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MN Regulators Approve More Permits for Pipeline Project

Canadian-based Enbridge wants to replace its existing oil pipeline across northern Minnesota, extending from North Dakota on the west and into Wisconsin on the east. (Adobe Stock)
Canadian-based Enbridge wants to replace its existing oil pipeline across northern Minnesota, extending from North Dakota on the west and into Wisconsin on the east. (Adobe Stock)
November 13, 2020

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The proposed Line 3 oil pipeline for northern Minnesota took a big step forward yesterday, renewing concerns among environmental groups.

Some key permits won approval, while other aspects of the project are still tied up in court. Both the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Department of Natural Resources signed off on the latest permits.

For several years, environmental groups and tribal leaders have fought efforts by Enbridge Energy to replace its aging pipeline. They note the line would cross more than 200 bodies of water and many wild rice beds.

Andy Pearson, Midwest Tar Sands coordinator for the group MN350, called the decision a "sharp escalation" against water protections and climate science.

"This is infrastructure you build if you've given up, and we're not willing to give up on it," said Pearson. "We need to build a lot of things, but we don't need to be building oil pipelines anymore."

The MPCA says it issued its "most stringent" water-quality permit to date for Line 3, adding that Enbridge must do extensive mitigation for affected streams and wetlands.

Supporters of the pipeline, including some labor unions, say it has cleared tough environmental standards and would bring much-needed jobs to the area.

Other permits and the process for approving them are still being sorted out in the courts. And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to give its approval before construction can begin.

However, Pearson said this week's decision puts the project close to breaking ground before all the challenges have been exhausted.

"It's obviously important that you figure out the answers to those really big questions that are being raised prior to actually letting Enbridge move forward with construction," said Pearson.

Pearson's group is calling on Gov. Tim Walz to halt any plans for construction if the project reaches that point in the coming weeks.

Groups involved in the court challenges suggest they may seek a temporary injunction if Enbridge is allowed to break ground while the other arguments are still being considered.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN