Enbridge Line 3 pipeline debate shifts to public hearings

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota kicks off public hearings this week on whether regulators should allow Enbridge Energy to replace its aging Line 3 crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.

The replacement would have higher capacity than the existing pipeline and run along a new route in some areas — two characteristics that opponents say shows it’s more like a new pipeline than a replacement.

Environmental and tribal groups say they expect hundreds of people to protest and march against the project before Thursday’s hearing in St. Paul. They’ve been buoyed by a recent review from the state Commerce Department, which surprised opponents and Enbridge alike by concluding the project isn’t needed and won’t benefit Minnesota. But Enbridge says Line 3 is a critical piece of infrastructure for petroleum shippers and refineries in the region.

Oil pipelines have become an increasingly contentious national issue amid concerns about tar sands oil and climate change, the danger that spills pose to water supplies, and the rights of American Indians who live along the routes. The fight over the Dakota Access pipeline drew thousands of protesters to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, stalling work on that project for months.

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