Minnesota gives final green light to disputed oil pipeline

In this June 29, 2018, file photo, pipeline used to carry crude oil is shown at the Superior terminal of Enbridge Energy in Superior, Wis. Photo: AP Photo/Jim Mone, File. In this June 29, 2018, file photo, pipeline used to carry crude oil is shown at the Superior terminal of Enbridge Energy in Superior, Wis.

The Associated Press
Updated: November 30, 2020 12:58 PM
Created: November 30, 2020 12:44 PM

Minnesota regulators approved the final permit Monday for Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 crude oil pipeline replacement across northern Minnesota, giving the company the green light to begin construction on the $2.6 billion project.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency granted a construction storm water permit for the project, which was the last hurdle that Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge needed to clear. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the independent Minnesota Public Utilities Commission gave their final approvals last week. But opponents are still fighting the project.

Enbridge said in a statement that construction can now begin, but didn't immediately say when that would happen. It said replacing the aging pipeline, which was built in the 1960s, is the best option for protecting the environment and communities while meeting the region’s energy needs.

"Today's announcement has been years in the making and is great news for jobs and the economic vitality of communities across Northern Minnesota," House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said in a statement. "This project has faced years of scrutiny and unprecedented obstruction from Democrats and their allies, but the ultimately the process worked. Let's get to work on the Line 3 pipeline.

Added Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, in a statement, "I am pleased that Enbridge Line 3 has cleared the final hurdle before construction can begin. This decision has been a long time coming, and I look forward to seeing the many benefits this project will bring our area."

Two Native American tribes — the Red Lake and White Earth Bands of Chippewa — asked the PUC last week to stay its approval of the project, saying the influx of construction workers would put residents along the route at higher risk of COVID-19. A consolidated appeal by environmental and tribal groups is also pending before the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Opponents say the project threatens spills in pristine waters where Native Americans harvest wild rice and that the Canadian tar sands oil it plans to carry would aggravate climate change.

Line 3 begins in Alberta, Canada, and clips a corner of North Dakota before crossing Minnesota on its way to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. Replacement segments in Canada, North Dakota and Wisconsin are already complete.

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