Petroleum subproducts are an essential part of our everyday lives. They heat our homes, fuel our cars, power industry, schools and hospitals, and are turned into hundreds of consumer goods, from cellphones to clothing to cosmetics. But before those products turn up, crude oil must be refined into petroleum.
Assembled in the 1960s, Line 3 is a 1,100-mile crude oil pipeline going from Edmonton, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, and is an essential part of Canada’s Mainline System operated by Enbridge Corporation. Enbridge proposed to replace Line 3 to restore the historical operating capabilities of Line 3, reduce future maintenance activities, create fewer disruptions to landowners and the environment, and maintain its high safety standards.
A new 36-inch diameter pipeline will substitute the existing 34-inch diameter pipeline along most Line 3 route . In the U.S., the renewed pipeline will follow the existing Line 3 route from Joliette, North Dakota, to Clearbrook, Minnesota. It will primarily follow existing pipeline and transmission routes from Clearbrook to Superior.
The $2.9-billion U.S. chunk of the Line 3 Replacement Program, known as the Line 3 Replacement Project, replaces the existing 34-inch pipe with a new 36-inch pipe for 20.9 kilometres in North Dakota, 542 km in Minnesota, and 21.5 km in Wisconsin. The latter entered service in May 2018, after construction and commissioning were completed in December 2017; the North Dakota segment was concluded in December 2020; in December 2020, Enbridge began construction in Minnesota.
1.2 Why Minnesota needs Line 3
Line 3 pipeline has been and continues to be an essential component of North America’s pipeline transportation network to deliver the crude oil allocated for refiners and used by residents. Line 3 will ensure that the operator can transport the crude oil refiners needed in Minnesota, neighbouring states, Eastern Canada and the Gulf Coast. The existing Line 3 project will be operationally integrated into the Enbridge Mainline System and ensure crude oil transportation from Alberta to Wisconsin.
The main project benefits comprise about 8,600 jobs (6,500 of them local) in Minnesota over two years, including new 4,200 union construction positions, half of which are expected to be filled locally . A $2 billion incentive to the Minnesota economy during design and construction would indeed have a measurable impact on the state’s economic activity, with $1.5 billion of that in Enbridge spending alone. Then there is the significance of $334 million in payroll to workers (about 50% of that to local workers) and a $162-million construction-related benefit for local economies due to non-local workers in Minnesota. Enbridge alledges would translate into the purchase of local products/materials and the use of local hotels, restaurants, and services.
It is also expected that the replacement project will increase long-term property tax revenue in each county crossed by the pipeline. Enbridge pays more than $30 million in the state’s property taxes annually; this will rise incrementally by more than $35 million commencing the first full year of service. The Line 3 Replacement Project will diminish apportionment, continue reliable crude oil delivery, and provide energy savings on a per-barrel basis; by doing so, it will support Minnesota refineries.
In October 2014, Enbridge filed its Notice Plan with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC); MPUC approved the Notice Plan by the end of January 2015. Enbridge conducted seven Open House meetings along the proposed route two months later.
In April 2015, Enbridge filed its Certificate of Need (CN) and Route Permit (RP) applications with MPUC, which by July that year deemed the CN and RP applications complete. Therefore, it commenced its regulatory approval processes in both applications.
In August, the Minnesota Department of Commerce (MDOC) held public information and environmental analysis scoping meetings along the existing and proposed route.
In January 2016, the MPUC order referred joint CN and RP proceedings to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). It also ordered Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project; further ordered the completion of the EIS before commencing the CN and RP permitting processes. A month later, Enbridge filed a petition for reconsideration with the MPUC, asking it to reconsider its decision to require the final EIS be issued before commencing the CN and RP permitting processes. The MPUC adopted a final EIS scoping document in October.
In December 2017, construction on the 13.3-mile Wisconsin segment of the project concluded to enter service in May 2018.
On June 28, 2018, a significant milestone was achieved: MPUC approved the Line 3 Replacement Project, granting a Certificate of Need and approving Enbridge’s preferred route with minor modifications and specific conditions.
