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Minnesota communities disappointed after pipeline delays

Mikey Totleben, Hallock city councilman and owner of the Gateway Motel and Museum, is disappointed in the delay of the Enbridge line 3 oil pipeline and was counting on the economic impact to Hallock from the project. Eric Hylden / Forum News Service1 / 2
Mikey Totleben, Hallock city councilman and owner of the Gateway Motel and Museum, is a strong supporter of the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline and is disappointed with the delay of the project. Eric Hylden / Forum News Service2 / 2

HALLOCK, Minn. — The Gateway Motel and Museum in Hallock has 10 rooms. During pipeline construction, each room is filled and the workers are outside on the patio between the motel and museum grilling food bought from the grocery store, talking with locals or drinking a beer at the bar down the block.

Mikey Totleben is the owner of the motel. He said he caters to construction workers and was depending on the work on the pipeline coming through town this summer.

Totleben, who also is a Hallock city councilman, said he’s feeling a little let down that construction on the pipeline has been delayed.

Enbridge announced earlier this month that construction of its Line 3 oil pipeline will be delayed until the second half of next year, leaving local communities like Hallock disappointed.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced last month he would appeal the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s approval of the pipeline. The Minnesota PUC granted a Certificate of Need and approved the Enbridge Pipeline 3 route in June 2018.

“When it comes to any project that impacts our environment and our economy, we must follow the process, the law and the science,” Walz said in a release in February.

Former Gov. Mark Dayton appealed the Minnesota PUC approval of the pipeline project and Walz decided to continue with that process. The pipeline will supply crude oil to Enbridge’s Superior Terminal in Wisconsin.

Enbridge says it needs to replace the pipeline, which was originally built in the 1960s, because it is prone to cracking.

“I’m feeling let down,” Totleben said. “But I’m not going to blame the governor. Maybe he needed another year to make sure everybody was happy.”

Hallock Mayor Dave Treumer said he is a little disappointed in the governor.

“I see no need to delay this,” Treumer said. “It’s not like the Eagles Club in town will cease to exist, but I’m just disappointed. It’s a good opportunity, and I don’t like to lose those.”

Both Totleben and Treumer said pipeline construction is good for the town. The pipeline replacement would bring almost $2 billion to Minnesota, according to Enbridge. It would add 8,600 jobs over two years, with 76 percent of those jobs being local.

Thief River Falls Mayor Brian Holmer also said he and his constituents are concerned about the delays.

“We want it to get done. We were expecting it to go through,” Holmer said.

Holmer said pipeline construction is “a boon” for towns all along the line. He also said counties are losing out on property taxes with the delays.

“We’re disappointed they can’t get permits done in a timely fashion and wondering what the delay is,” Holmer said.

He said Thief River Falls was looking forward to the boost to the local economy.

On March 1, Enbridge received a “firm schedule” from the Walz administration providing a specific timeline for remaining state permits needed to begin construction, according to Juli Kellner, spokeswoman for Enbridge. The permits are expected to be finished by this November.

Enbridge anticipates remaining federal permits will be finished 30 to 60 days after that date.

“Based on this permitting scenario, we now expect an in-service date in the second half of 2020,” Kellner said. “We are pleased to have a firm schedule from the state.”

Enbridge still has to get an order to construct permit from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and several permits from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

“We support a robust and transparent permitting process that includes opportunity for input from the public and we will continue to work closely with state officials during this process,” Kellner said.

Totleben said he thinks Enbridge is good to its employees and the towns the pipelines run through. He attends all the safety meetings and public forums that Enbridge holds in town to learn about the pipeline.

“I like them, not just because I can make money off of it but it is good on all levels. I think pipeline is the future,” Totleben said.