Minnesota court affirms approval of Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline

The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday affirmed state regulators’ key approvals of Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project, in a dispute that drew over 1,000 protesters to northern Minnesota last week.

A three-judge panel ruled 2-1 that the state’s independent Public Utilities Commission correctly granted Enbridge the certificate of need route permit that the Calgary-based company needed to begin construction on the 542-kilometre Minnesota segment of a larger project to replace a 1960s-era crude oil pipeline that has been deteriorating can run at only half capacity.

Pipeline opponents can appeal the decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court. They planned to comment in detail later Monday but immediately urged U.S. President Joe Biden to intervene.

Indigenous climate change groups, plus the state Department of Commerce, had asked the appeals court to reject the approvals. They argued, among other things, that Enbridge’s oil demprojections failed to meet the legal requirements. Enbridge the PUC said the projections complied with the rules.

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“With an existing, deteriorating pipeline carrying crude oil through Minnesota, there was no option without environmental consequences,” wrote Judge Lucinda Jesson, joined by Judge Michael Kirk. “The challenge: to balance those harms. There was no option without impacts on the rights of Indigenous peoples. The challenge: to alleviate those harms to the extent possible. And there was no crystal ball to forecast demfor crude oil in this ever-changing environment.”

But Judge Peter Reyes dissented, agreeing with opponents that the oil demforecast was flawed. He said the project benefits Canadian oil producers but would have negative consequences for the hunting, fishing other rights of the Red Lake White Earth tribes provide no benefit to the state.

“Such a decision cannot stand. Enbridge needs Minnesota for its new pipeline,” Reyes wrote. “But Enbridge has not shown that Minnesota needs the pipeline.”

Enbridge said in a statement that the decision is confirmation that the commission thoroughly reviewed the project gave the appropriate approvals.

“Line 3 has passed every test through six years of regulatory permitting review including 70 public comment meetings, appellate review reaffirmation of a 13,500-page (environmental impact statement), four separate reviews by administrative law judges, 320 route modifications in response to stakeholder input, multiple reviews approvals by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for the project’s certificate of need route permit.”

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At least 1,000 activists from across the country gathered at construction sites near the headwaters of the Mississippi River early last week. They called on Biden to cancel the project, as he did with the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office. Nearly 250 people were arrested, in addition to more than 250 arrests since construction began in December. A smaller group marched Thursday to the Minneapolis office of Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

The Line 3 replacement would carry oilsands oil regular crude from Alberta to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wis. The project is nearly done except for the Minnesota leg, which is about 60 per cent complete.

Opponents of the more than USD$7-billion project say the heavy oil would accelerate climate change risk spills in sensitive areas where Indigenous people harvest wild rice, hunt, fish, gather medicinal plants claim treaty rights.

READ MORE: Protesters maintain blockade at Line 3 site in Minnesota 

Enbridge says the replacement Line 3 will be made of stronger steel will better protect the environment while restoring its capacity to carry oil ensure reliable deliveries to U.S. refineries. It underwent a rigorous environmental permitting process. The old line currently runs at about half its capacity because it’s increasingly subject to corrosion cracking.

Activists are vowing to keep up a summer of resistance against the project amid the escalating battle over energy projects rising awareness that racial minorities suffer disproportionate harm from environmental damage. And they’re drawing parallels with the fight over the Dakota Access pipeline, which was the subject of major protests near the Standing Rock Reservation in the Dakotas in 2016 2017.

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READ MORE: June a critical month for Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline

“Minnesota does not need this conflict. Minnesota has already had enough police problems, we are very upset at the level of private security police forces that are all over the north right now,” Winona LaDuke, executive director of the Indigenous-based environmental group Honor the Earth, told reporters on a conference call Friday. “For a Canadian corporation. So we’ll stour ground… more will be coming. Guaranteed.”

“If the Biden administration is under any illusions, this is now very much a national fight that people are going to be knowing more more about,” said Bill McKibben, founder of the climate change group 350.org.

“People are already flooding in from all parts of the country.”

Watch below: Some Global News videos about Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline.

© 2021 The Associated Press

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