Three months later, Enbridge submitted permit applications for the Minnesota and North Dakota project. North Dakota’s Department of Health issued the 401 Water Quality Certification, so Enbridge received all necessary permits from the state as soon as February 2019. As per the State of Minnesota, certifications on all remaining licenses required for the construction of Line 3 were provided in November.
Lately, the MPUC ruled that the L3RP’s second revised Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was adequate and reaffirmed L3RP’s applications for a certificate of need and pipeline routing permit (February 2020). Construction in Minnesota and North Dakota will begin concurrently once all permits and approvals have been received in a due date to be announced.
2.2 Construction of the pipeline replacement
Line 3 is one of the six assets that comprise Enbridge’s primary pipeline system, and it is a mixed-service line conveying a variety of crude oils. The firm’s assessment of the pipeline in 2013 highlighted the need for segment replacement and integrity digs to maintain the system’s stability.
Around 4,000 investigatory digs were estimated to be required to maintain the integrity of the US segment alone. The assessment also acknowledged that the digs would disrupt landowners and the environment. Hence, replacing the pipeline was the best solution to maintain the integrity and reduce disruption to landowners.
The project will replace the existing 34-inch diameter pipe of the Canadian segment with a 36-inch high-strength steel pipe, while the US segment will be replaced with a 34-inch diameter pipe. The new pipeline will feature the most advanced coating technology and associated pieces of equipment. More than 90% of the pipeline’s right-of-way will be implanted on private land. The average annual capacity of the replaced channel will increase from the actual 390,000 barrels per day to around 760,000 barrels per day.
The asset will be constructed by dividing the network into manageable sections, ranging from 90km to 140km. Segments will be transported to the site before being welded and lowered into trenches dug by tracked excavators. These will be backfilled once the pipeline is deployed. Hydrostatic testing will be used to evaluate the integrity of the new pipeline. The present Line 3 infrastructure will be decommissioned once the new pipeline becomes operational.
The plan includes the installation of 55 remotely-operated valves, including those to be deployed near watercourses. The valves will allow the pipeline to be shut off when required. Additionally, 18 pump stations and related facilities will be erected at the Hardisty terminal and three new tanks. The storage tanks will have a volumetric capacity of up to 375,000 barrels each and are set to booster pumps, secondary containment systems and associated facilities. New launcher/receiver traps will also be installed at some pump stations.
2.3 Environmental permitting
Environmental impacts due to the pipeline’s construction will be related to temporary disturbance to the land, water bodies, and wetlands. Environmental impacts derived from pipeline operations will primarily be associated with maintenance repairs, overhauling and mowing activities. Almost a decade ago, company men started working with federal, state, and local regulatory agencies to design project plans and facilitate conditions to minimise environmental impacts. Enbridge is committed to retaining environmental inspectors during Project construction who will be in charge of all regulatory compliance, enabling permit conditions, and ensuring that contractors abide by these circumstances. The project will also be overseen by third-party ecology monitors who report any concerns directly to appropriate agencies.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) began tribal consultation for the planned Line 3 Replacement Project in 2015 . They interacted with 43 Tribes, resident Tribes and those with ancestral ties to the area and remain in consulting stages with 39 Tribes. A tribal cultural survey, led by Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, was conducted along the Project corridor, across Minnesota and into North Dakota. The tribal survey crews re-visited previously recorded sites, modified boundaries of a few previously documented spots, and identified 22 archaeological resources along 560 km— all this to identify significant cultural resources to be avoided by earthworks.
