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Sandpiper seems to be stuck in sand

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The proposed Sandpiper pipeline is designed to carry oil through northern Minnesota. Several groups have opposed the project over concerns about impacts on the region’s groundwater, lakes and rivers.

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For sure, the Sandpiper situation has become muddied.

And the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission last week didn’t make the situation any clearer when it approved moving forward with both the original route for the pipeline in Minnesota, as well as an alternative route.

Enbridge’s proposed route runs from northwest North Dakota into Minnesota, where it would run to the terminal in Clearbrook, where it would then travel south to the Park Rapids area before moving east toward Superior, Wis. Several groups oppose this route, worried about the impact on the region’s environment. The alternate route would have the pipeline traveling quite a distance south soon after crossing into Minnesota before heading east, therefore bypassing the lakes region but it also bypasses the Clearbrook terminal, which is essential to the project, Enbridge says.

The PUC at last week’s meeting also agreed that 53 changes to the original route should be studied, as well. The next phase will be both feasibility and environmental studies on all the proposed routes and potential modifications. For sure, there won’t be a decision this year, but Enbridge hoped to have the pipeline in operation by 2016, a timeline that now may not occur.

It’s a complex issue, with supporters and detractors alike. There’s are issues of economic development, jobs and less dependence on train cars to move oil, as well as moving away from foreign oil supplies, but, on the other side, you have huge land use and environmental impact worries.

And do you have to be on one side or the other, a hard line drawn in the sand, or in this case, mud? Maybe not. Like many issues, there are merits on both sides of the argument. In the end, there will have to be a compromise. It may take some time, but, that’s OK. Coming up with a solution that serves everyone’s best interests, not just “a side” is what needs to happen.

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