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Commerce Department: Proposed Enbridge Pipeline 'Unnecessary'

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- For the past three years, Enbridge Energy has been seeking state approval for its Line Three replacement oil pipeline.

It is a 36-inch underground pipeline bringing Alberta tar sands crude oil to a terminal in Superior, Wisconsin.

But winning approval for the 340-mile Minnesota portion just took a bit of a hit.

On Monday, environmental advocates won a small victory when they learned that Minnesota's Commerce Department issued an analysis of the proposed pipeline.

The report specifically faulted the project, noting that Enbridge did not "provide a sufficient analysis of future demand."

Steve Morse, the executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, a St. Paul-based advocacy group, says he was surprised by the department's decision.

"This may be a turning point where we finally realize that there is not an ever ongoing, continuing increasing demand for fossil fuels," he said Tuesday.

The project has packed public utilities commission hearings and public streets, where opponents have held numerous protests.

Native American tribes and many northern Minnesota residents fear what a leak could mean the region's water resources.

Enbridge faults the Commerce Department analysis, calling it just one view.

The company says the pipeline will be safe, built with "the most advanced materials, most up-to-date technology and under superior construction methods."

Labor groups are embracing the project due to the many construction jobs it will provide.

In fact, construction is already underway in those areas where permits have already been granted, in Canada and a small 12-mile portion leading into Superior, Wisconsin.

For Enbridge, taking a $7 billion gamble for the badly needed Minnesota permit is still months away.

"We have a very large international corporation here that made a bet," Morse said.

The question remains: Will that bet pay off?

There's still a long way to go with rebuttal testimony and hearings coming up later this fall.

All that information will then be gathered and delivered to the Public Utilities Commission, which will rule on the certificate of need and construction permit next April.

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