ST. PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Mark Dayton said Monday more oil pipelines are part of the solution to a rail backlog that has clogged agricultural shipments across Minnesota — even as state regulators have kept one major project in limbo.
Heavy rail traffic originating from North Dakota’s oil fields has long been blamed for the shipping delays that have affected farmers and coal and propane suppliers throughout the Midwest.
“There’s no single answer to this problem,” Dayton said after meeting with railroad officials, cabinet members and politicians. “Pipelines are going to be one of those answers.”
Dayton said railroads have also committed to continue adding capacity and making improvements across their networks. Earlier this year, the state added inspectors and boosted training efforts last spring to address safety concerns.
But for pipelines that could move hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude daily, companies are waiting for federal and state approval to start construction — including in Minnesota.
State regulators are still reviewing the $2.6 billion Sandpiper pipeline, which would carry nearly 400,000 barrels of crude across Minnesota from North Dakota to Superior, Wisconsin. North Dakota officials signed off on the Canadian-based Enbridge Energy Partners LP project earlier this year, but Enbridge said that permitting delays in Minnesota would kick back the pipeline’s start date until at least 2017.
Dayton defended the state’s regulatory review of the project. Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission recently requested environmental reviews of six alternate routes.
“The pipelines are going to be there for 50 to 100 years. It’s important to do it right,” Dayton said.
Enbridge spokeswoman Lorraine Little said the company agrees that pipelines are part of the solution, and said it will continue working through the state’s regulatory process.
On the federal level, three Minnesota Democrats — Reps. Collin Peterson, Tim Walz and Rick Nolan — joined a Republican majority last week to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which could move up to 100,000 barrels of Bakken crude. The U.S. Senate was expected to take up the bill this week, but the president’s signature remained in doubt.