Remember Line 3? It was the pipeline that was proposed to replace Enbridge’s aging pipeline between the oil sands and Wisconsin. A previous CUSJ post sounded a hopeful note, since the Minnesota Department of Commerce had suggested that it might be better to shut down the existing line, since refineries in Minnesota and the upper Midwest already have sufficient supplies of crude oil and little capacity for processing more. The Dept. of Commerce felt that Minnesota’s demand for gasoline and other refined petroleum products was unlikely to increase over time, and that the environmental and socio-economic risks outweighed the benefits to Minnesota.
That hope was overturned today, when the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved a Certificate of Need for Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 Oil Pipeline. A statement from Governor Mark Dayton attempts to be soothing:
“Many people hold passionate views on this project. I urge everyone to express themselves peacefully. The PUC’s decision is not the final approval of this pipeline. Rather, it only allows Enbridge to begin to apply for at least 29 required federal, state, and local permits.
“Those regulatory reviews, which address numerous issues not considered by the PUC, will take several months. Approvals are by no means assured, and they would require any such project to meet Minnesota’s highest standards, protecting all our state’s earth, air, water, natural resources, and cultural heritage. I assure that state agencies will fully uphold those high standards, as they review these applications. Construction cannot and will not begin, unless Enbridge receives all required permit approvals.”
Appeals of the commission’s decisions go to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The Minnesota Legislature also could intervene when it reconvenes next year. Dayton vetoed a bill last session that would have let Enbridge bypass the commission and proceed with replacing Line 3. But voters will elect a new governor and a new Legislature in November.
A Global News article states that if the project moves forward in Minnesota, opponents — including the Indigenous-led environmental group Honor the Earth — have threatened a repeat of the protests on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota against the Dakota Access pipeline. Those protests drew thousands of opponents in 2016 and 2017, with more than 700 arrests.