- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Enbridge Energy Partners said Wednesday that it expects to push back until 2019 the start-up dates for both its proposed Sandpiper crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota and a replacement for its existing Line 3 pipeline because of the need for an environmental review.

Company executives told analysts during a quarterly earnings call that their “preliminary assessment” is that the pipelines won’t go into service until early 2019. Enbridge had projected that date as sometime in 2017.

President Mark Maki said the company also expects costs will be “a little bit higher,” but declined to predict how much. Enbridge had pegged the cost at $2.6 billion.

The 616-mile Sandpiper would carry North Dakota crude oil across northern Minnesota to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. The 1,097-mile Line 3 carries Canadian crude from Alberta. It was built in the 1960s and is operating at reduced capacity for safety reasons. The fate of its proposed replacement is tied up with Sandpiper because they would share much of the same route across Minnesota.

Environmentalists have fought the projects, saying they threaten ecologically sensitive areas.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in August that Sandpiper requires a full environmental review before the state Public Utilities Commission can grant it a certificate of need. The PUC had planned to a somewhat less extensive review later. That forced the PUC to restart the process so the full review can be conducted first. Maki said he expects the permitting process to last into 2017.

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