The Pros and Cons For Expanding Oil Pipelines

TL;DR (2-minute read)

  • Line 3 is a pipeline built and operated by Enbridge Inc. to transport crude oil. 
  • Over the years, the original Line 3 has corroded, leaving it structurally unsound; as a result, Enbridge proposed a replacement for Line 3 in 2014.
  • Native American and climate justice groups are protesting the replacement of Line 3 primarily over worries of oil spills and climate change.
  • Supporters of the new pipeline argue that it would provide the safest transportation option of highly demanded crude oil.

What is Line 3?

Enbridge Inc. is a pipeline company that transports crude oil and gas. In the 1960s, the company built a 1,097-mile pipeline from Edmonton, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin. This pipeline is called Line 3. Over the years, the original Line 3 has corroded and deteriorated, resulting in over 900 “structural integrity anomalies.” As a result, Enbridge proposed that Line 3 be replaced by another, longer pipeline in 2014. Currently, construction of the new Line 3 is completed everywhere (Canada, North Dakota, and Wisconsin) except Minnesota.

Original and New Routes for Line 3 (Minnesota Public Utilities Commission)


Multiple Native American communities and climate justice activists have resisted the new pipeline’s construction in Minnesota. Many fear the possibility of an oil spill, which would threaten nearby bodies of water that the pipeline crosses over (such as the Mississippi River). In fact, the original Line 3 was the source of millions of gallons of oil spills, including the 1991 oil in Grand Rapids, Minnesota — the worst inland oil spill in United States history. 

Moreover, according to the site “Stop Line 3,” opponents argue that the new Line 3 “would contribute more to climate change than Minnesota’s entire economy.” The construction and operation of the new pipeline would solidify the use of more carbon-intensive oil for decades to come. An environmental review predicts that the “societal costs of climate change that might result from Line 3 could reach $287 billion over the next 30 years.”

Furthermore, Minnesota’s Department of Commerce also explains that their local market does not need more Line 3 oil. 

Sarah LittleRedfeather of a local Native American tribe does a ceremonial dance to protest with Minnesotans against the expansion of the Line 3 pipeline (Getty Images)


Enbridge writes that the rationale for replacing Line 3 is driven by safety and maintenance. The company also claims that the project would provide nearly 8,600 jobs over a two-year period, a $2 billion boost to the Minnesota economy, and increased property tax revenue in each county the route passes through. 

Supporters also point out that societal demand for oil is great, and that Line 3 would provide the safest option of transporting such oil. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission also found that even if Line 3 is not built, demand for Canadian oil would not be significantly reduced. In other words, crude oil would continue to be demanded and shipped “via more dangerous means such as rail” if Line 3 is not built.


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