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Enviros, tribes appeal Line 3 approval to Minn. Supreme Court

4 minute read

Protest signage on display at a camp established by indigenous leaders and water protectors at the Mississippi headwaters, one body of water the Line 3 pipeline will cross following a series of demonstrations in protest of the Line 3 pipeline, built by Enbridge Energy, in Solway, Minnesota, U.S., June 8, 2021. Picture taken June 8, 2021. REUTERS/Nicholas Pfosi

  • Petitioners say no evidence of long-term oil demand for line
  • Groups argue risk of rupture lacks evidence

(Reuters) - Environmental and indigenous groups who oppose the ongoing construction of Enbridge Inc's Line 3 crude oil pipeline replacement project have appealed in Minnesota Supreme Court a lower court ruling that affirmed the state regulator's decision of sufficient market need to justify the project.

Opponents of the line including the Sierra Club and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians said in a petition to the court on Wednesday that the Minnesota Court of Appeals got it wrong last month when it handed Enbridge a major victory by affirming the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission's (PUC) decision to grant Enbridge a key "certification of need" for the project.

Enbridge spokesperson Michael Barnes said: "The Line 3 replacement project is safety and maintenance driven, and it replaces an aging pipeline with a safer one made of thicker steel with more advanced coatings, helping to protect Minnesota's environment for generations to come."

Margaret Levin, state director of the Sierra Club's Minnesota branch, said in a statement: "We will continue to make our case in court that the permits for this dirty tar sands pipeline should never have been approved, but with construction underway, there is no time to waste."

The coalition of opponents to the 330-mile section of Line 3 in Minnesota told the Supreme Court that the lower court's ruling runs contrary to the 2020 Minnesota Statutes because, in applying for a certificate of need, Enbridge did not fulfill a requirement to provide forecasts for long-term oil demand.

Rather than demand forecasts, the green groups and tribes, whose lawyers include Paul Blackburn of environmental group Honor the Earth, say that PUC used supply forecasts to determine it is needed.

The 2020 Minnesota Statutes say long-term demand forecasts are used to assess whether there is a market need for a "large energy facility."

The petitioners also told the Supreme Court that while PUC factored in Line 3's risk of rupture in deciding to issue a certificate of need, there is no "substantial evidence" of such a risk.

Line 3, which entered service in 1968, ships crude from Alberta to U.S. Midwest refiners, and carries less oil than it was designed for because of age and corrosion. Replacing the pipeline will allow Enbridge to roughly double its capacity to 760,000 barrels per day.

The Canadian portion of its replacement is complete, but Enbridge has run into repeated obstacles in Minnesota, where reviews have lasted about five years.

The Minnesota Supreme Court accepts to review about 10% of cases from the Minnesota Court of Appeal.

The pipeline's replacement project in the United States has come under fire from activists, with protesters last month clashing with police as they rallied against it.

Calgary-based Enbridge has said it expects the line to come into service in the fourth quarter of this year.

The case is Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, White Earth Band of Ojibwe, Honor the Earth, and the Sierra Club Petition for Review of Decision of the Court of Appeals, Minnesota Supreme Court, No. N/A.

For Honor the Earth and the Sierra Club: Paul Blackburn of Honor the Earth

For Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians: Joseph Plummer with the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians

For White Earth Band of Ojibwe: Frank Bibeau with the White Earth Band of Ojibwe

For Minnesota Public Utilities Commission: Keith Ellison of the Office of the Minnesota Attorney General

For respondent-intervenor Enbridge Energy: Thomas Boyd of Winthrop & Weinstine.

Read more:

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

Enbridge's Line 3 beats latest effort to shut it down in Minn. state court

Minn. group challenges Enbridge's Line 3 construction in fed court

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

(NOTE: This story has been updated with comment from Enbridge.)

Sebastien Malo reports on environmental, climate and energy litigation. Reach him at sebastien.malo@thomsonreuters.com

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