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Enbridge’s pipeline switcheroo threatens Great Lakes region

Line 67 is a 1,600 kilometre tar sands pipeline that currently carries 450,000 barrels per day pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, which is situated on the western tip of Lake Superior. Calgary-based Enbridge wants to increase this pipeline’s capacity to 880,000 barrels per day.

In order to avoid the approval process that has delayed the TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, Enbridge has hatched a plan.

This is what they came up with. Line 67 will take the tar sands bitumen from northern Alberta to Gretna, Manitoba, which is located about 2.4 kilometres north of the North Dakota border. There the bitumen would flow into Line 3, which would carry it about 25 kilometres into the United States. At that point, Line 3 would connect back to Line 67 and the bitumen would continue on to its terminus at Lake Superior.

This oil-switching plan will allow Enbridge to increase the flow of Line 67 into the Great Lakes region by 75,000 bpd this year and then another 275,000 bpd by mid-2015.

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned with their scheme. The Line 3 pipeline was built in 1968. The decades old pipeline passes the communities of Kerrobert, Glenavon and Regina in Saskatchewan, Cromer and Gretna in Manitoba, and Clearbrook in Minnesota. In 2007, Line 3 ruptured and spilled 1,000 cubic metres of crude into a wetland near Glenavon.

Enbridge submitted these plans to the U.S. State Department in June. The following month a mid-level State Department official said Enbridge could proceed with its plan.

Jim Murphy of the National Wildlife Federation says, “Line 3 has a Presidential Permit, but unlike Alberta Clipper’s permit it does not appear to expressly limit the capacity of that line. However, Line 3 is not a tar sands pipeline and was not approved as such.”

And he highlights, “Federal law requires the State Department to approve any such change only if the following requirements have been met: (1) public notice and involvement, (2) a detailed environmental review, and (3) a national interest determination. This is the process governing review of the Keystone XL pipeline. But here, none of these requirements have been followed. …The State Department must immediately correct this illegal mistake and stop Enbridge from any tar sands expansion along the Alberta Clipper line until the law has been followed. A failure to do so violates both the law and President Obama’s commitment to ensure that tar sands pipeline projects not exacerbate the problem of climate change.”

The Council of Canadians has been opposing Line 67 since 2009.

Most recently we have argued that the expansion of Line 67 is the linchpin of the plan by Superior, Wisconsin-based refiner Calumet Specialties to ship 13 million barrels per year of crude oil across Lake Superior and through the Great Lakes on barges.