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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — State Department officials will come to Minnesota on Tuesday to hold the only public meeting on a draft environmental review for the final segment of Enbridge Energy's project to boost capacity in its Alberta Clipper pipeline, which carries Canadian tar sands oil across northern Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin.
The State Department's four-year review concluded that there would be no significant environmental impacts from completing the project, which requires a presidential permit because the last remaining segment crosses the U.S.-Canadian border in North Dakota. But environmentalists and some Native American tribes dispute that and are gearing up for the meeting in the northern Minnesota city of Bemidji.
Here's a look at some issues involved:
Enbridge built the Alberta Clipper, also known as Line 67, in 2009 for $1 billion. Its capacity was 450,000 barrels per day. Enbridge later decided to nearly double that to 800,000 barrels; the Calgary, Alberta-based company did most of that by adding pumping stations along the route.
Enbridge needs a presidential permit for the 3-mile segment where the 1,000-mile pipeline crosses the border. Getting the permit is a lengthy process. The Keystone XL pipeline that would run from Canada's tar sands to Nebraska, for example, was derailed when President Barack Obama rejected its permit. President Donald Trump has invited Keystone XL developer TransCanada to reapply.
Enbridge is operating the Alberta Clipper at full capacity with a temporary workaround. It built a detour to and from a parallel pipeline that crosses the border nearby and already has a permit. Opponents challenged the legality of that setup in court but lost.
WHY ENBRIDGE WANTS IT
Enbridge spokeswoman Shannon Gustafson called the Alberta Clipper "a vital piece of energy infrastructure" that bolsters America's energy security because it lessens the need for imports from unstable nations. Midwest refineries depend on the oil that Enbridge pipelines deliver, she said.
"Pipelines continue to be the safest, most reliable means of transporting crude oil that Minnesotans and Midwesterners rely on in their daily lives," Gustafson said.
Other Enbridge projects in the works are a proposed replacement for its 1960s-era Line 3 that would follow part of the same corridor. In fact, the Alberta Clipper detour uses an upgraded section of Line 3 to cross the border. Line 3 is also drawing opposition from tribes and environmentalists.
A coalition of environmental and tribal groups opposes the Alberta Clipper because it carries tar sands oil, which they consider a bigger environmental threat than regular crude. The pipeline crosses the lake country of northern Minnesota, including the Leech Lake and Fond du Lac Ojibwe reservations. Opponents say it threatens ecologically sensitive areas, as well as resources such as wild rice that are important to the Ojibwe bands.
Some of the leading opponents, including Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, were also active in the fight against the Dakota Access oil pipeline. LaDuke said protests that drew thousands to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota have spawned new "water protectors" to oppose Enbridge.
LaDuke is organizing a "Sustainability Summit" for Tuesday ahead of the State Department meeting. Her event will highlight clean energy alternatives. Participants will then march to the meeting and hold a rally that will include traditional Ojibwe drumming and dancing.
The State Department is holding Tuesday's meeting as part of the public comment period on the draft environmental review, which runs through March 27. The agency will consider those comments as it prepares the final version. The president must then determine whether issuing the permit is in the national interest.
Follow Steve Karnowski on Twitter at https://twitter.com/skarnowski . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/steve-karnowski
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