Energy briefed on controversial pipeline, other utilities issues

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Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls) wants lawmakers and regulators to take a deeper look at environmental and regulatory issues related to oil pipelines that cross the state.

Hornstein’s comments came during an overview of utilities issues delivered by officials from the Public Utilities Commission to the House Energy Policy Committee. The outline touched on a controversial proposal to expand the capacity of an oil pipeline that transports up to 450,000 barrels of crude oil per day through northern Minnesota, from tar sands in Alberta, Canada to a terminal in Superior, Wis.

Environmental groups have urged the utilities commission to deny Canadian pipeline company Enbridge permission to increase capacity of the line, known as Line 67, through Minnesota to 570,000 barrels per day. The plan calls for an eventual capacity of up to 800,000 barrels per day.

The role of the commission — which regulates transmission of electricity, natural gas and telephone services — in further regulation of future pipelines that travel through the state, but don’t serve it, “are not crystal clear,” said Burl Haar, executive secretary for the commission.

Hornstein urged the committee and commission to take a look at the issue.

“Right now, there’s kind of a loophole,” he said.

More than a dozen members of OccupyMN attended the meeting, some holding signs in protest of the pipeline plan. That led a rankled Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) to ask “why the (heck)” the group would protest something neither the energy committee nor House would vote on.

Haar and Commission Chair Beverly Jones Heydinger also laid out a number of issues facing the commission and lawmakers, including regional energy transmission planning; how to move electricity and natural gas most efficiently across the state; and the cybersecurity of Minnesota’s utilities.

“Each of these issues has significant cost implications,” Heydinger said.