Legislators tell MPCA to reject Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, MN Dept. of Commerce needs to refile Line 3 appeal

File: MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop.

Thirty-four state lawmakers submitted a letter to Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Commissioner Laura Bishop Wednesday, urging action to deny the Enbridge the environmental certificate it needs to build the Line 3 pipeline expansion.

Line 3 threatens our state’s clean waters, our climate, and treaty rights, they said.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Commerce faces an Aug. 19 deadline to refile its legal objections to Line 3. Commerce’s independent analysis shows that Enbridge failed to prove this pipeline is needed. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved the project over Commerce’s objections. Commerce now needs to take the issue to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Recent news from the Canadian tar sands region strengthens Commerce’s hand. It shows the industry is tanking, meaning there’s even less demand for Enbridge’s new pipeline.

Action by the MPCA and the Department of Commerce could help stop this dangerous project.

Legislators wrote Bishop that approving Line 3’s water crossing certificate would run contrary to MPCA’s goals and initiatives. Denying the certificate “is the only acceptable outcome.”

The letter said the project would “unacceptably degrade Minnesota’s waters and wetlands,” “cross and despoil treaty lands … and violate treaty rights,” and “negate all PCA climate change goals and policies.”

Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein

One of the signers is Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein (DFL-New Brighton), a descendant of the Standing Rock Nation. “For almost 60 years, Minnesota has hosted a web of Canada’s Enbridge’s pipelines including Line 3,” she said in a media release. “Unfortunately, they have not been good neighbors and stewards of our land of 10,000 lakes as evidenced by their use of poor-quality materials, several ruptures and leaks, and damage done to our land and water. Now is the time for clean energy, for reclaiming our lands, and repairing the damage done. Now is the time we rise to ensure a healthy environment for the next seven generations.”

Earlier this year, the MPCA recommended approving Line 3’s water crossing certificate. Following strong public push back, the MPCA requested a contested case hearing for a more thorough review.

In May, the Minnesota Department of Commerce filed a Request for Reconsideration for Line 3’s Certificate of Need. This was the first step in the legal process to file a formal appeal. In its Request for Reconsideration, Commerce said the PUC made specific legal errors, including the fact that it didn’t require Enbridge to present a valid demand forecast as required by state law.

Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley

It would seem logical for Commerce to file its appeal, but undoubtedly business interests are putting significant pressure on the department to drop the lawsuit.

The arguments to deny the Line 3 permits get stronger and stronger.

New tar sands projects are being scuttled. Canadian mining company Teck Resources Ltd withdrew its application to build a $15.7 billion tar sands mine in Alberta earlier this year, according to a Reuters report.

Major players are devaluing their fossil fuel assets, both due to drop in oil demand and political pressure to reduce carbon pollution.

  • This month, the French energy company Total said it would write off $7 billion in its Alberta tar sands assets, according to a report in Alaska Highway News.
  • Royal Dutch Shell said it would slash the value of its oil and gas assets by up to $22 billion amid a crash in oil prices, according to Inside Climate News.
  • BP says it will reduce the value of its assets by up to $17.5 billion, according to Inside Climate News.

Earlier this month, BP also sold its oil interests in Prudhoe Bay and other Alaskan oilfields, according to an article in the Economist:

BP’s eagerness to sell its Alaskan business reflects a broader shift. Oil and gas firms … are cutting investment and trying to sell billions of dollars’ worth of resources. Even before covid-19 lockdowns hit energy demand and oil firms’ profits, investors were wary of big projects. Now the risk of costly stranded assets has grown more obvious. … The oil majors are ever keener to own only the cheapest, cleanest reserves.

Financing will be harder to come by, as environmental groups keep up pressure for them to divest, and as banks adopt their own climate change policies. The Energy Mix is reporting that German financing giant Deutsche Bank is ending new financing for tar sands and Arctic oil and gas projects.

“The German bank says its new fossil fuels policy will also prohibit investing in projects that use hydraulic fracturing or fracking in countries with scarce water supplies,” The Canadian Press reports. “It says its ban on oilsands financing, effective immediately, will include exploration, production, transport, or processing, seemingly including oilsands pipelines and upgraders or refineries.”

Commerce is in a very strong position to stop Line 3 based on oil demand. It needs to get in the game.

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