The Minnesota Court of Appeals handed pipeline protesters a defeat Monday with a ruling in favor of the Enbridge Line 3 as activists kept up their efforts to disrupt construction on the hotly contested project.
In a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel held that the state’s independent Public Utilities Commission acted correctly in approving the Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] and issuing the route permit and certificate of need on the 337-mile replacement segment in northern Minnesota.
Judge Lucinda Jesson found that the commission’s decision came after “vigorous public debate” and against the backdrop of a federal consent decree as well as safety concerns about the deteriorating pipeline built in the 1960s to run crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to U.S. refineries.
“With an existing, deteriorating pipeline carrying crude oil through Minnesota, there was no option without environmental consequences,” said Judge Jesson in the 78-page opinion.
“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.”
Canada-based Enbridge Energy called the decision “an important acknowledgment of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s thorough review of the Line 3 Replacement Project.
“The decision is not unexpected,” said the Enbridge statement. “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 EIS, four separate reviews by administrative law judges, 320 route modifications in response to stakeholder input, and multiple reviews and approvals.”
The likely next stop is the Minnesota Supreme Court for climate and tribal groups, backed by the state Department of Commerce, seeking to stop construction on the $3 billion project, which is now 60% complete.
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