Court upholds approval of Minnesota Enbridge oil pipeline project

Activist Jane Fonda joins hundreds of protesters chanting
Activist Jane Fonda joins hundreds of protesters chanting "Stop Line 3!" and "Water is life!" gathered at the headwaters of the Mississippi River in in Solway, Minn., on Monday, June 7, 2021 to resist a Canadian-based company's plan to replace an aging pi

Replacement work has been subject of six years of review and challenge.

Posted: Jun 14, 2021 11:58 AM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday affirmed state regulators' key approvals of Enbridge Energy’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 and route permit that the Canadian-based company needed to begin construction on the 337-mile (542-kilometer) Minnesota segment of a larger project to replace a 1960s-era crude oil pipeline that has been deteriorating and 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 President Joe Biden to intervene.

Tribal and 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 demand projections failed to meet the legal requirements. Enbridge and the PUC said the projections complied with the rules.

“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 demand for crude oil in this ever-changing environment."

But Judge Peter Reyes dissented, agreeing with opponents that the oil demand forecast was flawed. He said the project benefits Canadian oil producers but would have negative consequences for the hunting, fishing, and other rights of the Red Lake and White Earth tribes and 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 and gave the appropriate approvals.

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

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 Canadian tar sands oil and regular crude from Alberta to Enbridge's terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. The project is nearly done except for the Minnesota leg, which is about 60% complete.

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

Calgary-based Enbridge says the replacement Line 3 will be made of stronger steel and will better protect the environment while restoring its capacity to carry oil and 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 and cracking.

Activists are vowing to keep up a summer of resistance against the project amid the escalating battle over energy projects and 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 and 2017.

“Minnesota does not need this conflict. Minnesota has already had enough police problems, and we are very upset at the level of private security and 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 stand our ground ... and 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 and more about," said Bill McKibben, founder of the climate change group 350.org. "People are already flooding in from all parts of the country.”

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 915942

Reported Deaths: 9606
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1786832038
Ramsey739711046
Dakota67683587
Anoka64112577
Washington40545359
Stearns33631279
St. Louis29591409
Scott25994186
Wright25957217
Olmsted22339130
Sherburne19000127
Carver1670669
Clay12104105
Blue Earth1147970
Rice11451138
Crow Wing11213123
Chisago995379
Kandiyohi9815108
Otter Tail9813127
Benton9033125
Beltrami816997
Goodhue811798
Douglas7875101
Itasca772299
Mower733449
McLeod713084
Winona710258
Isanti700783
Steele685731
Morrison672879
Becker628574
Polk603187
Freeborn561246
Carlton546974
Mille Lacs532479
Lyon528461
Nobles525054
Nicollet522460
Pine515043
Cass501253
Todd492843
Brown470759
Le Sueur459734
Meeker433458
Martin386544
Wabasha375510
Waseca374333
Dodge361112
Hubbard355249
Roseau316231
Fillmore305315
Wadena302940
Redwood281445
Houston272017
Renville268451
Faribault258233
Sibley252317
Pennington252130
Kanabec250136
Cottonwood230132
Aitkin222450
Chippewa220542
Pope207410
Watonwan198020
Yellow Medicine188023
Rock177729
Koochiching176725
Swift173123
Stevens167511
Jackson161016
Clearwater158020
Marshall153522
Murray151811
Pipestone149729
Lake132924
Lac qui Parle123025
Wilkin121116
Mahnomen106014
Norman10509
Grant101510
Big Stone9485
Lincoln8805
Kittson73223
Red Lake71410
Traverse6056
Unassigned545124
Lake of the Woods5265
Cook3071

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 525758

Reported Deaths: 7379
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk81677809
Linn32838430
Scott27126295
Black Hawk22334382
Woodbury20736263
Johnson20150108
Dubuque18996243
Pottawattamie16215214
Dallas15573115
Story1398059
Warren8637107
Cerro Gordo8141125
Clinton7928115
Webster7419124
Des Moines7153106
Marshall675494
Muscatine6717117
Wapello6546145
Jasper630591
Sioux622477
Lee5977106
Marion567697
Buena Vista503449
Plymouth493388
Henry427155
Benton414760
Jones413564
Bremer403873
Boone397042
Washington395464
Carroll373355
Mahaska372366
Crawford355647
Jackson324047
Dickinson317555
Buchanan312743
Delaware303255
Clay297636
Kossuth293477
Fayette290356
Hardin289253
Tama282878
Page276133
Wright270050
Cedar269527
Winneshiek267744
Hamilton262757
Floyd261049
Clayton252360
Poweshiek242043
Harrison240979
Madison237425
Butler237346
Cass235667
Iowa234336
Jefferson228544
Mills225330
Hancock222840
Winnebago222339
Cherokee217347
Appanoose210157
Lyon209842
Allamakee209456
Calhoun199519
Shelby199542
Union197141
Humboldt188231
Franklin188031
Grundy186137
Chickasaw184522
Mitchell184343
Emmet180146
Louisa178653
Sac175626
Guthrie169338
Clarke163629
Montgomery163146
Keokuk152639
Palo Alto152332
Howard150624
Monroe144340
Ida134141
Greene128818
Davis126825
Lucas126127
Monona124940
Worth12309
Pocahontas122125
Adair118239
Osceola105718
Decatur104813
Taylor100914
Fremont98913
Van Buren95922
Wayne86125
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