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FROSTMAN COLUMN: Minnesota pipeline controversy impacts Wisconsin users
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FROSTMAN COLUMN: Minnesota pipeline controversy impacts Wisconsin users

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We’ve been down this pipeline before. Once again, we find an oil pipeline in the news.

Controversy over oil pipelines is certainly nothing new, but ramped up in the upper Midwest amid challenges to the Dakota Access pipeline, and the jettisoning of the Keystone XL pipeline project, among the first wave of changes brought in by the Joe Biden Administration.

Another controversy is center stage, primarily in our neighboring state of Minnesota, over the completion of the Enbridge Line 3, a 1,097-mile pipe, which is planned to run from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, to Superior. According to a Sept. 9, 2017, Journal Sentinel story, “about 20% of all daily U.S. crude imports pass through Superior, Wisconsin.” Pipeline maps shared in that story show a major line on a relatively direct path from Superior to the Chicago, Illinois, area, passing through parts of Adams, Columbia, and Dane counties locally, and those pipelines have been in service for decades.

The pipeline is under construction to replace the current line. According to an Aug. 31 Minnesota Public Radio story, pipeline owner Enbridge “[stated] existing line 3, built in the 1960s, needs to be replaced because it’s corroding, needs extensive maintenance, and is operating at reduced capacity.” This isn’t a new pipeline, simply an upgrade in technology designed to make the pipeline, which has been in operation for decades, safer.

The pipeline is nearly complete. The same story also related, “more than 3,000 workers continued the final stages of construction on the 340-mile stretch of pipeline. Enbridge says the new Line 3 is on track to be operating by the fourth quarter of this year.” The enbridge.com website detailed the permitting process for different stretches, and the final Minnesota stretch was permitted for completion in December 2020. It also noted the Wisconsin segment’s completion in May 2018.

The near-completion of an approved project replacing an existing dated pipeline didn’t stop some very progressive members of the House nicknamed “The Squad” from visiting Minnesota on Sept. 3. A WCCO-Channel 4 story that described the pipeline as “more than 90% done” featured a Minneapolis press conference with Minnesota’s own Ilhan Omar, and where Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib stated, “look, I’m here to shut it down.” The MPR story cited earlier also stated, “over a thousand people filled the grounds of the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul last week.”

Pipeline operator Enbridge keeps winning in court. An Aug. 25 Fox Business story, related that the “Minnesota Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from opponents,” which “[upheld] a June decision by the Minnesota Court of Appeals to allow the project’s construction to proceed.”

The fact of the matter is that millions of barrels of crude oil are shipped out to the Alberta oil fields to our home state of Wisconsin on a daily basis, and no number of solar panels or windmills available today is going to stop that from happening. This is simply a way to transport the needed crude oil in a safer, more efficient manner, and we should all be able to support those efforts. The pipeline is needed to support current and future demands. If Enbridge didn’t see any economic feasibility in replacing the existing pipeline, they would simply abandon its use over time.

You rely on the efficiency of pipelines and the products they deliver every time you pull up to a gas pump. Do you want to see the price of a gallon go up, or go down? Your choice. More availability means lower costs, as more oil can be delivered in the upgraded pipeline.

It’s rather likely that you have a natural gas pipeline leading to your home to deliver heat in the winter, and if not, that source of heat may be from fuel oil, or propane, which are all derived from crude oil. Anybody own anything made of plastic? Use your cell phone lately? The products created from petroleum are endless.

We can all be thankful that tremendous progress has been made in the safety and efficiency of pipelines, and it is critically important a comprehensive review and discernment of each project occur. We also must understand that fossil fuels are an integral part of our daily lives. Even a visit from “The Squad” in Minnesota won’t change it.

Scott Frostman lives in Baraboo, and has roots throughout Wisconsin. Opinions herein are exclusively his own. He believes anyone can make a difference and can be reached at scfrostman@gmail.com.

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