By Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2020

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The Office of the Legislative Auditor is critical of how state utility regulators have dealt with the public, especially over Enbridge’s proposal to replace an aging oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.

An audit released Monday says the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has been inconsistent and sometimes unprepared when dealing with the public.

The auditor’s office said that sometimes commissioners sent “mixed messages” about whether they should be addressed when the agency held public hearings, the Star Tribune reported.

The report recommends the PUC make its meetings more accessible and reach out to American Indian tribes.

The commission said in response it has been working “diligently” over the past year to correct mistakes in public meetings. The PUC says it has rebuilt its website, hired more people to manage public outreach and has a new policy for engaging tribes.

Many tribal leaders have criticized Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge’s proposal to replace its corroded Line 3 pipeline across northern Minnesota.

In its review, the auditor’s office found that staffers were not prepared for public meetings that drew big crowds and that the PUC sometimes imposed “special rules” for participating in those open meetings.

Last month the PUC reaffirmed its support for the proposed Line 3 replacement. The commission voted 4-1 to reject petitions for reconsideration filed by several Ojibwe bands, environmental groups and the state Commerce Department.

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