Army Corps asks judge to toss enviros, Native tribes suit over Line 3

An activist opposing the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline dangles from a steel structure erected in St. Paul
An activist opposing the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline dangles from a structure in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S., June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Rod Nickel
  • Army Corps says line review considered greenhouse gas emissions
  • Plaintiffs "disappointed" Biden admin backing pipeline project

(Reuters) - The Biden administration has asked a federal court in Washington D.C. to toss a lawsuit by Native tribes and environmental groups who seek to halt the construction of Enbridge Inc's Line 3 crude oil pipeline replacement project in northern Minnesota.

In a Wednesday filing, the Army Corps of Engineers asked U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to dismiss the lawsuit by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, the Sierra Club and others, arguing that it authorized the contentious project after a five-year review process that meets all reviewing requirements, including analyzing greenhouse gas emissions.

Moneen Nasmith of Earthjustice, a lawyer with the plaintiffs, said "We are extremely disappointed that the Biden administration continues the Trump administration's policy of ignoring tribal rights, environmental justice, and climate concerns in favor of fossil fuel industry profits."

Spokesperson Gene Pawlik said the corps does not comment on pending litigation.

Enbridge spokesperson Michael Barnes said: "The brief filed for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ... lays out the very thorough review behind the science-based approvals of the Line 3 Replacement Project's federal permits and authorizations."

The coalition of Native tribes and green groups sued in December. It said the Corps' conclusions the project carries no significant risk is overly narrow because it does not sufficiently consider the pipeline's indirect impacts on climate change.

The plaintiffs asked the court to vacate November construction authorizations, including a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit to discharge dredged material into federal waters.

In Wednesday's cross-motion for summary judgment, the Corps denied claims that it acted arbitrarily or capriciously when it found greenhouse gas emissions related to the "permitted activities would be negligible to minor."

It further argued that while the plaintiffs say the construction will indirectly increase levels of oil production in Canada, where the line begins, the Corps' "authority is limited to the United States."

Replacing the pipeline, which entered service in 1968, will allow Enbridge to roughly double its capacity to 760,000 barrels per day.

Earlier this month, protesters disrupted construction on Line 3 only days before Calgary-based Enbridge scored a win in the Minnesota Court of Appeals June 14, which affirmed a state regulator's decision that there is sufficient need for the line's replacement.

Construction of the 330-mile section in Minnesota of Line 3, which runs from Alberta to Wisconsin, kicked off in December and is on track for completion during the last quarter of this year, according to Enbridge.

The case is Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians et al v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 1:20-cv-03817.

For Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians et al: Moneen Nasmith of Earthjustice

For U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Heather Gange with the U.S. Department of Justice

For intervenor-defendant Enbridge Energy Limited: Deidre Duncan of Hunton Andrews Kurth

Read more:

Enbridge oil line scores a key win as Minnesota court affirms approval

Protesters clash with police at Enbridge pipeline construction site in Minnesota

Despite second rebuff, in fed court, enviros say only beginning to litigate Line 3

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Thomson Reuters

New York-based correspondent covering environmental, climate and energy litigation.