The Sandpiper: A Need, or a Threat?
by Carol Mockovak and Carol Masters, Becketwood Members
In early January, Representatives of Becketwood’s Environment Committee attended the first of five Public Utilities Commission (PUC) hearings on the Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline proposal.
Enbridge, a Canadian corporation, wants to build a new pipeline, to be called the Sandpiper, across Northern Minnesota, which would run from the North Dakota border to Superior, Wisconsin. Before the pipeline can be built, the PUC must grant the company a Certificate of Need.
At the hearing, speakers for and against the pipeline alternated in presenting their opinions. Many of the proponents for the pipeline talked about jobs. Opponents focused on climate change and the potential for spills. We encourage you to submit your own comments this week to the PUC by internet or by U.S. mail ( see end of articles for addresses).
From Carol Mockovak:
As members of the Environment Committee, we stood with the people concerned about the well being of the earth. We particularly resonated with Kathy Hollander, from MN350, who said, “We are the first generation to really feel the impact of climate change and we are the last generation to be able to mitigate the worst effects of this.”
At the hearing, Honor the Earth handed out a fact sheet that clearly spelled out the risks involved in such a pipeline. The following information is taken from that fact sheet:
The Sandpiper would carry highly volatile Bakken Crude oil through some of the most delicate soils, aquifers, and lakes in northern Minnesota, including the watersheds of Rice Lake and the Mississippi Headwaters.
The risk to these precious waters is the high potential for spills. The company has had 800 spills in the last 15 years. The largest being 1.2 million gallons on the Kalamazoo River in 2010. A full rupture of the proposed Sandpiper would release more than 20,000 gallons of oil per minute.
Property rights is another significant issue. Enbridge is asking for the power of eminent domain, which would allow them to take property to build the pipeline without owner consent. The company is currently suing a North Dakota farmer for his land.
Although we did not speak ourselves at the hearing, we are submitting written comments to the PUC.
From Carol Masters:
In late September my husband Ken and I took an excursion (city bus #74) to one of our favorite natural areas, the Bruce Vento regional park, a prairie restoration in the Mississippi River corridor just east of St. Paul’s downtown. As we rested on sandstone blocks, we overlooked a vast sweep of grasses and wildflowers but also the rail lines along the river. We watched as a long black train of oil cars, like a seemingly endless line of hearses passed, and passed.
That image came to me as we attended the Sandpiper hearing on January 5. I was sympathetic to those pro-pipeline speakers who cited the economic damage (to farmers and others) and potential environmental damage that the oil trains represent. But it is clear to me that building new pipelines will not stop the oil trains. As long as there's demand, producers will find a way to bring that oil to market. Those environmentalists who spoke against the pipeline went deeper, giving moving, convincing testimony about global climate change and its effects on, especially, young people now and in the future.
I was especially moved by the short talk by Patty O’Keefe, who stated that continued “extraction in this time of global crisis is insane. Climate change is happening now, and will grow exponentially worse.” She spoke of a psychological disorder identified recently, “climate depression,” that scientists and others experience, including herself. When it is especially critical that the youth of our nation act and advocate for the earth, we elders need to support them to the best of our ability. The situation requires an unprecedented response.
We encourage you to submit your own comments to the Public Utilities Commission by internet or by U.S. mail. Comments must be received by 4:30 p.m. on January 23.
To submit your comments online, click here.
Or you may send written comments by U.S. mail to:MN Public Utilities Commission,
121 7th Place East, Suite 350, St. Paul, MN 55101 *Include docket (13-473)