MN Court of Appeals Gives Enbridge Line 3 Opponents Partial Win

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled that the state’s environmental impact statement for the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline is inadequate “because it does not address the potential impact of an oil spill into the Lake Superior watershed.” It ordered the issue back before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for further evaluation.

It’s only a partial win.

The Court of Appeals rejected other key arguments made by Line 3 opponents. Opponents argued the environmental impact statement had failed to adequately analyze route alternatives to Enbridge’s preferred route. They also argued the PUC shouldn’t have approved Line 3’s environmental impact statement before the “traditional cultural properties survey” was complete. (Such a survey makes sure projects such as Line 3 take into account potential damage to places of historic and cultural significance.) The court rejected both arguments.

Enbridge has proposed building a 340-mile tar sands crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota, a line that would cross more than 200 lakes, streams and rivers. The project would threaten Minnesota’s clean waters, treaty rights, and global climate damage. The PUC approved the project last year, granting it a Certificate of Need and a Route Permit. As part of that process, the Minnesota Department of Commerce completed an environmental impact statement for Line 3, a document the PUC approved.

Three separate lawsuits challenged the adequacy of Line 3’s environmental impact statement, one brought by Honor the Earth, one brought by Friends of the Headwaters, and a joint appeal by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, and the White Earth  Band of Ojibwe. The decision covers all three cases.

The decision could be appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court by any of the parties in the litigation. The decision was released this morning at 10 a.m.  This blog will be updated as responses come in.

[Update: according to a story posted today by Global News: Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, said she was ‘elated’ about the ruling affecting Lake Superior. But she said they’re considering appealing on the arguments that the court rejected, including their assertion that state law requires completion of a survey on the potential impacts on tribal historical and cultural resources as part of the environmental review.”

This is the first of three major decisions the Court of Appeals will issue on challenges to Enbridge Line 3. Other cases before the Court appeal the PUC’s decisions to grant Enbridge Line 3’s Route Permit and Certificate of Need.

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