Senators Call for Answers on Enbridge Great Lakes Pipeline Expansions

ehouse, Boxer, Merkley, and Schatz raise questions about approval process for Enbridge’s Line 3 and Alberta Clipper tar sands expansion projects


Washington, DC – In a letter sent to Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday, eleven Senators raised questions about the approval process for two controversial tar sands pipeline expansion projects in the Great Lakes region: Line 3 and Line 67, known as Alberta Clipper.

The Senators’ letter questioned the reasoning behind State’s decision not to subject the Line 3 project to the Presidential Permit process that similar projects, including Keystone XL, have been required to go through. They also addressed a number of concerns about State’s approval process for this project, including whether the agency adequately considered the possible safety and environmental impacts along the route and to the climate and whether they gave members of the public and Tribal nations adequate opportunity for comment.

Their letter also questioned why the Alberta Clipper expansion project has been allowed to “effectively [bypass] the State Department’s permitting process,” and for how long it will be allowed to do so. Conservation and tribal groups are currently awaiting a ruling from federal court on the legality of Enbridge and State’s sidestepping of the legally required review process for this project.

The expansion of Line 3 and Alberta Clipper without adequate environmental review, and the inconsistencies in the State Department’s process for evaluating such projects, is a scandal that has largely flown under the radar for national officials until now. The Senators’ letter is a critical step towards shedding light on these projects and the threat they pose to the Great Lakes region.

The full text of the letter sent to Secretary Kerry can be read below.

October 23, 2015

The Honorable John Kerry

Secretary of State

United States Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Kerry:

We write to inquire about the details of State Department’s review process during its consideration of Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 pipeline expansion project.

Enbridge Energy is seeking to increase oil deliveries from extraction projects in Alberta, Canada to Midwestern refineries by expanding its pipeline network, including through the replacement of the cross-border section of the Line 3 pipeline. The existing Line 3 was approved and constructed in the 1960s and has deteriorated. The proposal to replace the line will significantly increase the volume of oil transported.

We have heard concerns that the State Department may not have performed an adequate environmental and historic preservation analysis prior to approving this project. We would like to better understand the steps that the Department took. Under Executive Order 11423, pipelines which cross the Canadian-U.S border require a Presidential permit, and the State Department has the authority to issue the permit. We understand that the State Department did not deem an updated or modified Presidential permit necessary in this situation. Why is this the case?

We would like to understand whether and how safety and environmental impacts from potential spills were considered as part of the approval process. Furthermore, we would like to know whether the climate impacts of this project were considered. The Department of Energy estimates that carbon emissions from oil derived from Canadian tar sands is 17 percent higher on a lifecycle basis than traditional U.S. crude. As part of the review for issuance of a Presidential permit on a different project, President Obama stated that he would not approve the pipeline unless it did not “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” Was this metric applied to the Line 3 replacement? Finally, was there an opportunity for members of the public and Tribal nations to present their views? If such views were not considered, can you please provide information as to why not?

In addition to the Line 3 expansion, Enbridge Energy has also applied for a Presidential Permit to expand the capacity of the Alberta Clipper line (Line 67). Though the permit for expanded capacity on Line 67 is currently under review at the State Department, it is our understanding that Enbridge intends to route additional product from Line 67 to Line 3 to cross the border, and then back to Line 67, effectively bypassing the State Department’s permitting process. Are there limitations on the length of time or volume of product that this diversion can be used for while the State Department reviews the cross-border pipeline permit for Line 67?

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Al Franken

United States Senator

Richard J. Durbin

United States Senator

Debbie Stabenow

United States Senator

Gary C. Peters

United States Senator

Tammy Baldwin

United States Senator

Sheldon Whitehouse

United States Senator

Elizabeth Warren

United States Senator

Barbara Boxer

United States Senator

Jeffrey A. Merkley

United States Senator

Brian Schatz

United States Senator

Bernie Sanders

United States Senator


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