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Observer Corps Report - 10/17/2019 Dakota County Board Public Hearing Regarding Wescott LPG Pipeline

Observer Corps reports are submitted by LWV Dakota County members that volunteer their time to observe and take notes at government meetings of interest to Dakota County residents. While we strive for accuracy, these observations may be incomplete or inaccurate in some respects.

Route map Meeting Summary: In March 2019 Flint Hills Resources (FHR) notified the Dakota County Board of Commissioners and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) of its intent to construct a liquified petroleum gas (LPG) pipeline that would traverse approximately five miles between the Wescott Gas Terminal in Inver Grove Heights and the Pine Bend Refinery in Rosemount. FHR compiled an “information book” that describes the project, any land that needs to be acquired, and the legal requirements that must be followed. The PUC approved the information book September 5. The Dakota County Board held a public hearing regarding the project on October 17 in Inver Grove Heights.

Five of seven Dakota County Commissioners attended the meeting. Commissioners Egan and Atkins were absent. The meeting was well attended with approximately 25 people present aside from the Commissioners, but many of those in attendance appeared to be employees of FHR or another entity that is directly involved in the project. The meeting began with a presentation by Jake Reint, Managing Director of Public Affairs for FHR. The presentation contained much of the same information that was considered at the September 24 Board meeting. Commissioner Workman asked about the expected construction timeline and Mr. Reint stated that construction is expected to take place over the winter. Aside from that, none of the Commissioners asked any questions. Commissioners Workman and Holberg were attentive throughout the presentation while the other Commissioners spent much of the time using their smartphones.

Two members of the community asked questions of Mr. Reint. When asked whether the entire pipeline will be buried, including the portion on FHR property, Mr. Reint stated that the entire pipeline will be buried to a depth of approximately 54 inches. When asked why the pipeline is needed, Mr. Reint explained that FHR purchased the Wescott terminal from Xcel Energy but not the LPG pipeline that currently leads to the facility. FHR has leased the facility from Excel Energy for several years so despite the change in ownership, it isn’t clear what has changed that necessitates building a new pipeline. Mr. Reint stated that FHR is prohibited by state law from negotiating easements with landowners until 30 days after the public hearing, but no problems are anticipated securing the necessary easements. The permanent easements will be a maximum of 50 feet wide. Mr. Reint noted that FHR will need to obtain a construction stormwater permit from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the MPCA will oversee site restoration after construction is completed.

When asked what will happen if the pipeline is breached or ruptures, Mr. Reint explained that the pipeline will be monitored remotely 24/7 and there are mechanisms to stop additional LPG from being pumped into the pipeline if problems arise. He stated that LPG is lighter than air so any LPG that is emitted would escape into the atmosphere (that is not true, LPG is much heavier than air). A member of the public commented that if the Wescott Terminal were to explode, the impact would be similar to that of a nuclear bomb. The same commenter remarked that he is opposed to any project that perpetuates the use of fossil fuels. Mr. Reint was also asked whether there are any plans on how the pipeline will be decommissioned once it reaches the end of its useful life. Mr. Reint said there are no plans in place regarding decommissioning of the pipeline.

Larry Hartman from the Minnesota Department of Commerce's Energy Environmental Review and Analysis unit also spoke at length regarding the regulation of pipelines by the state and federal government. He was responsible for reviewing FHR’s proposed information book and making recommendations to the PUC regarding its approval. Mr. Hartman was asked why Dakota County Commissioners held a public hearing seven months after being notified of the project rather than within 60 days as required by Minn. Stat. § 216G.05. He explained that due to an error the notice essentially sat on someone’s desk for two months, then there was a backlog at the PUC, and the Dakota County Commissioners waited until after the information book was approved by the PUC to announce a public hearing. The meeting lasted approximately one hour.


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