Pipeline application ruled incomplete
The jury is still out on the North Dakota Pipeline Company’s (NDPC, also known as Enbridge) application for a certificate of need to build its proposed Sandpiper Pipeline across northern Minnesota. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) met on Jan. 16 to decide on whether the NDPC’s certificate of need and route permit applications were complete.
“The Commission found the routing application to be complete,” confirmed Bret Eknes, manager of facilities permitting for the PUC. “However, with respect to the certificate of need, the Commission determined that additional information was necessary before the application could be considered complete and be referred to the Office of Administrative Hearings for a contested case procedure.”
According to the official docket filed on the hearing, the Department of Commerce requires the following information before the certificate of need can be deemed complete:
- Information clarifying the maximum proposed volumes that NDPC intends to ship with this project;
- Information clarifying how NDPC intends to operate the pipeline in the future, including a more detailed explanation of how NDPC’s pipeline system would operate on completion of the proposed project;
- Information about all conservation programs initiated, or funded, in Minnesota, including planned future conservation programs and expected timelines;
- Information concerning emergency response capabilities, specifically a list of each manned area office and a map that illustrates which sections of the proposed project each area office is responsible for, including identification of any new emergency response resources proposed for the project;
- Information concerning NDPC’s oil release records as they compare to other long haul pipeline operators, e.g., TransCanada;
- The dates and durations of the contracts with the 25 largest suppliers or shippers over the past five calendar years;
- The expected dates and duration of the contracts with the 25 largest recipients of the product associated with the proposed project;
- Information concerning state regulatory authority related to the operation of the alternatives discussed in the certificate of need application; and
- Information clarifying whether light sweet crude can be refined by equipment initially designed to refine heavy crude and, if so, what impact the proposed project would have on refinery economics in the Midwest.
Dan Wolf, assistant executive secretary of the PUC, stated after the application is considered complete, it will then be moved on to the Office of Administrative hearings, which will in turn schedule a series of public hearings as well as a trial-like evidentiary hearing, where parties to the proceedings present more formalized information through their legal counsels before an administrative law judge.
Wolf added that Kennecott Exploration, a mineral exploration company with holdings in Aitkin and Carlton counties, has qualified as a “party to the proceedings” and will participate in the more formalized phase of the process. Kennecott earlier challenged certain aspects of the NDPC’s environmental impact in areas owned or leased by the mining company, questioned the pipeline’s proposed routing through land under exploration for mineral deposits and challenged the right to compensation for prospective assets.
Eknes indicated that the NDPC and Kennecott had, and are intending to have, discussions on the matters in question.
“The Commission’s review process examines the impacts of the pipeline on the area that it traverses,” he clarified. “The Commission can require some mitigation efforts on those impacts, but it does not have the authority to determine any level of compensation with respect to those impacts. That is determined either in discussions between the applicant and landowner or in court-administered proceedings.”
Wolf said the typical time frame for the entire examination process is usually around 12 months, adding, “There’s still lots of information to be gathered before the entire record can be taken under advisement.”
He said the clock has not yet started on that time period, however, with the current certificate need application yet to be finalized.