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State Court of Appeals reverses approval of environmental impact statement for Line 3 project

State Court of Appeals reverses approval of environmental impact statement for Line 3 project Photo: KSTP/ File

June 03, 2019 01:45 PM

The Minnesota State Court of Appeals has reversed the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission's decision to approve the final environmental impact statement for Enbridge Energy's controversial Line 3 crude oil pipeline replacement project.

In a ruling Monday morning, the court stated the commission's final environmental impact statement failed to address how an oil spill from the Line 3 project would impact Lake Superior and its watershed, thus requiring further proceedings.

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RELATED: Opponents of Enbridge Line 3 pipeline project file appeal

"The FEIS properly defined the purpose of the project, sufficiently identified alternatives, including a "no action" alternative, and utilized an appropriate methodology to analyze potential impacts from oil spills," the ruling concluded. "The FEIS adequately analyzed potential impacts to GHG emissions, potential impacts on historic and cultural resources, the relative impacts of alternative routes, and cumulative potential effects. 

"However, the commission acted in a manner unsupported by substantial evidence and arbitrary and capricious when it determined the FEIS adequate despite its failure to address the issue - raised during scoping and in public comments on the DEIS - of how an oil spill from Enbridge's Line 3 project would impact Lake Superior and its watershed." 

"Accordingly, we reverse the commission's adequacy decision and remand for further proceedings consistent with this decision."

The impact statement was approved last year, drawing an appeal from environmental and Native American tribal groups.

A spokesperson for the PUC said the commission had no comment on the ruling.

For its part, Enbridge issued a statement on the ruling Monday afternoon:

"Today the Minnesota Court of Appeals rendered a decision on the adequacy of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Line 3 Replacement Project," it read. "While affirming eight of the nine disputed aspects of the analysis and decision around the FEIS, the court identified one issue for further analysis. 

"We are disappointed with the court's decision given that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) unanimously found the Line 3 Replacement Project's 13,500 page FEIS adequate, based on the most extensive environmental study of a pipeline project in state history, affirming the recommendation of an administrative law judge who thoroughly reviewed the FEIS for adequacy.  The FEIS is the product of a comprehensive interagency effort that included the environmental branch of the Department of Commerce (DOC), the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the Department of Natural Resources.

"We are in the process of a detailed analysis of the court's decision and will consult with the MPUC and other state agencies about next steps."

Republican House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, a proponent of the project, released a statement saying that while additional information was ordered to complete the final environmental impact statement, he was encouraged that the ruling rejected other arguments that had been made in opposition to it.

"The Line 3 replacement has been subject to unprecedented review, and I hope will proceed without further interference once the environmental impact statement is finalized," read a portion of Daudt's statement.

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