Minn. Supreme Court denies appeal of Line 3 approval

4 minute read

The entrance to Enbridge Inc.'s crude oil storage tank farm in Cushing, Oklahoma, March 24, 2016. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

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  • Judge provides no explanation
  • Enbridge spokesman says project "cleared yet another hurdle"

(Reuters) - Minnesota's Supreme Court has denied the appeal by environmental and indigenous groups of a ruling that affirmed the state regulator's decision of sufficient market need to justify the ongoing construction of Enbridge Inc's Line 3 crude oil pipeline replacement project.

Chief Justice Lorie Gildea in a Tuesday order rejected consolidated bids by opponents of the line, including Honor the Earth and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, who sought the review of a lower court ruling that affirmed the state's Public Utilities Commission's (PUC) decision to grant Enbridge a key "certification of need" for the project

The order did not provide any explanation.

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Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, said in a statement: "That a court would rule there is no environmental impact when the rivers have been sucked dry and scientists are declaring a Code Red for the planet is deeply disturbing."

PUC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Michael Barnes, a spokesperson for Calgary-based Enbridge, said that "the most studied pipeline project in Minnesota history has cleared yet another hurdle." He added that the Line 3 replacement project "is safety and maintenance driven."

Line 3, which ships crude from Alberta to U.S. Midwest refiners, entered service in 1968. Enbridge says it must be replaced with a safer one because it is aging.

Replacing the pipeline will allow the company to roughly double its capacity to 760,000 barrels per day.

The petitions the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected on Tuesday argued that the lower court's ruling ran contrary to Minnesota law because, in applying for a certificate of need, Enbridge had not fulfilled a requirement to provide forecasts for long-term oil demand.

The Canadian portion of Line 3's replacement is complete, but Enbridge has run into repeated obstacles in Minnesota, where reviews have lasted about five years and groups opposing construction of the pipeline's 330-mile section in the state have filed multiple lawsuits.

One of those lawsuits was filed earlier this month in tribal court.

In that lawsuit, the White Earth Band of Ojibwe tribe sued Minnesota over a permit it issued to Enbridge to divert nearly 5 billion gallons of water to build the replacement line.

The case is novel because the plaintiffs named wild rice, or mamoomin as it known in Ojibwe, as a plaintiff. The tribe considers considers it a sacred subsistence crop.

Enbridge expects its new Line 3 to be in service during the fourth quarter of this year. Construction work on the line replacement in Minnesota is nearly complete, it says.

The case is In the Matter of the Application of Enbridge Energy LP for a Certificate of Need and a Routing Permit for the Proposed Line 3 Replacement Project in Minnesota from the North Dakota Border to the Wisconsin Border, Minnesota Supreme Court, Nos. A20-1071, A20-1072, A20-1074, A20-1075, A20-1077.

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

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

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

For Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe: David Zoll of Lockridge Grindal Nauen

For Friends of Headwaters: Scott Strand of the Environmental Law & Policy Center

For Youth Climate Intervenors: Amelia Vohs of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

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

For Enbridge Energy LP: Eric Swanson of Winthrop & Weinstine

Read more:

Minnesota hit with novel 'natural right' tribal lawsuit over Line 3

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

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

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