ALJ at Grand Rapids Hearing

On April 23, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Ann O’Reilley issued her final report on Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 “replacement” project. Over 400 pages, the document summarizes the enormous quantities of evidence, public comment, and legal argumentation that has been put in the public record as Minnesota has grappled with this issue.

For more information on her report than we will cover here, you can check out this MPR article.

We are happy to say that ALJ O’Reilley acknowledged and affirmed the importance of pipeline abandonment, and its relevance to the proposed new Line 3 project. Chapter VII of the report is dedicated to the issues of Decomissioning, Abandonment, Removal, and In-Trench Replacement – in other words, all the issues that affect us as landowners along the original Line 3.

The ALJ acknowledged that since the pipeline would be deemed “abandoned” under federal law, aside from what the company is ‘promising’ us, “there are no legal requirements that the abandoned pipeline be monitored or maintained by the company” (ALJ Report, p. 284). She goes on to clarify that this essentially leaves the future of the line unaddressed:

“...continued monitoring of abandoned Line 3 will be at Applicant’s sole discretion for as long as Applicant sees fit. In addition, there would be no regulatory oversight to ensure that exposed or problematic abandoned pipe be removed or reburied. Applicant has not presented a plan for monitoring, reburying, or repairing Line 3 should Applicant cease to exist a real possibility considering the hundreds and thousands of years that the pipe will remain in ground if abandoned.

Moreover, Applicant has not committed to continuing monitoring the abandoned Line 3 once the other Mainline lines are out of service. Nor has Applicant agree to re-bury, repair, or remove pipe that becomes exposed, buoyant, or problematic after abandonment has been completed.

Applicant merely maintains that, as a company, Applicant will remain liable for the line within its purchased easements.” (ALJ Report, p. 284, emphasis added).

O’Reilley also addresses the fact that the abandonment issue is particularly urgent given the large quantities of exposed pipeline along the old Line 3, and the risk that other portions could become buoyant and float up to the surface once oil is no longer running through it:

“There are approximately 8,500 feet of exposed pipe along Existing Line 3. In addition, there are approximately 40 miles of Existing Line 3 that may become buoyant after oil is purged from the line. Applicant has only recently (at the evidentiary hearing) committed to removing the currently exposed portions of Existing Line 3 as part of its decommissioning of Existing Line 3. However, Applicant has no stated plans to remove the potentially buoyant sections of pipe. Thus, absent a condition is placed on a CN or RP, Applicant will have no legal obligation to maintain Existing Line 3 or prevent it from becoming a public or private nuisance” (ALJ Report, p. 384-5, emphasis added).