Honor the Earth Files First Legal Challenge to PUC Approval of Enbridge Line 3

Honor the Earth is suing to stop Enbridge Line 3 in the Minnesota Court of Appeals, saying the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved the project based on a faulty and inadequate environmental impact statement (EIS).

Honor the Earth filed the legal challenge earlier this month, the first of what could be several lawsuits by various parties seeking to stop the pipeline. Honor the Earth’s lawsuit says the PUC’s decision “was contrary to law, not supported by the evidence, and arbitrary and capricious.”

Gathering outside the offices of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in June protesting Line 3.

The complaint lists a number of flaws in the EIS.

EIS Ignores Indigenous Rights: Honor the Earth writes that the EIS doesn’t include tribal consultation data, doesn’t “adequately analyze impacts to treaty-protected tribal resources,” and doesn’t “include the results of a tribal cultural properties survey.”

The tribal cultural properties survey is in process, but still isn’t completed. The EIS made no effort to evaluate cultural resource impacts on any of alternative routes proposed for Line 3, the lawsuit said.

Bottom Line: Whenever it is done, the tribal cultural properties survey will not have an impact of the PUC’s vote, and it should have.

Honor the Earth’s lawsuit also asserts that the EIS underestimated or ignored environmental impacts of approving Line 3.

Line 3 Could Increase its Capacity: The EIS only considered the impact of a 760,000-barrels-per-day pipeline, as Enbridge proposed. However, given the pipeline’s design, it could carry up to 915,000 barrels per day. The EIS fails to estimate the impacts of increasing the line’s capacity.

Impacts of a New Pipeline Corridor: By approving Enbridge’s preferred route, the PUC agreed to open a brand new pipeline corridor through northern Minnesota. Enbridge already is acquiring additional easements along this new corridor to make it a new mainline corridor. The PUC’s Line 3 vote set a precedent for this major change, and the PUC didn’t take that into consideration these larger impacts, according to Honor the Earth’s lawsuit. The “EIS limits its consideration to a single 760,000 barrel per day pipeline, and does not consider the potential cumulative effects of opening up a new pipeline corridor and the likelihood of construction of additional pipelines within this corridor,” the lawsuit says.

A Block (Line 3) Party in front of the PUC offices in May showed public opposition to the project.

The EIS Failed to Analyze Reasonable Alternatives, Including the ‘No Build’ Option: The lawsuit said: “The PUC unreasonably restricted the range of alternatives to be evaluated, analyzed unreasonable alternatives, did not analyze reasonable alternatives, and did not properly analyze the ‘no-action’ alternative.” Further, at no point did the EIS consider the increase in renewable energy alternatives and how that would help meet Minnesota’s future energy needs.

Insufficient Information on the Current Line 3: The PUC spent a considerable amount of time agonizing over the deteriorating condition of the existing Line 3. For at least two of the commissioners, it was a deciding factor in voting for a new Line 3. However, the Honor the Earth lawsuit says that “The EIS did not study the potential for contamination caused by leaks from the existing Line 3.”

Purpose and Need: Honor the Earth’s lawsuit says the EIS “does not properly define the project’s purpose and need, does not include information necessary for an independent analysis of purpose and need, and does not even attempt to analyze whether the Project is needed.”

Interstate Impact: The Minnesota segment of the pipeline will create demands for pipeline upgrades in downstream states. The lawsuit says that the EIS: “does not consider likely ‘phased’ or ‘connected’ or the ‘cumulative potential effects’ of pipeline expansions in Wisconsin and Illinois to accommodate the additional oil carried by the new Line 3.”

Honor the Earth asks the Court of Appeals to find that these and other flaws in the EIS violate the Minnesota Environmental Protection Act, and are egregious enough for the court to reverse the PUC’s decision.

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