Line 3 Updates: Final PUC Vote Delayed; Growing Concerns About Eminent Domain

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) had expected a final vote on the Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline by late April; now it looks like the vote will be pushed back by a couple of months into July.

The proposed Line 3 pipeline expansion through northern Minnesota threatens lakes, rivers, and wild rice areas. It violates treaty rights. It will add to climate change. It is an investment in 19th Century energy solutions instead of looking to the future. Any project delay is good news. It adds costs to the project and increases the likelihood that it can be stopped.

The PUC has final say on the project. It needs to approve an environmental impact statement, a Route Permit, and a Certificate of Need.

The latest project hiccup came over the environmental impact statement. Earlier this month, the PUC found the environmental impact statement inadequate and ordered revisions. Unfortunately, the order doesn’t go far enough, identifying relatively minor problems. Still, it will add a two-month delay in the process. The PUC can’t vote on the route and Certificate of Need until it has an approved environmental impact statement.

If you want the details, here is the updated Line 3 Scheduling Order.

In other project news, there is growing push back to using eminent domain to take private land for pipelines.

The theory behind eminent domain is that the government can take private land for fair market value if the project is meeting a greater public good … a school, a library, a roadway. In the case of pipelines, it’s the pipeline company that use eminent domain. The specifics of “public good” are much murkier. In the case of Line 3, Minnesota does not need more crude oil. The U.S. doesn’t need more crude oil. We are net exporters of gasoline. So Line 3 will yield private-sector profits. Where is the public good?

A June, 2016 opinion piece in the Washington Post examined that question. It was headlined: The growing battle over the use of eminent domain to take property for pipelines. It read in part:

The growing use of eminent domain to seize property for pipelines has generated opposition from an unusual coalition of liberal environmentalists and conservative and libertarian property rights advocates. This alliance has recently spearheaded the enactment of laws limiting pipeline takings in Georgia and South Carolina. It has also supported litigation that has led to court decisions limiting pipeline takings in several states.

Click on the link above for details.


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