Trades praise PUC decision to move pipeline project forward

Members of the Laborers International Union of America praised Friday’s decision by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to move ahead on the Sandpiper pipeline project.

At its meeting, the commission adopted an Administrative Law Judge’s recommendation and voted unanimously to grant a certificate of need for the project. The ruling, while not the final step in the process, is a milestone and significant step in the right direction for those that favor the project.

The Sandpiper pipeline is proposed by Enbridge, Inc., a Canadian firm headquartered in Calgary, Alberta. At a cost of more than $2.6 billion, it would run through North Dakota and northern Minnesota, and deliver Bakken oil from North Dakota to terminals in Clearbrook, Minn., and Superior, Wisconsin. It could create an estimated 3,000 high paying jobs while helping to keep fuel prices down and lessening the economic, environmental, and public safety risks of shipping oil through the state by rail, proponents said.

“We are very pleased by this decision and we are excited to move this project forward,” said LIUNA International Representative Dan Olson. “We appreciate the Public Utilities Commission’s effort to thoroughly examine the issues. They ruled on the facts presented to them and made the best decision for Minnesota.”

“I am looking forward to getting to work on Sandpiper,” said LIUNA Local 563 member Matt Duncombe, a pipeliner who lives in East Grand Forks not far from the proposed pipeline route. “This project means hundreds of new work opportunities in the pipeline industry for Minnesotans and North Dakotans. And for me, it’s a chance to work close to my home and see my wife and kids more often.”

Both Olson and Duncombe testified in the proceedings.

“A pipeline project of this size is beneficial to our state in a number of ways,” said Olson. “It creates jobs, it provides a safer form of transportation for oil and it will boost our economy. We are ready to get to work.”

The next step for Sandpiper will be the routing process, which will pinpoint the exact location of the pipeline.

Earlier, Operating Engineers Local 49 issued a statement in support of the project.

"Northern Minnesota needs the thousands of family sustaining construction jobs; local governments need the tax revenue; local businesses need the economic boost; and we all need to get more oil off of our rail system and safely into pipelines,” said Jason George, Local 49 Special Projects Director.