NEB approves Enbridge Line 3 pipeline replacement
Conditions include consultation with First Nations
The National Energy Board will allow Enbridge to replace an aging pipeline across the Prairie provinces as long as the company meets 89 conditions.
The federal government must now make a decision on the project.
Enbridge wants to spend $7.5 billion to replace its Line 3 pipeline, which stretches 1,660 kilometres from Hardisty, Alta., to Superior, Wis.
It will be upgraded to modern technology. Anybody that is concerned about pipeline leaks ought to be screaming for this thing to happen.- Dirk Lever, energy analyst
The pipeline is currently operating at about half capacity after the company voluntarily reduced pressure because of reliability concerns.
"The Enbridge Line 3 project is in the Canadian public interest and is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects," said Robert Steedman, the NEB's chief environmental officer.
As part of the NEB's decision, Enbridge must develop a plan for Aboriginal groups to participate in monitoring construction.
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Several groups oppose the pipeline project, including First Nations and environmental groups in Manitoba and Minnesota. The company has already delayed its expected completion date from 2017 to 2019 because of the regulatory process in Minnesota.
Enbridge welcomed the NEB decision.
"Enbridge continues to work hard to help ensure communities along the right-of-way realize economic benefits that will come with the construction of the project, including Indigenous business opportunities, employment and training programs in all three Prairie provinces," said spokesman Todd Nogier in a statement.
The project will be subject to the federal government's new environmental assessment process, which was announced in January.
The upgrade would allow the line to pump a maximum of 760,000 barrels per day, up from the 390,000 barrels it is currently able to move.
"It will be upgraded to modern technology," said Dirk Lever, an energy analyst with Altacorp Capital. "Anybody that is concerned about pipeline leaks ought to be screaming for this thing to happen."
Line 3 already has presidential approval, but the replacement project must undergo separate permitting processes in the U.S. before construction can begin.
The project involves replacing an existing 86-centimetre diameter pipe with a 91-centimetre pipe.
The Line 3 replacement would increase pipeline capacity from Alberta by 370,000 barrels per day, which represents more than half of Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway project and about a third of TransCanada's proposed Energy East project.
Enbridge will have to submit a further proposal about how it would decommission the existing pipeline and whether that will include removing the pipe or leaving it in the ground.