Above 20 federal, state and local permits and approvals were needed before constructing this pipeline project, maybe the most studied work in Minnesota history. These environmental permits relate to how the pipeline construction will ensure the protection of cultural resources, water, land and wildlife:
Bureau of Indian Affairs
S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Bald eagle nest disturbance permit
S. Army Corps of Engineers
Section 404/10 individual permit
Section 408 authorisation
Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
Tribal permits and authorisations
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Individual groundwater appropriation permit
Individual surface water appropriation permits, including Gully 30 calcareous fen
License to cross public waters
Work in public waters permit
License to cross public lands
Long-term lease for access roads to valves
Short-term leases for both haul and access roads
Endangered species permit
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Clearbrook Terminal air quality permit
NPDES construction stormwater general permit
NPDES general construction stormwater coverage for equipment yards
Section 401 water quality certification and anti-degradation assessment
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) industry hydrostatic discharge permit
Minnesota Department of Transportation
Road crossing permit
Temporary access permit
Two Rivers Watershed permit
Red Lake Watershed permit
Middle-Snake Watershed permit
Some of these licenses are devoted only to water conservation. Pipelines are, by definition, similar to other forms of transportation infrastructure. The project site’s dewatering and stormwater management are the only water-related concerns. Unlike mines, paper mills, and other industrial uses, water is not a continuous process that needs treatment and monitoring.
Work in wetlands and water bodies is deemed temporal during construction, pumping water out of ditches and utilising water to pressure test the new pipeline. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency imposes that possible consequences be identified and addressed. In addition, operators might expand their activities at Clearbrook Terminal, which will impact previous air permits.
2.4 Public contestation
The pipeline sector has sought to minimise required approvals by employing existing infrastructure, which entails a less time-consuming review . The reversal of the Enbridge Line 9 pipeline to transport diluted bitumen eastward rather than refined product westward and to replace the Line 3 pipeline running through Minnesota offer examples. However, these two have indeed faced public contestation.
To many Indigenous people, framing fossil fuels and other energy sources as “natural resources” does not accurately define energy projects or capture related risks. Some Anishinaabe pipeline opponents have suggested that traditional harvesting protocols—culturally embedded moral precepts that govern the gathering of food and medicinal plants—also be applied to activities that produce energy. This section explores how this could be done, focusing on tar sands extraction and the Line 3 expansion plan.
There is mounting Anishinaabeg resistance to pipeline projects throughout Anishinaabe Aki, including opposition to the Line 9 reversal, Line 3 replacement program, Line 4 expansion project, and the continued operation of Line 5 . In November 2016, the Canadian federal government approved the pipeline replacement and construction commenced on the Canadian side of the border. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs appealed the NEB’s decision in December 2016, challenging the project’s approval due to improper consultation. In response to premature construction in Canada and Wisconsin, resistance camps formed across northern Minnesota in February 2017 (including the Makwa Camp and White Earth Spirit Camp).
A significant development in the struggle against Line 3 took place in December 2018. The White Earth Anishinaabeg unanimously enacted the Rights of Manoomin (“the good seed” or wild rice), which recognise s that wild rice within the White Earth territory has the inherent right to exist, flourish, regenerate, and evolve, as well as the right to restoration, recovery, and preservation (White Earth Band of Minnesota Chippewa Tribe 2018). The rights of Manoomin include but are not limited to: (1) the right to freshwater habitat, (2) the right to a healthy climate, and (3) the right to be free from patenting and genetic engineering.
The scope of Manoomin’s rights are far-reaching: Manoomin not only has legal rights, but White Earth recognises these rights as being brought into action in the name of Manoomin as the real party in interest. Manoomin has the right to intervene in any action concerning their rights legally, and other parties to that action (lawyers, for example) cannot entirely represent Manoomin’s particular interests. Manoomin has a genuine and distinct role in decision making.
Moreover, Section 3 (Enforcement) outlines how the Tribal Government will take all necessary actions to protect and implement the Rights of Manoomin. Law enforcement is prohibited from arresting or detaining persons defending these rights. Any business or government that violates the Rights of Manoomin are punishable by tribal law and liable for any damages to Manoomin and their habitat. The Rights of Manoomin demonstrate that Anishinaabe people are involved in local actions on a national scale.
 Gilbert, L., & Zalik, A. (2018). The limits of audit culture extractivism: Risk and reinsurance in Canadian oil transport by rail and pipeline. The Extractive Industries and Society. doi:10.1016/j.exis.2018.09.015