Dear Governor Dayton,
I am writing to ask you to take action on an urgent issue. I own property along Enbridge Energy’s Mainline pipeline corridor, with an active easement that allows Enbridge to operate its pipelines on my land. Enbridge has proposed to shut down and abandon its Line 3 crude oil pipeline, without addressing soil and water contamination or removing the pipe. I am concerned that the abandonment of Line 3 would pass on an enormous financial liability to me and my family. Unfortunately, the State of Minnesota has no plan to deal with this dangerous situation or to protect landowners like me from that liability. However, the Minnesota PUC does have the authority to ensure a responsible pipeline decommissioning and cleanup process.
Line 3 is one of six pipelines in Enbridge’s Mainline system. It ships tar sands crude oil from Alberta to Superior, WI, spanning over 300 miles across Northern Minnesota. It was built in 1961 and is now at the end of its life. It is corroded and, according to Enbridge’s own data, currently has over 900 “structural integrity anomalies,” including corrosion and long-seam cracking. As a result of these anomalies, Line 3 has experienced a number of failures during its 55 years of history. Enbridge is operating the line at reduced volumes and pressures, to reduce the chances of a catastrophic rupture. The pipeline likely has many sites of contaminated soil and water under and around it.
Fixing these “anomalies” is very expensive, so Enbridge has proposed to decommission and abandon the pipeline in place, walk away, and build a new one in a new corridor. The pipeline likely has many sites of contaminated soil and water under and around it already, from historical leaks and spills. In addition, there is likely contamination from residual oil, lubricants, treatment chemicals, and pipeline coatings. When discovered, this contamination could become the responsibility of landowners. Also, as it corrodes, the pipe will eventually become a water conduit that would carry residual contaminants and could easily drain a wetland or small lake, with devastating impacts on public infrastructure and the environment.
Enbridge has a legal, financial, and moral responsibility to address the potential liability that an abandoned Line 3 would pose for landowners. But the State of Minnesota has no relevant regulation to speak of. 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.
The working people of Minnesota deserve the well-paying union jobs that a responsible decommissioning plan would create. Enbridge wants to create a new mess instead of putting hard-working Minnesotans to work cleaning up its old one. That is not right.
Please instruct your agencies to take action, so that individuals do not have to face this alone. Countless other community members, small businesses, lake associations, elected officials, and tribal governments are making their voices heard. Enbridge should be required to survey the corridor for contamination, remove and remediate any contaminated soil or water, and consult with landowners to determine which sections of pipe should be removed, and which are better left in place. If the liability is ours, the decision should be ours too.
I appreciate your attention to this urgent matter for all those who live, work, and play in Northern Minnesota, and for taking action to protect our property rights, our land, and our fresh water. I look forward to your response.