PUC Has One Last Chance to Reverse Course and Stop Line 3; Meeting Set for Nov. 19

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has set meeting dates for what could be its final votes on the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline: Monday, Nov. 19, 9:30 a.m. at the Minnesota Senate Building, 95 University Avenue West, Room 1150, St. Paul. The official announcement notes the meeting could be extended to Tuesday and Wednesday.

Map shows current Line 3 and Enbridge’s proposed route.

Quick recap: Enbridge wants to replace its old and failing Line 3 pipeline with a new and larger pipeline through northern Minnesota, much of it along a new route. Enbridge want to put the pipeline through the Mississippi headwaters region as well as prime wild rice areas. Canadian tar sands mining deforests land, pollutes air and water, and does great harm to indigenous communities. The Line 3 environmental impact statement said the tar sands pumped through the proposed Line 3 would create $287 billion in “social costs to carbon” over the next 30 years. The pipeline also would affect Anishinaabe treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather along the pipeline’s route. The PUC approved Line 3’s Certificate of Need in June, with conditions.

The PUC’s Nov. 19 agenda is full. Here are key items.

Voting on whether to reconsider approval of Line 3’s Certificate of Need: Seven organizations and tribal governments filed formal motions asking the PUC to reconsider its vote approving Line 3’s Certificate of Need. The chances the PUC will reverse course are slim to none, but this is a key procedural step. If the PUC rejects the intervenors’ requests, it allows them to take the next step and sue in court to overturn the flawed decision. (For more, see: Legal Challenges Take Shape Against Line 3 and the PUC’s Anti-Indian, Anti-Environment Vote.)

Voting on whether Enbridge’s insurance policies are trade secrets or should be released to the public. Honor the Earth filed a motion with the PUC to force Enbridge Energy to disclose the details of the insurance it holds to clean up any potential crude oil spills. Enbridge has kept the information hidden, claiming it is a trade secret. (For more, see: Enbridge Uses “Trade Secret” Tag to Hide Inadequate Spill Insurance; Honor the Earth Tries to Bring it to Light.)

Voting on whether or not to approve Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 modifications: The PUC approved the Line 3 Certificate of Need conditionally. It required Enbridge to make five modifications to its proposal. In broad terms, the PUC told Enbridge to: 1) Include a “parental guarantee” for environmental damage, 2) Refine a “Landowner Choice” program that would allow landowners either to have the old pipeline removed from their property or get a cash payment; 3) Create a “Decommissioning Trust Fund” to pay for removal of the new Line 3 once it’s past its useful life; 4) Create a “Neutral Footprint Program,” including a tree replacement program and acquiring renewable energy credits, and 5) Have adequate insurance coverage to clean up any spill. Enbridge had to submit detailed plans to meet each requirement. The PUC will have to decide if Enbridge plan meets its criteria.

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