarding the new Line 3 (expected in June), it's incredibly important that we continue making ourselves heard and that we continue to make it clear to all of our regulators and elected officials that we MUST be given the chance to have a choice about the future of our land BEFORE Enbridge is allowed to move on and dig up someone else's. 

Here's how you can help us defend landowner rights and create good pipeline removal jobs in Minnesota right now: 

  • Read through our resources, contact us for more information and support, and please share your story with us!
  • Sign our petition
  • Voice your concerns to your elected officials, especially Governor Dayton (651-201-3400) and your county commissioners (go here to identify your commissioners and see their contact information)
  • Follow Minnesotans for Pipeline Cleanup on facebook and youtube and share our media with your social networks
  • Join us in tracking the Line 3 regulator process and working together to intervene at the right times
  • Talk to your neighbors, church groups, lake associations, etc.
  • Write an op-ed in your local paper