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Presidential permit for Line 67 expansion faces delay

Reuters reports, “Enbridge Inc Chief Executive Al Monaco said on Thursday that an amendment to the U.S. presidential permit for its Alberta Clipper pipeline, which the company needs to expand the line’s capacity, will likely be delayed past a previous target of mid-2014. …Monaco did not give a new timeline for U.S. permitting, but said the company has some flexibility to move capacity on its other pipelines.”

The Enbridge Alberta Clipper pipeline (Line 67) runs 1600-kilometres from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin on Lake Superior. “The Alberta Clipper pipeline is part of the Enbridge Mainline, which connects Alberta’s oil sands to the United States and is the single largest source of U.S. oil imports. The line has a current capacity of 450,000 barrels-per-day (BPD) and is being expanded to 570,000 BPD. The Calgary-based company ultimately plans to expand the line to 800,000 BPD capacity.”

Mired in mid-term congressional politics?

In a December 31, 2013 commentary, CBC National Affairs specialist Greg Weston wrote, “It is considered unlikely the Obama administration will rule on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to southern U.S. refineries before the midterm congressional elections in November.”

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported, “The State Department, which has been studying the project for years, aims to release a report on the environmental impact of the proposed pipeline extension in early or mid-February, people inside and outside the government familiar with the decision said Thursday. That would put Mr. Obama on track to make a decision by May or June. Until now, Obama administration officials have been vague about the timing of the State Department review. Officials have released no timetable for a decision and a series of delays in considering the project have left some observers thinking it could stretch beyond the November midterm elections.”

It’s not clear if the delay in the presidential permit for the Alberta Clipper pipeline is connected to this timing.

The Reuters news report adds, “The Alberta Clipper pipeline was briefly shut down on Saturday, after a 125-barrel-spill at a pump station in Saskatchewan.” But this was not the first spill from Line 67. On April 24, 2013, about 19 barrels (600 gallons of oil) was spilled from the pipeline in Viking, Minnesota.

The Detroit Free Press has commented, “Line 67 ends at Superior, Wis., on the western tip of Lake Superior. There, the pipeline joins with a distribution network that carries diluted bitumen, or dilbit, through the Midwest and beyond. It’s perilously close to Lake Superior. In light of Enbridge’s track record, that’s a problem. It was an Enbridge pipeline that broke in 2010, spilling dilbit into the Kalamazoo River, Talmadge Creek and the wetlands around Marshall; that’s the same product that’s moved through Line 67.”

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

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has stated, “The expansion of the Alberta Clipper is going to increase the development of the tar sands and spell disaster for water sources, climate change and public health. We need to reduce emissions to avoid catastrophe. There is no public process for this expansion project despite the impacts it’s going to have, especially on the Great Lakes. If we want to prevent projects like this from putting our water at risk, communities need to speak out.”

It has been 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.

Further reading
125 barrels of oil spill from Line 67 at Regina pumping station
Alberta Clipper pipeline to destroy wetlands and threaten Great Lakes
Wisconsin rejects permit for oil loading dock on Lake Superior, for now