By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Supporters and opponents of a controversial pipeline project were both in downtown St. Paul this morning.

Enbridge Energy wants to upgrade its deteriorating Line 3 pipeline that carries crude oil from Canada to North Dakota, across Minnesota to Wisconsin. Regulators are undergoing a series of hearings in front of the Public Utilities Commission that will ultimately decide what happens.

Opponents of Minnesota Pipeline 3 arrived carrying canoes. They paddled down the Mississippi River and portaged to the PUC meeting site, where the fight against a proposed pipeline will take center stage.

“This is a state where people fish on Northern lakes and most of those people do not want a pipeline. Most of the state does not want a pipeline, and the Ishanabee People, to be honest, we’ve had enough,” activist Winona LaDuke said.

LaDuke, executive director of Honor The Earth, believes Line 3 threatens Minnesota’s clean water and the rights of tribal communities. She and others don’t want the PUC to approve a petition to replace Line 3 with a larger pipeline doubling the amount of crude oil running through the area.

“We’ve had 50 years of this pipeline. We’ve had our land raked over and what little we have left we stand with. We stand with our water, we stand for our rice, we stand for everything that we are. This pipeline represents not only a slap in the face but basically a declaration of war against the five Ojibwe tribes that have intervened in this process,” LaDuke said.

Canada-based Enbridge says it needs to replace the 1960s-era Line 3 for safety reasons. The line is increasingly subject to corrosion and cracking and is operating at only about half its original capacity.

Those in favor say replacing the aging pipeline is the only way to protect the environment from any potential problems and to supply the growing number of customers.

“This project is needed in Minnesota. We’ve operated in Minnesota for almost 70 years. Line 3 is an important part of our system we supply about 80 percent of the Twin Cities refineries, 100 percent in Wisconsin and 70 percent around the Great Lakes,” Enbridge Energy’s Lorraine Little said. “Line 3 currently operates at half its capacity, so replacing Line 3 is really going to help meet the demand for crude oil.”

This is the first of four scheduled hearings about Line 3 in front of the Public Utilities Commission. A decision on whether the pipeline permit is approved or denied should come sometime next week.

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