Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe: Reject Enbridge Line 3’s Certificate of Need and Route Permit

Part III of a series looking at Ojibwe Band responses to Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly’s report and recommendations on the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline. [Note: Ojibwe is the colonial name for the Anishinaabe. Ojibwe is used in this story because of its use as an official band name.]

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe’s offered a unique response among the various Ojibwe bands to Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly’s report on the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline.

While other bands tended to focus on treaty rights, the Mille Lacs Band led with a strong argument on the economic reasons to deny Line 3. The Mille Lacs Band said: “THE EVIDENCE IN THE RECORD DOES NOT SUPPORT A NEED FOR THE PROJECT.”

O’Reilly’s report, and Mille Lacs response, were sent to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the body expected to vote on Line 3 in late June. The PUC will vote on Line 3’s Certificate of Need and Route Permit. The Mille Lacs letter addresses both issues.

Reject Certificate of Need Based on Enbridge’s Flawed Data

The Mille Lacs Band’s letter highlighted O’Reilly’s comments on Enbridge’s “materially flawed” analysis on the need for the pipeline. It reiterated O’Reilly’s criticism of Enbridge’s analysis for focusing on crude oil supply rather than future oil prices or oil demand.

The Mille Lacs Band says O’Reilly erred in drawing her conclusion — that because no other party presented a more detailed analysis than Enbridge, she must take Enbridge’s analysis “at face value.” Mille Lacs rejects that arguemnt, saying that since Enbridge failed to justify the pipeline, that should be the end of the story.

Ultimately, O’Reilly concludes that because Enbridge’s customers cannot ship all the crude that they would like, that demonstrates that there is demand for transportation of oil. “This, however, is not the question asked by the rules which direct the Commission to evaluate the accuracy of [Enbridge’s] forecast of demand  … Demand for transportation does not demonstrate that there is an unmet demand for crude oil. In fact, the evidence in the record shows that refineries are obtaining the oil they need.”

Comment: O’Reilly apparently isn’t satisfied with those who have shown Enbridge failed to make its case. She adds the requirement that opposing parties do a separate, independent, detailed, and costly economic analysis showing the pipeline isn’t needed. That is not their responsibility. The burden of proof should not fall on the pipeline’s critics; it should be up to Enbrdige and Enbridge alone to prove the pipeline is needed. Since it hasn’t made the case, the Certificate of Need should be denied.

Reject Enbribge’s Preferred Route

The Mille Lacs letter reinforces O’Reilly’s findings rejecting Enbridge’s preferred route. It states:

The  [Administrative Law Judge] correctly concludes that the risks associated with creating a new pipeline corridor in … Minnesota far outweigh any claimed need for the Project. The route proposed by [Enbridge]
would impact thousands of acres of sensitive natural resources and would have a disproportionate and adverse impact on tribal communities from an environmental, socio-economic, and environmental justice perspective. Thus, even if [Enbridge] has demonstrated some need for the Project, [Enbridge’s] Preferred Route cannot be chosen because it fails to minimize the human and environmental impact of the pipeline.
The  Administrative Law Judge left open one option to continue the project: Remove the current pipeline from the ground and rebuild in the same trench. That route crosses both the Leech Lake and Fond du Lac reservations. Mille Lacs deferred to Leech Lake and Fond du Lac to comment on that plan.

Here is our earlier post on Leech Lake’s position: Leech Lake Band Opposes Option to Keep Line 3 Pipeline in the Same Trench.

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