St. Paul public hearing on proposed Sandpiper Oil Pipeline stirs controversy

Regulators are considering a new, controversial pipeline that would pump millions of barrels of oil through Minnesota.

But as evidenced by the only public hearing about the proposal that will take place in the Twin Cities, safety and protecting the environment continue to be concerns.

In a packed ballroom at the St. Paul RiverCentre today, a debate raged about the costs and benefits of the proposed pipeline.

The Sandpiper Oil Pipeline would increase the amount of oil flowing across Minnesota by nearly a quarter of a million barrels a day.

The owner is a Canadian energy company, Enbridge. Officials representing the company say this 600 mile pipeline that begins in western North Dakota and ends in Superior, Wisconsin is the cheapest and shortest way to the refineries, and those savings would be passed on to consumers.

But for activists, safety and the environment are concerns because the pipeline cuts through precious wetlands and lakes in northern Minnesota, with the oil being extracted through a fracking process in North Dakota's Bakken oil field.

Enbridge has a decent safety record, but its last major oil spill four years ago in Michigan is still considered one of the costliest in U.S. history.

An administrative law judge will consider all public comments and  make a recommendation to regulators after determining if the pipeline is really in the public's best interest.

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