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Guest Commentary: Enbridge keeps an open mind, open ear to the people it serves

Two meetings called "Democracy in Action" were held last week for the public to discuss the Sandpiper Pipeline Project. Enbridge, the project sponsor, was not invited to participate in the meeting.

The collection of citizens responsible for the "Democracy in Action" sessions is not representative of the majority of landowners with which Enbridge has amicably engaged and developed relationships with for more than 60 years. However we respect their concerns and, as such, the Enbridge Sandpiper project team has met with and listened to Carlton County officials, representatives of the Carlton County Land Stewards, landowners, and other area residents to better understand their perspective on the Sandpiper Pipeline Project. The principal concern of these groups and individuals is the potential impacts of routing the Sandpiper pipeline across eastern Carlton County and organic farms in that area.

As a result of these discussions, Enbridge has identified a new route east of I-35 in Carlton County - one that parallels an existing electrical transmission line and does not cross organic farms presently enrolled in production programs. The Carlton County Board voted to approve this route through the eastern portion of the County on November 12, 2013. However, the approval vote occurred four days after Enbridge filed its Sandpiper Application with the Minnesota Public Utility Commission ("MN-PUC") on November 8, 2013. Attached for your convenience is the news release issued by the Carlton County Board, detailing the cooperative effort undertaken by all parties to reach an amicable solution for the new preferred route in Carlton County.

Therefore, Enbridge is currently drafting its supplement in order to update its filed MN-PUC materials, thereby capturing the new Carlton County route as its new preferred route. This supplemental filing will be filed with the MN-PUC shortly after the Sandpiper Application is deemed complete, likely in mid-January 2014.

Enbridge has more than 700 employees in the Twin Ports area. Many of these employees have family employed by or attending the University of Minnesota-Duluth, many more are members of the Whole Foods Coop and, most, if not all of us have eaten at Duluth area restaurants that serve food grown by the Carlton County farmers. Several of these employees first learned about the meetings by an email broadly distributed by university faculty. Some of these same employees expressed disappointment with certain inaccuracies presented as facts and that these meetings would not have representation from the company responsible for the project in question.

Thus, we would like to clarify a few facts about the Sandpiper Pipeline Project:

The Sandpiper Pipeline Project will carry U.S. domestic crude oil production coming from the Bakken and Three Forks Formation in western North Dakota and eastern Montana. The Project originates in the heart of the Bakken region in North Dakota. The increase in capacity that takes place in Clearbrook, Minn. will come from Enbridge's Line 81 - an existing pipeline that currently brings North Dakota crude oil to Clearbrook, Minn.

Sandpiper will be located on existing utility right-of-way for more than 75 percent of the route. In North Dakota, it will closely follow Line 81 to the extent practicable or other existing utility corridors. In Minnesota, it will follow Line 81 to Clearbrook, then will follow the existing MinnCan pipeline to a point just south of Park Rapids, Minn., where the route will turn east, following existing electric transmission lines most of the way to Superior, Wis. It is important to note that even before the Carlton County reroute east of I-35 was proposed, most of the route through Carlton County was and continues to be on existing utility right-of-way. Casting the route as "entirely new 610 mile pipeline corridor," as has been reported, is inaccurate.

Enbridge is an energy transportation company - a 'UPS' of oil and natural gas. We transport crude petroleum to US and Canadian refineries where North American employees refine the product for fuel or further process it to produce numerous products we all use every day. The oil in our pipelines offsets oil shipped in from other countries that often are unstable or unfriendly to US interests.

It is important to note that Enbridge has safely and efficiently transported oil through this region since 1949. In fact, 15 percent of the petroleum imported by the United States travels through our pipelines and Enbridge meets nearly 80 percent of the refining demand in Minnesota. The gas in your car likely arrived in Minnesota as petroleum crude from one of our pipelines. Enbridge's priority is safety in all aspects of our business, from the planning phase of a project through operation and maintenance of the pipelines. Enbridge's goal is to have zero incidents, and we maintain the highest safety standards and best practices to ensure the continued safe operation of our pipelines and facilities.

Enbridge will continue listening to the issues and concerns raised by the community. If you have questions or concerns, please call our Project toll-free number at 1-855-788-7805.

Little is senior manager of Public Affairs for Enbridge